My mother turned 88 in March. My three brothers and three sisters and I are lucky she remains active, in good health and lives independently in the family home in San Francisco.
I am the middle child of her brood which no doubt informs my pragmatic approach to issues that come before the City Council. As mayor, I now sit in the middle of the council dais and it is a comfortable spot for me and my centrist views.
An issue the city of Pleasant Hill is currently considering is whether to pass an ordinance to prohibit single-use (plastic) carryout bags in all retail stores, including restaurants.
Although the council has not debated the merits or particulars, at our meeting on April 21 we reviewed a proposed draft ordinance, and council members voiced their general reactions, some negative and some positive. The council directed the city staff to seek public input from residents and local businesses.
I also sought the opinion of my mother and brother about their experience under the plastic bag ban now in effect in San Francisco.
"Mom, what do you think of the plastic bag ban?"
"I think it is stupid," she replied. I was struck that she expressed her opinion in the identical manner as one of my council colleagues.
My brother, a retired police officer, strongly disagreed with our Mom.
"I think the ban is right. Bring your own bag to the store. It is good for the environment and is forcing plastics manufacturers to create biodegradable products."
Again, I was struck by the similarity of his enthusiastic support to that of another council member.
So what are the facts?
The average plastic bag is used for 12 minutes and may take 500 years or more to decompose in a landfill. It is estimated that approximately 19 billion single-use plastic bags are used annually in California, but less than 5 percent are recycled.
A reusable bag has the potential to replace more than 600 single-use plastic bags over its lifetime. Moreover, shopping with reusable bags is expected to reduce litter on land and in our creeks, and conserve natural resources.
More than 100 cities in California have now adopted plastic bag ordinances, including five in Contra Costa County -- Walnut Creek, El Cerrito, Richmond, San Pablo and Pittsburg.
The state is also expected to pass later this year a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. Senate Bill 270 is moving through the Legislature. If passed, SB 270 would impose a ban on plastic bags for larger grocery stores beginning July 1, 2015.
One year later, the ban would take effect for all grocery stores, including convenience stores. The statewide ban would not apply to other retail stores such as department stores, bookstores and restaurants.
Proposed Pleasant Hill ordinance details
Under the draft proposed city ordinance, stores would be permitted to sell paper bags (made from recycled content) for a minimum of 10 cents for each bag, and other reusable shopping bags.
Consumers will have the option to bring their own reusable bags, pay for paper bags, or opt not to use a bag to carry goods from the store.
Protective plastic or paper bags, without handles, for items such as meat, fresh produce, dry-cleaning and prescription medications would still be allowed under the ordinance.
Although restaurants are included, paper bags used by fast food eateries would still be permitted without any charge for the bag to the customer.
The City Council will consider the proposed ordinance as soon as this July. If adopted, the ban on plastic bags at retail stores would take effect six months after adoption, which would probably occur in early 2015.
So what do you think?
The City Council and staff would like to hear from residents and business owners about the ordinance.
A link to an online survey can be found at www.pleasant-hill.net/plastic-bags. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey and provide your feedback.
If you wish to speak to the city staff regarding the ordinance, please email Martin Nelis at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 925-671-5229.
Whether you are pro or con on this issue -- please join me in saying Happy Mother's Day to my wonderful mother, and to all the moms in our lives.
Timothy M. Flaherty is the mayor of Pleasant Hill. Contact him at email@example.com.