Horns up/horns down

Horns up: Austin bans single-use bags from retail stores

Early Friday morning, the Austin City Council unanimously voted to ban single-use shopping bags at Austin-area retail stores. The ban will affect both plastic and paper bags and will penalize retailers who continue to offer them to customers after the March 2013 implementation date, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The city granted various exceptions for things including produce bags and bags for fresh meat products, but the ban is fairly comprehensive.

The city council’s move is bold and spells progress for Austin. But the $2-million education campaign will be crucial to ensuring shoppers aren’t caught by surprise at the checkout line. The city council’s education campaign must be habit-forming and, if possible, not annoying. Months of repetitive discussion of the bags removal will only harden existing resistance to the ban.

Additionally, the specific details of the ban are still being worked out, and it is important that certain provisions do not disproportionately inconvenience certain subgroups, especially students. Until then, students should all be thinking about small changes in behavior that will make the transition a success.

Horns down: Is there anywhere students’ votes still matter?

The redistricting debate seems to have settled down with the adoption of a set of interim maps for use during the state primaries, now scheduled for May 29. The new maps are a raw deal for students as they divide Austin into five congressional districts. Major UT student communities are split into at least three different districts, with students living in West Campus — now represented by Rep. Lamar Smith of SOPA fame — voting with residents of San Antonio, while their neighbors across Guadalupe Street vote with residents just outside of Fort Worth. They say your vote matters. But when it is diluted and spread across the state, it certainly matters less than it should.

Insultingly enough, your vote probably doesn’t matter in Student Government elections either. At least, former candidates Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara don’t want it to. They would prefer to price their opponents out of the election by asking the courts to extend it. Like Texas Republicans, they too want elections be decided before any votes are cast.

There is a ray of hope in the movement to create single-member districts for the Austin City Council. If the plan is approved, UT students may have a great deal of voting power to elect a council member to represent their views.

But as things stand now, the opinions of students do not seem to matter much.