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Newport continues to talk about banning plastic bags…after several months, still at “conceptual” stage

Some months ago the city of Newport was asked to take up the matter of whether Newport retailers should be banned from offering single use plastic shopping bags to their customers. The council created a citizens and business community task force early last Spring to analyze options. Their findings and options on what to do with plastic bags will be presented to the city council at their November 5th meeting.

The next task force meeting is set for tonight, 5:30pm at City Hall. Here’s their discussion diagram:

A “ban” is anything but in the bag….

The Newport City Council Monday night is expected to send a proposal to ban plastic shopping bags off on a journey of exploring methods to reduce or eliminate their use in Newport. The local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation couldn’t convince a majority of the council earlier this year to outright ban the bags which they contend is a major pollution hazard to wildlife along with being a litter and carbon footprint problem because they’re made from processed oil. A majority of the councilors decided they wanted to hear more from town’s businesses and others who would be directly affected by such a ban.

City Councilors David Allen and Sandra Roumagoux came up with the idea that a task force, made up of representative of all “stakeholder groups,” might come up with something between an outright ban and a near-ban using clever marketing and educational programs to convince the public to cut back in favor of using permanent cloth bags.

The task force proposed by the councilors includes a member from the Surfrider Foundation, League of Conservation Voters, Lincoln County Solid Waste District, Lincoln County Solid Waste Haulers, Northwest Grocery Association, JC Market, Newport Farmer’s Market, Large Retailer (non-grocery), Small Retailer (non-grocery) and at least two members of the public.

The council Monday night is expected to give the task force an order that “it is their responsibility to identify approaches to reduce or eliminate the use of single-use plastic check-out bags and ways to measure the effectiveness of the program. This may include community outreach and education, local recycling efforts, a local ban either with, or without a charge/deposit on paper checkout bags, or a combination of these or other approaches.”

The task force will have until September 12th of this year to report back their findings to the city council as to which method to take to address the issue of plastic bags. The city of Portland has already banned plastic bags in a number of uses. The city of Corvallis is said to be close to a ban. Others are considering similar proposals.

Newport City Council: To ban, or not to ban, that’s sort of the question

Courtesy photo

Newport City Councilors Tuesday night decided to follow along with Council Dave Allen’s suggestion that the city council form a large task force to determine if a ban on or reduction in use of single use plastic bags should be adopted by the city of Newport.

Councilors acknowledged the environmental threat of the bags to wildlife on land and sea, as well as clogging up landfills, but decided they want a wide ranging group of “stakeholders” on the issue, to be allowed to weigh in on any proposed city position on the bags or methods of achieving either a ban or a forced reduction in their use.

The plastic bag task force will be made up of environmental groups, grocery stores, the farmers market, waste haulers, the fishing community, Chamber of Commerce, big retailers and little retailers and a generous representation by members of the public. All will get to chime in, but with direction from the council that they explore everything from no ban, to partial ban, to full ban. By next September the council would expect to see a set of recommendations on the subject.

Surfrider Foundation regional coordinator Charlie Plybon said when the task force is fully staffed he wants the council to give them very clear instructions on what the agenda is, to make it clear that the whole focus is to do something about single use plastic bags.

City Councilor David Allen said he will assist in tracking down members of all listed special interest groups to serve on the task force. Again, their recommendations won’t be due, officially, until September.

Newport: On ‘Ban the Bag’ – “Let’s talk more about it.”


Courtesy photo

Newport City Councilors on Tuesday will try again to get some traction in the debate over whether single-use plastic bags should be banned in Newport. An earlier vote by a majority of the councilors favored a ban with instructions for staff to work with Surfrider Foundation to draw up an ordinance to “ban the bag.” But a majority of councilors later reversed their vote under the guise that they had moved too quickly based on phone calls and e-mails they received from local residents and businesses.

Into the lurch moved City Councilor David Allen who volunteered to create a framework for closer scrutiny of the issue. His proposal is expected to be presented to the council at their January 3rd meeting. In a memo to the council, Allen proposes the creation of a plastic bag study committee. The committee would be comprised of representatives who might have a thing or two to say about plastic bags from business to ‘ban the bag’ advocates. Members would be assembled by March and be given six months to come up with a recommended position they’d like to see the Newport City Council take on the issue. ‘That puts the ban the bag’ resolution out to at least September of 2012.

The Newport City Council takes up Councilor Allen’s idea at Tuesday evening’s city council meeting at City Hall, which starts at 6pm.

A number of strategies could be considered, according Councilor Allen’s memo. They include encouraging retailers to offer incentives to customers who bring their own shopping bags. Put a tax or fee on single-use plastic bags to encourage the use of re-useable cloth bags. Encourage more recycling of plastic bags rather than simply throwing them out. And of course, banning them by law.

Meanwhile Surfrider Foundation chief Charlie Plybon, who helped initiate the request that plastic bags be banned in Newport, says he remains disappointed that the council reversed itself on moving ahead with a ban last month. He said the proposed committee will likely wrestle with the issue for six months and come up with the same recommendations that have been adopted in other cities and counties around the West. He said he was hoping that Oregon could be the first state to ban single use plastic bags, ahead of Hawaii, which is also seriously considering their prohibition. Plybon also indicated that he would like to see two city councilors sit on the committee, namely Dick Beemer and Dean Sawyer, who had both changed their votes on moving ahead with the ban last month. He said he wants to make sure that Beemer and Sawyer hear the evidence first hand about why the ban is good for everyone concerned, including the environment, landfills, business and wildlife.

The last Oregon Legislature considered a state-wide ban on single use plastic bags but the bill didn’t make it. Advocates of the ban say it failed due to heavy lobbying from the plastic bag-making industry, none of it based in Oregon. Meanwhile, a number of cities and counties around the country have already banned the bags including Portland, San Jose and Seattle. Here is a recent article in the Seattle Times that chronicles that city’s journey to what turned out to be “banning the bag.” Click here.

Newport City Council punts on plastic bag ban

Updated 11-9 – Councilor Dean Sawyer clarification (see below)
Updated 12:06pm Tuesday (in bold)

After long discussions of why single-use plastic bags are bad for the environment, for wildlife and landfills and debate over whether enough public input had been gathered on the issue, the Newport City Council couldn’t decide whether to even begin writing a law to ban the bags in Newport. Councilors reversed an earlier course that suggested that plastic bags would be banned in Newport but not before more public input was given. They got more public input Monday night (almost all of it in favor of a ban), but, in the eyes of some councilors, it still wasn’t enough. Councilor David Allen insisted on putting the issue to a public vote but appeared satisfied to be charged with bringing a proposal back to the council in December that examines at least three options: whether an advisory public vote should go forward, if a draft ordinance should go forward, or if the council should go forward only to the extent that it involves more public input.

Councilor Dean Sawyer repeatedly expressed his concern for the poor who can’t afford re-useable bags and that the the owner of JC Markets had expressed to him his opposition to a ban. Sawyer clarified his statement to News Lincoln County Wednesday saying JC Markets don’t outright oppose a ban on plastic bags but that they do have concerns about the banning of plastic bags from the point of view of food safety. Sawyer said JC Market is concerned about customers reusing the same cloth back repeatedly with the chance of food born bacteria accumulating in cloth bags. Sawyer also said that while he would be prepared to vote for a ban, he was concerned that the council was going down the road too fast – that it had violated a promise to the public that councilors would make their decision only after a careful thoughtful approach.

In a brief exchange between Mayor Mark McConnell and Councilor David Allen, Allen said he would come back with a proposal that they can talk about during their only council meeting in December. McConnell quipped back, “It may not matter because these people (referencing the audience) are going to go out and put a voter initiative on the ballot to ban plastic bags. They’re not going to consult us.”

Tuesday morning “Ban the Bag” advocacy group Surfrider Foundation’s Charlie Plybon said the council’s 4 to 3 vote to to rescind its endorsement of a ban “is a slap in the face of many people who have invested hundreds of hours either testifying before the city and eliciting support from the community including local businesses.” Plybon said “The weight of public involvement has been cancelled by allegations (via letters and email) that there has been a wave of support to continue having plastic bags being used in the community. Surfrider is putting in a public records request to determine who these opponents are, what they actually said and in what number.”

NewsLincolnCounty.com asked Plybon if Surfrider would resort, as hinted by Mayor McConnell Monday night, that he expects Surfrider to do an end-run around the council via a voter initiative to ban plastic bags. Plybon declined to speculate on a voter initiative saying only that “the initiative process is always available.”

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