Issaquah plastic bag ban could go to voters for decision
June 19, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
Issaquah voters could decide on the plastic bag ban enacted by the City Council if a repeal measure launched by a Seattle resident qualifies for the ballot.
The campaign, called Save Our Choice, is modeled on a recent failed effort to repeal the Seattle plastic bag ban. Save Our Choice organizer Craig Keller is in the process of collecting signatures to put a repeal measure for the Issaquah ordinance on the November ballot.
In a 5-2 decision, Issaquah council members passed a plastic bag ban June 4. The decision came after a series of public meetings and a flurry of emails to elected officials.
The local business community offered a tepid response to the proposal, even as statewide environmental groups and regional plastic manufacturers sprung into action to defend and oppose the legislation.
“Whether it’s Seattle or Issaquah, it’s just a huge overreach and tokenism,” Keller said. “It reduces consumer choice and casts more costs upon businesses, consumers and government, frankly.”
Issaquah city code allows for initiatives and referenda. Keller and other supporters need to gather 2,548 valid signatures from Issaquah voters for the prospective ballot measure.
“Your city of Issaquah has just decided to spend $9,000 to outreach to people in their sort of missionary effort to proselytize on this issue,” Keller said.
The legislation passed by the council authorized up to $9,900 for the city to conduct a reusable bag distribution effort and launch a public education program.
“Government is broke as it is now, and that’s not necessary,” Keller said.
The plastic bag ban goes into effect March 1, 2013, for retailers of 7,500 square feet or more. The measure does not go into effect for smaller businesses until March 1, 2014.
In addition to limiting most plastic bags, the legislation requires retail stores to collect 5 cents for each paper bag provided to customers. The fee is meant to help offset the changeover cost as retailers eliminate plastic bags.
The ordinance includes exemptions for numerous everyday uses, such as plastic bags to carry dry cleaning and newspapers.
In the days after the council decision, Keller handed out petitions at Tastin’ n Racin’ and a local grocery store. Organizers need to turn in the signatures next month.
“I went to the QFC store and got some real positive responses, and gave away some blank petitions to people that will share them with their friends,” he said. “But then there were also some people who said, ‘Oh, I like the ban. I want the ban.’ They’re real control freaks and they want to force this upon others when they really don’t know the scope of this.”
Before the decision, council members heard more from statewide environmental groups and plastics manufacturers based elsewhere in the region than from city residents. Keller, like most speakers at the council hearings on the ordinance, does not reside in Issaquah.
The legislation is the latest measure enacted to reduce plastic waste.
In November 2009, council members passed a food-packaging ordinance to outlaw Styrofoam takeout containers and mandate compostable alternatives.
Despite grumbling from restaurateurs and lingering enforcement problems, the ordinance took effect without incident.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.