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Friday, December 9, 2011

Plastic Bag Ban: How Much Outreach Do You Really Need?

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2011 at 2:05 PM

click to enlarge Ross Mirkarimi's bag legislation may have just gotten the sack
  • Ross Mirkarimi's bag legislation may have just gotten the sack

Mom. Apple pie. Patriotism. No politician who doesn't wish to receive a crash course in the joys of seeking employment with the private sector will dare find him or herself on the wrong side of these notions -- and the political goals they serve to cloak.

Add "outreach" to those three. It's "outreach" that's keeping San Francisco from adopting a plastic bag ban that actually does something about reducing bag consumption and helping the environment. It's "outreach" that may keep San Francisco from ever having a ban that's good for more than just grandstanding.

At Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, Jane Kim surprised bag ban architect Ross Mirkarimi by requesting months more time to conduct the aforementioned "outreach." What's more, this was outreach to "small businesspeople of color." In other words, in order to move along this legislation, a supervisor would have to open himself to charges he doesn't give a damn about keeping industrious minorities in the dark.

Never mind that Mirkarimi's legislation had already gotten the thumbs-up

from the mayor, the Chamber of Commerce, the California Grocers

Association, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, the Small Business

Commission, the Chinatown Merchants Association, the Sunset Merchants,

the Small Business Alliance, and others. And never mind that Kim was

pushing to extended outreach for -- and we can't emphasize this enough

-- legislation the board hasn't approved yet.

Of course the board voted to continue discussion of the legislation until February. It was the politically expedient thing to do.

In fact, letting the entire bag issue die might be the politically expedient thing to do. Mirkarimi is leaving the board to become San Francisco's vest-wearing sheriff, and his progressive colleagues have not been lining up to take on the burden of carrying this legislation. Without Mirkarimi pushing for a bag ban that actually reduces consumption and helps the environment, it may well not happen.

It certainly won't happen if the folks calling for more "outreach" at the 11th hour have their way.

Our outreach to Jane Kim has not yet resulted in a returned phone call. When that changes, we'll update this article.

Update, 4 p.m.: Jane Kim responded to our outreach. She claims that only one of the "eight or so" merchant groups she gleaned from a list of groups the Department of the Environment said it had reached out to had, in fact, received any outreach.

When asked what, then, the Department of the Environment was up to, Kim noted that the definition of "outreach" is malleable.

"We feel like this is an issue of respect," she says. "We want to talk to people prior to the vote rather than have them come to us afterward."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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