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Chairman of Monrovia Plastic Bag Committee Has Concerns about Bag Ban

This Tuesday the Monrovia City Council passed an ordinance banning plastic carry-out grocery bags. Prior to that, the city formed an ad hoc committee to examine the issue. Former City Councilman Dan Kirby was chairman of the committee, and wrote a letter to the City Council outlining some of his concerns with the measure. Here is his letter:

Date: 4/1/2014
To: Monrovia City Council
From: Dan Kirby
Re: AR-2 - Single Use Bag Regulation Ad Hoc Committee

Madam Mayor and City Council,

Thank you for the opportunity to serve on the committee. I was elected by the committee members to serve as the chairman. The members who attended the meetings were highly engaged in the process. The final vote was 2-1 in favor of recommending the proposed ordinance.

Please accept my apology for not attending the meeting tonight. I have a previously scheduled family obligation. I have reviewed the staff report and have some comments for the record.

When I was asked to participate on the committee, I came with an open mind hoping to learn what impact outlawing single-use bags would have on our residents, as well as the benefits to the environment and the surrounding communities. Staff was able to find out what other cities have passed and shared the information with the committee. They also informed us of pending state legislation sponsored by Senator Alex Padilla. This was good information, but several key committee members who were invited to participate chose not to attend so we never got their input.

Unfortunately, after being invited several times, representatives from the larger businesses who would be affected by an ordinance did not attend. We did however hear from Athens Services and retired engineer from JPL.

Most importantly, we were never able to ask the residents. When I shared with people that I was serving on the committee, their response was nearly unanimous, "Please don't take away my plastic bags." This is obviously not a scientific survey, but it says to me that people would definitely be inconvenienced, especially the elderly should you choose to adopt an ordinance outlawing the bags.

The information that we were not able to get were the answers to these important questions,

1. Do these ordinances actually make a real difference?
2. Is the environment really cleaner?
3. Is there really less pollution?
4. When people choose to use reusable bags, what happens to those bags when they wear out? Do they decompose slower than the single-use ones causing a worse impact on the environment?
5. Are reusable bags less sanitary when used in markets where food is bought and sold?

There were no quantifiable answers presented for any of these important questions so for that reason I voted no on the recommendation.

I meet neighbors and friends in the markets or on the streets often and wonder what I would say to them if they asked me why we outlawed their plastic bags. If I said it was good for the environment, they might say, "how do you know?" I wouldn't be able to give them a good honest answer because we don't really know for sure.

I believe we should all be good stewards of our environment, but based on the information we received, outlawing single-use bags has not been proven to have a positive environmental impact. I believe our residents will respond positively to a well conceived and executed information campaign and some will reduce the use of the bags voluntarily.

In a time when financial resources are scarce, we should carefully prioritize our spending so that we stretch our dollars as far as they will go. This may not be the best use of our taxpayer dollars.

Finally, the state government will eventually adopt a statewide law that will be another unfunded mandate for us to tackle. We will have to deal with it then.

In Gratitude,
Dan Kirby

1 comment:

  1. Google is your friend. Many of Dan's "unanswered questions" can be learned with some simple research. Why even put someone on this commission who is so unwilling to spend the time to truly research it?