The right time to wait

City attorney right to hold off on writing bag-banning ordinance

It’s fair to say that Chico’s proposed ordinance banning plastic bags isn’t going far. In fact, it’s doubtful that City Attorney Lori Barker will even write the thing. That’s because she’s aware that the City Council will almost certainly backtrack on the ordinance and, at a future meeting, request a different one.

At its Sept. 4 meeting, the council voted to ask the city attorney to write an ordinance banning plastic carry-out bags at large retailers, while also asking her first to wait to see whether Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill on his desk, SB 1219.

To many observers present at the meeting, a majority of the council members appeared to prefer to take a different tack than banning bags outright. They wanted to require retailers to charge a small fee for all carry-out bags, paper and plastic alike, thereby giving shoppers a choice while encouraging them to bring their own reusable bags. But that wasn’t possible because existing law forbids charging for plastic bags.

SB 1219, however, would eliminate that prohibition. If Brown signed it, as was expected, council members would be free to pass their preferred ordinance. Barker wisely held off on writing the original ordinance, as requested. Now that Brown has signed SB 1219, she’s still holding off. She told the CN&R recently that she’s going to watch the video of the Sept. 4 meeting to see if she can determine the council’s directions regarding the alternative ordinance before deciding what to do.

That’s OK with Mayor Ann Schwab. She told the CN&R she fully expects the council to reverse course on the bag ban at a future meeting, probably in November.

If bags are to be regulated, retailers prefer that they be allowed to charge for them. That covers their costs while giving their customers a choice. Best of all, though, it will go a long way toward stemming the glut of plastic bags choking landfills and floating out to sea.