YNN's John Salazar filed the following video report.
The plastic bag phase-out
Austin City Council decided to move forward with a plan to ban single-use plastic bags at the checkout stand.
In a 7-0 vote, council elected to ask the city manager to develop a plan to phase out plastic bags.
People argued from both sides of the debate in front of City Hall Thursday morning, even before council members brought up the item.
"My Oak Hill H-E-B will lose business, for a lot of people. And this will lose taxpayer dollars,” opponent Jenn Studebaker said. “I would just like them to have a vote on it. I believe if they really truly believe this is what Austin wants, or what Austinites want, they should put it to a vote to the Austinites on the next ballot.”
However, environmentalists say the ban would coincide with Austin's goal to become a zero-waste city.
“By far, the best option is reusable bags. Everybody knows that. It’s just a question of getting it to our daily habits, like putting on a seat belt,” Robin Schneider with Texas Zero Waste Alliance said.
According to city officials, Austin spends $850,000 a year cleaning up the litter of plastic bags used at grocery stores.
Trail of Lights is back
Also during Thursday’s meeting, the Austin City Council authorized a contract with a local firm to re-vamp the annual Trail of Lights Festival at Zilker Park.
Due to budget cuts last year, the council voted to flip the switch on the lighted trail, but did keep the bulbs shining on the iconic Zilker tree.
The Austin-based business BrightBlue Combo Platter will organize and operate the entire event, not costing the city a dime.