Monday, November 30, 2009

Something I Missed

So, back when I was working for San Jose City Councilman Kansen Chu I worked on and wrote an initial draft of legislation to ban plastic bags in the City of San Jose. I worked with the excellent city staff on language, stake holder meetings and in drumming up support. The submitting of the legislation to committee made front page news, they even quoted a speech I wrote for the Councilman. I was most impressed by the fact that our story beat out the Mayor's state of the city address. After that day the 18th floor of the City Hall knew me as "the plastic bag man."

During the stake holder meetings we actually met with members of the Grocer's Associations and the American Chemical Council and attempted to explain to them (something I was instructed not to do but couldn't contain myself) that if they wanted to maintain their revenue from "plastic bags" that they should stop investing in petroleum and recycled based plastics and look into bio-plastics. I told them that this was not going to be a localized incident and that it would end up being a national movement to rid our waste-stream of this stuff.

I stopped paying attention to it after I left that office and found out that it was being held in committee. Not 45 minutes ago I found out that not only did it come out committee but it was passed. My baby had gone through. They even were able to get some paper bags on the ban. To the detractors I say that they have but one reasonable argument. While I have to agree that the Minority or Lower Income families are affected more by this than some other groups initially. We had tried to start a program to rectify this. While I was with Kansen Chu's office I also co-headed the "green bag give away" program that gave away over 500 reusable bags to (mainly) lower income community centers. It was hugely successful and got great response. One constituent actually called in and said it was "the best use of taxpayer funds" that she could think of. I worked with Stufflebean and other city staff to try and get this program going and wanted to try and turn it into a continuing program but I have heard little of it since leaving.

I am very happy to see that this band was passed and that it also included a success measuring program and outreach efforts.

It is unfortunate that Councilmember Chu's name fails to be mentioned in any of the articles I found on the subject. In fact, in looking at Council minutes he doesn't even seem to be anything more than an AYE vote.

There is actually a story here about some version of an epiphany that Kansen apparently had (though during my time with his office I never heard this story). I can tell you this, from what I recall the plastic bag ban came from an effort on my part and on the part of city staff after Kansen and then Chief of Staff Chen said to me "any projects you want to take on?". An interesting anecdote though.

I am happy to see it go through, being the largest municipality in the nation to push this through should make it a bit easier for some of the other ones across the nation, who knows, may even reach federal levels.

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