Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Making Sense Of What Happened With The Plastic Bags

See the crosspost and the full stories at Annapolis Politics.

Several months back, Annapolis Alderman Sam Shropshire introduced O-27-07, a bill that would ban the distribution of plastic bags by retailers in the city of Annapolis. The debate surrounding the issue since then has been nothing short of a circus.

The debate has been fierce. Alderman Shropshire maintains to this day that he genuinely believes this ban to be in the best interest of both the city and the environment. His opponents sharply point out that the evidence is less than overwhelming that plastic bags are even worse than paper bags in the first place, that Alderman Sam is simply pandering for media attention, and that there are much better places to start if you want to improve the environment (such as actually putting recycling bins downtown).

The bill was up for a vote last night, and true to form, the meeting was covered by print and broadcast media. Wow, did they see a show.

In a weekend news dump, the mayor announced that she would attempt so supersede Mr. Shropshire's bill with a much tamer plan that wouldn't ban anything, but instead would create a commission to study the matter further. Wonderful. But as of the start of the meeting, the city attorney was the only one that knew exactly how this was going to be done.

The mayor, along with several co-sponsoring aldermen, introduced 2 versions of the same (new) bill: O-55-07 and O-27-07 REVISED. In doing this, the council never intended to vote on the issue! There is a rule that if a substantive change is made to a bill by an amendment, the bill then has to be pulled and a new public hearing held regarding the substantive changes. By introducing a new bill and calling it a revised version of the old bill, the council guaranteed that such a substantive change existed!

Alderman Shropshire fought the tactic, but to no avail. The council passed a motion to accept the "revised" version of the bill, then immediately passed a motion to declare the changes substantive. The bill was removed from consideration, and the whole process will drag on.

O-55-07 was just a backup plan. If anything went wrong and a vote on the original bill actually happened, the council could still seek political cover by voting in favor of O-55, which appeared later in the agenda. As it happened, this was unnecessary and O-55 was pulled.

As could be expected, this made people crazy. The city spokesman was assaulted (metaphorically) in the hallway by supporters of the ban demanding to know what happened. Despite the fact that such is his job, he was so angry at the council for putting on a worthless dog and pony show, that after the meeting ended, he approached the council and mayor and launched into a tirade! He had to be calmed by the city attorney!

So the result is a lot of angry people, and no resolution to the issue.

For those of you who thought you would be better entertained watching Monday Night Football, for once you were mistaken.


Chester said...

Good Job, Mr. Gill! Your blow-by-blow reporting made me wish I was there!

Hey, if the writer's strike means our favorite TV dramas may soon go into re-runs, an alternative form of entertainment can be had right there in the Council chambers! It's got Drama, Comedy, Tradgedy, and more!

I understand another city
(SanFran?) just adopted a similar bag-ban, with some exceptions for small stores.

Are you expecting to see the notice any day about Ray Weaver's "retirement for personal (not personnel) reasons"?

Brian Gill said...

I think San Fran did, but I understand California as a state is focusing on recycling.

I could be wrong, but I don't see Mr. Weaver being forced to retire. After all, the chief actually called out the mayor in print media and he still has his job!

madhatter said...

Let's see, 3 cents per bag makes the city knuckle down, but having the worst murder rate with 8 murder for a city of her size and income means nothing. Having an educational system that fired all of its high school teachers means nothing. Here's a clue to the officials in Annapolis, I have money, lot's of it, and I will be spending it to make sure none of you get reelected.