Island Issues

Environmentalists say ‘Bag It!’ But in What? / video

Last Saturday, at the initiative of Fernandina Beach City Commissioner Johnny Miller, a group of some 20 local citizens including a Sierra Club representative met at Sheffield’s to discuss what they view as a community plastic bag problem.

At least this group hasn’t yet reverted to the tactics of the apocalyptic loons who wander the streets wearing sandwich boards and handing out homemade leaflets. However, if they did some further investigation they might be stumped for an answer when the cashier at their favorite grocery store asks: “Paper or plastic?”

Some, like those who met at Sheffield’s, say the slow composition of plastic leaves the bags drifting around in the ocean for years and according to something called the Algalita Marine Research Foundation they cause the death of marine animals that think the bags are edible.

On the other hand another group of environmentalists, who also think they are doing the right thing, say plastic bags are the best choice for a variety of reasons including, says a the Wall Street Journal article, the fact they don’t take up as much storage space, have secondary uses such as carrying a lunch to cleaning up after the dog and don’t consume as much natural resources in the manufacturing process as paper bags. They also say that paper produces much more waste than plastic, even if recycling is taken into account.

Today, most grocery bags dispensed in the U.S. are plastic and one research group says that plastic bags make up only a tiny portion of the trash headed for landfills. Studies carried out in San Francisco have found plastic bags account for just a few percentage points of all the pieces of street litter in the city, less than chewing gum or cigarette butts.

All the studies have produced mixed results with not one particular bag worthy of a “Most Wanted Enemy” poster.  In fact some cities and states are proposing taxes on all disposable bags. The grocery chain Whole Foods stopped providing paper bags in 2008 and despite the studies mentioned above, the cities of Oakland and San Francisco have banned plastic bags leaving me to wonder what shoppers in those cities use at their Whole Food Stores.

If you think reusable cloth bags are the answer, then think again. The USA TODAY says a 2011 study from scientists at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University found bacteria in 99% of bags tested; half carried coliform bacteria while 8% carried E. coli, an indicator of fecal contamination. “I classify them as pretty dirty things, like the bottom of your shoes,” said Ryan Sinclair of the Loma Linda University School of Public Health, a co-author of the study. The University of Arizona study found the same thing.

Maybe the Sheffield’s crowd can open a store where we shop on a daily basis and eat our groceries before exiting.


RIP Big Ray: When we used to visit the island before moving here, we always stopped in at T-Ray’s Burger Station, the corner of 8th St. South and Beech St. downtown as much for the food as to chat with Big Ray Mullis who had an uncanny knack of remembering names and making you think that you and he had been life-long friends. In fact when we eventually did move to the island it was Ray I went to for advice on where to bank, get my car serviced, contractor recommendations, and so on, and we were never disappointed by following his sage counsel. Big Ray, the patriarch of a very special island family, passed away early Saturday morning, March 8 and his smiling presence and back-slapping, happy greetings at T-Ray’s will be missed by all who were acquainted with this kindly, fun man and Linda and I consider ourselves among those fortunate enough to have had him call us “friends” and we join his family in celebrating his life.


Attention Island Peddlers: Folks interested in moving around the island by bicycle whether it be for sightseeing, exercise or practical purposes can go to and print out a color-coded, one-through-eight numbered guide to the island’s bike paths and trails. Number 8 may leave you with a couple of questions before you follow it and decide to pedal off the end of the downtown pier and head toward St. Mary’s, GA on that aquatic trail. I am assuming there is boat involved here somewhere but the map doesn’t mention one, just labeling the start of it with a “?”.


Speaking of the Marina: Another of the reasons I love living here are the creative folks that call this island home including Charlie Freeman, a retired AT&T fellow who lives on his boat “No Dial Tone” at Egan’s Creek Marina and who posts a variety of photos weekly on Facebook of his “catch of the day,” hooked from his watery back yard that is filled with otters, gators, dolphins, manatees, various birds, etc.  And there’s Kevin McCarthy’s Amelia River Cruises’ Adult BYOB Twilight Cruises which are back beginning Friday and Saturday evenings from 6-8 pm, captained by island eccentric pajama-clad pal Dave Voorhees and featuring live entertainment. Call ‘em at 904/261-9972 for reservations, stop by the little white kiosk in the downtown marina parking lot, or go to the web site at to look at their other cruising options and book one, as they have cruises to suit all tastes seven days a week.


Singing For Your Super: If you want to impress friends, neighbors, acquaintances or even relatives during a lively and fun evening then you need to get in touch with Sicilian-born Francesco Milana, a singing chef who is so Italian he’s almost a caricature of a Latin movie star. Francesco, not only sings Neapolitan ballads and Italian love songs a cappella, but does it while he effortlessly prepares dinner for you and your guests. Hey, guys, here’s an idea. Want to provide a romantic evening for that special lady in your life, maybe even pop the big question, then why not invite Signore Milana over to prepare her favorite meal, pour the wine and serenade her while you produce the ring? After all that she may decide that Francisco is far more appealing than you are but nonetheless, you can still find out more or contact our island “singing chef” by going to or calling him at 904/415-0472.


Say “Cheese:” In 1962 French President Charles de Gaul famously asked “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?” Well a little more than 50 years later Monsieur de Gaul would most certainly question the probability of successfully governing the United States as Elise Warner, writing in the March issue of Elks Magazine, says the US is the world’s leading cheese producer with 30 percent of the planet’s production made here or some 4.3 tons and more than 400 types, providing an excuse I haven’t heard Mr. Obama exercise yet to justify his clueless leadership abilities.


Good Grief: Splashed across the front page of the Jacksonville Times-Union this past Wednesday was an Associated Press story accompanied by a four-column color photograph of Al Sharpton marching in Tallahassee in a rally against Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law.” I didn’t have an opinion on the law one way or the other but after reading that this infamous race huckster and agitator, whose false accusations and incendiary remarks have instigated and inflamed past racial situations for decades, I’ve come to the conclusion that it must be a good piece of legislation, particularly if this hate-monger advocates against it. Inviting Sharpton to an anti-crime and racial bias rally is like inviting rapper Lil Wayne to lecture a sorority group on the virtues of chastity. Fortunately only a few hundred attended the rally including US Representative Corrine Brown, whose 5th Congressional District includes a large chunk of Jacksonville and whose Tallahassee comments consisted of her customary unintelligible gibberish. If this mostly African-American group wanted to create support, generate a crowd and broadcast a coherent message, then its invite list would have included respected citizens like Bill Cosby, Dr. Ben Carson, and former Congressman Alan West among others, but it’s unlikely they would want their names associated with this crowd.


Another Reason Not to Raise the Minimum Wage: Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute says “Hundreds of thousands of low-skill workers are trying to find a job but can’t. Is it really the right time to raise the cost of hiring, making it harder for businesses to hire them?”


Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Overheard at the Palace Saloon, the state’s oldest bar, as a customer asked personable barkeep and our newest City Commissioner Johnny Miller “So, how old is this place?” Johnny: “111 years old.” Customer: “Same owner? Johnny, after a long pause: “…uh, no sir.” If you’re headed to the beach, one of Kevin McCarthy’s Amelia River Cruises or anywhere else to relax and don’t want to bother fixing a meal, then stop by the Florida House’s Leddy’s Porch and for just $14.50 pick up a box lunch that includes either a very generous portion of its signature buttermilk fried chicken or barbeque of the day and two sides of either collard greens, potato salad, macaroni & cheese, succotash or coleslaw. They’re open every day except Monday and serve a special brunch on Saturday and Sunday that includes a $10 bottomless mimosa. There’s something on the menu called “duck grilled cheese,” which I’ve never tried but am sure is tasty because I’ve never eaten anything there that wasn’t worth writing home about. Inn keepers Emily and Marshall Sands, baby daughter Eloise, staff of two Jennifer’s, Ben, Brad, Lisa, Sonya and Dot combine to made this a fun place to enjoy a meal or just a cocktail or craft beer in the cozy Mermaid Bar. Call ‘em at 904/491-3322. Mark Saturday April 5 on your calendar as that’s the beginning of the 2014 downtown Sounds on Centre season with the local band Honey Badgers kicking off the new season beginning at 6 pm and ending at 8. There is no show in May due to the Shrimp Festival but June 6 stars the Mike Hendrix Band;  July 4 features our very talented local multi-national Island Vibe group; August 1, Jimmy Beats; September 5, Robert Severance and October 3, yet to be determined. Oh, it’s all free, but bring along a lawn chair. There a lot going on this weekend with a free-entry rib BBQ Cook-Off at Main Beach on Saturday beginning at 10 am to 4 pm with live music and cold beer and then head over to the Fernandina Beach Optimist Club’s 5th Annual Oyster Roast the same day from 6-9 pm at Kelley’s Pest Control Warehouse (corner of 10th  St. South & Lime) with advance tickets selling for $25 by calling 904/652-7978 or $35 at the door, which includes food and drink, but bring your own oyster knife please.

1 Comment

vegsoup - 14. Mar, 2014 -

The Wholefoods on San Jose Rd., Jacksonville uses only paper bags ” they are pretty fancy, too, with handles. Love that store. Wish there was one in FB.