The city of Seaside had the opportunity to get the jump on the state in enacting a single-use plastic bag ban.
Ultimately, councilors decided the “environmental mantle” they might have received for its passage was outweighed by complications of an ordinance that could compete or diverge from state law, which bans the single-use bags as of Jan. 1.
Seaside ordinance 2019-02 would have been read for a third and final reading prior to adoption. But other things happened “above us,” Mayor Jay Barber said at the July 8 City Council public hearing.
At the meeting, Laura Allen of Seaside called the discussion “a really positive thing for Seaside.”
Allen, among longtime local advocates for the ban, said she hoped the city would pass the ordinance as a statement from the city. “We never know what’s going to go on at the state level.”
Passage of the ban by the city could prove a “testament” to the city’s leadership, she added.
Seaside’s Russ Mead also urged passage of the city ban.
He said the city could “take the environmental mantle by passing the bill: ‘We passed this bill before the state did.’”
He recommended going ahead with passage of the ordinance. “This is our law and we ought to pass it, and we ought to be proud of it.”
After discussion, councilors decided the distinction was not persuasive enough to move forward.
“From my perspective the state law does cover what we worked hard to cover in the community,” Barber said.
Councilor Tita Montero said a local ban enacted earlier than the state ban could prove a hardship to local merchants, who have already purchased supplies for the year.
“For that reason, I truly believe the state is right with the January 2020 issue,” Montero said. “I personally am of the opinion, the state has done their job, we have done our job, and we should let the state law prevail.”
Other councilors echoed these comments. “Why have an ordinance if we have to completely rewrite it?” Randy Frank said. “The state’s will completely supersede this. That creates a lot of extra work for city staff.”
This spring, dozens of ban supporters crowded city meetings, who described a threat to ocean wildlife and habitat.
They included business owners, environmental advocates and citizens who sought to mitigate the threat to what they described as a dire situation on a global level.
Correspondence to the city in favor of the ban included the state Department of Environmental Quality, which supports bans on single-use plastic bags and a fee on single-use paper bags.
Gov. Kate Brown signed House Bill 2905 in June, banning single-use plastic grocery bags from stores and restaurants starting in 2020. The bill also requires stores to charge at least 5 cents per bag for alternatives, such as paper and reusable bags.
Oregon’s plastic bag ban is also joined by a bill requiring restaurants to only give plastic straws to customer who specifically ask for them. A third bill, which would have banned styrofoam take-out containers, did not pass.
If the state law is ever weakened, Barber said, “We’ll come back to the table and make sure it addresses at a stringent level whatever is required.”
Without a motion for a third and final reading of the city’s ordinance, the state law will go into effect Jan. 1.