Newport City Council punts to the voters question of banning plastic carry out bags
Newport City Councilors Tuesday night officially sent a “Ban the Bag” measure to the May ballot to let the voters of Newport determine whether plastic carry out bags should be outlawed starting right around Thanksgiving.
The proposal is aimed at large carry out plastic bags. Plastic bags for grocery store deli take-out and fresh produce would not be affected. In order to encourage store customers to switch to re-usable cloth or thick walled plastic bags, the measure would levy a five cent charge for each paper bag used by a shopper. So, no plastic, five cents for paper and no charge for using one’s own reusable bags.
The placement of the ban on the ballot ends a contentious year of wrangling among members of a council-appointed “Plastic Bag Task Force” that tried for months to get a consensus on how to approach the issue. But when the task force’s final report was delivered to the council, the months of controversy among its members played out badly. Those who favored banning the bags stormed out in protest vowing to place it on the ballot. Within a short time the council did them a favor by doing it themselves. Newport residents will cast their votes by May 21st. Implementation would begin on November 21st, giving local stores time to rid themselves of any plastic carry-outbags they still have in stock.
The proposed bag ban law is very similar to one that was enacted recently by the Corvallis City Council.
Plastic Check Out Bags Headed for Newport Voters May 21
Newport City Council Booted the Bag Ban to the Voters
Matt Hawkyard, Surfrider Foundation Favors putting it to a citizens vote
After a long year of debate on whether the Newport City Council should, by ordinance, ban single use plastic check-out shopping bags, the council finally agreed that it’s best to put the issue to the voters and let THEM decide. The vote to send the issue to the May 21 ballot was unanimous.
Much of last year the issue was batted between members of a city council appointed plastic bag task force. Negotiations ended on a sour note with a mixed bag of recommendations ranging from no ban to full ban. When it landed back in the city council’s lap last fall they couldn’t make up their minds for the second time. Tuesday night, with several new members on the council, they punted. It’s now up to the voters.
If passed, local retailers that use single-use check out bags will have six months to phase them out. Some stores could get short term extensions if they haven’t run out of what they have in stock. They’ll also be required to charge five cents per paper bag used by customers in an effort to encourage shoppers to use reusable bags.
Plastic bags used in store deli’s, for grocery produce and take out food from restaurants are exempt in the proposed ordinance. Those bags are not affected.
Arguments for banning plastic bags run the gamut from filling up our landfills, littering our neighborhoods, business areas and beaches and harming wildlife. Those opposed to the ban contend the bags can be recycled if people would just cooperate. Plastic bags are convenient. Supporters also contend that reusable cloth or thick-walled plastic bags need to be cleaned between trips to the store. But because a lot of people don’t clean them, they’re a health hazard to themselves and to their fellow shoppers.
After selecting Lincoln County Solid Waste District Program Manager Mark Saelens to serve out the remaining two year term of former city councilor, now mayor, Sandra Roumagoux, Newport has a lot of new blood flowing through the political veins down at city hall.
Although former mayor Bill Bain and former city councilor Jeff Bertuleit pitched heavily to take over Mayor Roumagoux’s former position on the council, it came down to a 4 to 2 vote to appoint newcomer Mark Saelens. Saelens impressed a majority of the council that his extensive scientific education and experience in the field with natural resources (fisheries) and his passion to find “middle ground” in controversial issues will benefit the city. Saelens also outlined a strong and cogent approach toward enhancing Newport’s way forward to accelerated economic development. Saelens said it’s not enough to just apply for grants; the city must have “shovel ready” projects on the shelf, ready to go, when appropriate economic grants come along. Saelens also urged the council to think more collaboratively with surrounding towns and the county to enjoy the “multiplier” effect that granting agencies so often seek. Saelens also recommended Newport solicit opportunities to challenge University of Oregon and Oregon State University students and faculty to come up with development ideas from “state of the art” examples they know about and can apply to Newport. “Yes, it’ll cost money,” Saelens said, “but you’ll get good insight from some of the brightest minds in the region. They can tell us what’s worked in other cities and what hasn’t.”
Councilors David Allen and Ralph Busby threw their support to Jeff Bertuleit who they said had lots of experience with the city and was the voters’ #2 choice for a job at city hall. Allen challenged Saelens as to why he didn’t file for election like the others. Saelens said he was concerned that going before the voters after having heavy involvement in the controversial “plastic single use bag” issue, might have make a run for office “cloudy.” He said he had long considered a run for a council seat but “it was all about timing.” When the vote came, councilors Busby and Allen voted for Bertuleit with Sawyer, Swanson, Beemer and Mayor Roumagoux voting for Saelens. Moments later Saelens was sworn in and took his seat on the dais.
Later in the evening, Newport Fire Chief Phil Paige informed the council that after many meetings with surrounding fire departments, it appears that there is consensus building toward forming a new Central Coast Fire Authority, aimed at combining resources and manpower to provide a higher level of fire services for Depoe Bay, Newport, Newport Rural and Central Coast (Waldport) Fire Departments. Paige said from equipment and supplies purchasing to recruiting volunteers, collaboration and expertise sharing is the way forward for all four departments. Paige said there would be room for other Lincoln County fire departments like North Lincoln, Toledo and Yachats if they too found affiliating to be in their best interest.
The council seemed impressed with the progress to date and said they await the final plan to be presented to not only them but to the Newport Rural Fire Protection, Depoe Bay and Central Coast District Boards later this month or in early February. Under the proposal, a Central Coast Fire Authority would be formed but with no tax increase for anyone. Paige said the goal is to slow down future cost increases by more efficiently sharing fire prevention and fire fighting services and enhancing standardized training across all departments. Fire Chiefs and Assistant Fire Chiefs among the participating departments would jointly provide administrative, operational and fire prevention management.
The affiliative services approach was recommended by a nationally ranked fire services consulting group based in suburban Portland.
The Oregonian photo
Former Newport city councilor Terry Obteshka, favors ban
After wrestling with whether to ban single use shopping bags in Newport, or avoid the issue altogether, a process that created more heat and controversy than solutions, the city council Monday night decided to do what many had recommended all along – punt the issue to the voters and let THEM decide. Former city councilor Terry Obteshka and another member of the public recommended the ban and that it be placed on the May ballot. The measure being considered is similar to one passed by the residents of Corvallis last year that outlawed plastic bags and placed a fee on paper bags to encourage the public to switch to reusable bags. There will be another public hearing on the issue, at the end of which the council is expected to prepare a final ordinance for the May ballot.
With recent anti-plastic bag laws passing in Portland, Eugene and Corvallis, it’s given impetus for anti-bag groups to give it another statewide try at the legislature. The story is in the Oregonian. Click here.
Earlier this week, the Eugene City Council decided to ban check-out plastic bags for all of the usual reasons – clogging storm drains, wildlife threat, wasting oil to make them, filling landfills, and on and on. In order to drive shoppers to invest in durable re-use bags they slapped a five cent fee on paper bags. So, no plastic. Less paper. More reusable bags. No emotion. No screaming. No name calling. No political correctness, just unapologetic common sense. Here’s a comment on how it all happened in this piece from the Eugene Register Guard, which Newport anti-baggers might want to read as they move forward on putting the issue on the ballot here on the coast. Click here.
After many months of sometimes very heated debate, the Newport Task Force on banning plastic shopping bags has failed to convince a majority of the Newport City Council to ban them and have shoppers use reusable bags. After hearing a report that a barely discernible majority of the task force wanted to see plastic bags phased out of Newport grocery stores, the council balked and voted to send the issue to the voters in May. In May the voters will be asked whether plastic bags should be banned and a fee be placed even on paper shopping bags.
Bag ban advocate Charlie Plybon of The Surfrider Foundation implored the council to do what over sixty cities in the U.S. country have already done – ban the bag which he says clogs our landfills, our dumpsters, litters the landscape, both private and public and clogs our storm drains. Plybon and others on the task force told the council that plastic bags are also deadly for wildlife. Plybon said even China bans single use plastic bags.
There were many rounds of debate centering on whether public education to encourage recycling would turn the tables on the bag. But it was quickly maintained by those advocating a ban, that such an open ended activity would be ineffective; that education without an eventual ban is a hallow lesson.
In the end, a majority of the council decided to put the whole thing on the May ballot. Supporters of a May vote like councilors David Allen and Dean Sawyer said that the task force may have been a bit too split to qualify as truly representing an accurate cross-section of the community. At first, the motion was to adopt an ordinance from Corvallis that bans plastic bags and slaps a fee on paper bags. It went down 4 to 3, with Mayor McConnell, Councilor Roumagoux and Councilor Brusselback voting for the ban, and councilors Allen, Beemer, Bertuleit and Sawyer voting no.
Councilor Roumagoux said “The council is elected to lead. We just need to do the right thing, here.” Councilor Bertuleit said “We should tell the grocery stores to charge a fee on plastic bags, coupled with public education.” Councilor Sawyer said he gets conflicting preferences from the people he talks to around town and that a public vote on the issue is the way to go. Councilor David Allen announced he was opposed to the ban and offered many theoretical options short of a ban.
In the end they put it to a vote of Newport residents. The vote was an identical 4-3 in favor (Roumagoux, McConnell and Brusselback against).
The recently passed Corvallis bag-ban ordinance will be used as a template that councilors will use as a basis for discussion before putting it on the ballot. It may be word for word with “Newport” replacing the word “Corvallis” in the ordinance, or it be modified in a way that better fits Newport’s circumstances. They didn’t elaborate on what that might be.
A few task force members stormed out of the council chambers – a couple offering obscenities as they left the room, saying they felt betrayed despite all their hard work.
The council said that the Corvallis ordinance will be brought before the council in the near future, in plenty of time to get a ban on single use plastic bags on the May Ballot.