Repeal is in limbo for Issaquah plastic bag ban
July 17, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
The proposed measure to repeal the Issaquah plastic bag ban faces a questionable future after city officials said the bid did not qualify for the November ballot after supporters failed to gather enough signatures from registered Issaquah voters.
But organizer Craig Keller said the repeal campaign, called Save Our Choice, continues to collect signatures in order to place the repeal measure before Issaquah voters.
Keller and volunteers collected signatures at high-traffic stores and in neighborhoods throughout Issaquah, but city officials said the team did not collect enough. The process to advance the ballot measure is in limbo as volunteers continue to work.
“There’s been such a significant number of citizens that have voiced their displeasure in a campaign that, as far as I know, that’s unprecedented,” Keller said.
Save Our Choice stemmed from a recent unsuccessful effort to undo the Seattle plastic bag ban. The ordinance in Seattle — a model for the Issaquah legislation — took effect July 1.
Issaquah officials received 2,178 signatures — including 124 names determined ineligible and crossed out before organizers submitted the petition sheets — from the Save Our Choice campaign. City officials asked Keller to provide at least 2,458 signatures for the measure to be sent to King County Elections for additional validation.
Keller said the effort faced challenges after voters registered in other cities signed the petitions.
“In light of the fact that the number of signatures submitted fell below this number, the city will be taking no further action with regard to the petitions and the matter will be considered closed,” City Attorney Wayne Tanaka wrote in a July 9 letter to Keller.
Keller intended to collect additional signatures through July 19 to then submit to the city.
“If we do receive more signatures from him, then we’ll address it at that time,” city spokeswoman Autumn Monahan said July 16.
The decision came a little more than a month after Issaquah City Council members passed a plastic bag ban in a 5-2 decision.
“This is going to give a voice for everyone, on the ballot, instead of five people on the City Council who may or may not have really done their homework,” Keller said. “I don’t think they did their homework. I can tell they didn’t, because we have collected a boatload of signatures based on a grassroots campaign.”
The act prompted calls to defeat ban proponents on the council in future elections.
“Every decision we make upsets some people,” said Council President Tola Marts, a ban supporter. “The way this system works is, we get that. Good politicians make decisions based on what they think is right and they understand that when they’re next up for election, if they chose to run again, that the voters will look at the aggregate of their record.”
The ordinance 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.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or email@example.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.