Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013
Siskiyou Room, 51 Winburn Way

Mayor Stromberg called the meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. in the Siskiyou Room. 
Councilor Rosenthal, Voisin, Morris, Slattery, and Marsh were present.  Councilor Lemhouse was absent.
1.     Look Ahead review
City Administrator Dave Kanner reviewed items on the Look Ahead. 
2.     Discussion of Bring Your Own Bag ordinance Conservation Commission recommendation discussion
Management Analyst Adam Hanks explained representatives from Environment Oregon introduced the plastic bag ban during Public Forum at the July 16, 2013 Council meeting.  Council referred the matter to the Conservation Commission to review and provide recommendations.  The Conservation Commission formed a Sub Committee that researched plastic bag bans in other communities and made a recommendation for the Conservation Commission.  This was an initial recommendation to the Council on overall structure.  Once they received direction from Council further details and research would occur.
Conservation Commission Chair Mark Weir explained the Conservation Commission wanted to add an educational component and turn the ban into a Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) program.  The Commission did not know the full costs involved and wanted Council to direct staff to review the initial ordinance and educational component to determine the appropriate amount of resources required for the program.  Under the Suggested Timeline in the Conservation Commissionís BYOB recommendations memo, they could move the month markers one month ahead for an appropriate timeline.
The program needed to occur in phases.  Stores in Ashland had significant stock and would need six months to go through inventory.  Another component was charging for paper bags, the Commission did not want to displace paper that had its own environmental concerns.  Other cities created a disincentive to using paper bags by charging $0.05 to $0.25 per bag.  The Commission recommended those funds going back to the storeowner to offset the cost from switching from plastic bags that were less expensive than paper.  Some communities required standards on plastic bags like a 40% recycled content.  Conservation Commission Recology Representative Risa Buck added several grocery stores in Ashland had already switched from plastic bag use.  Chair Weir stated in all areas that banned plastic bags a reduction in litter occurred and the switch did not affect business productivity.
Councilor Rosenthal spoke as the Council liaison for the Conservation Commission.  Plastic bags were waste stream nuisances and jammed comingled recycling machines and processes.  In the past, Council took proactive steps to reduce waste stream nuisances by banning polystyrene in stores and restaurants that resulted in forming the Conservation Commission.
Mayor Stromberg referred to an earlier phone conversation with the Mayor of Eugene regarding their plastic bag ban.  The City of Eugene encountered two unexpected issues.  One was stores like Target used larger plastic bags for holiday shopping and second, people who philosophically opposed government setting charges for paper bags. 
Chair Weir explained educational outreach to smaller stores would occur during a larger scale assessment on impacts to the community in the next phase.
Mr. Hanks noted some cities charged only for standard grocery sized paper bags and exempted smaller paper bags.  Councilor Marsh thought it was a critical point on who was required to be a reporting entity and who would be required to charge for bags.
Chair Weir confirmed the potential exemptions listed under Suggested Ordinance Elements in the Council Communication were federally or state regulated items that Council could not override.  The City could have a supply of reusable bags for purchase, partially subsidize them, or let businesses advertise on the bags.  The goal of a surcharge on paper bags was preventing a shift from plastic bags to paper bags.  The surcharge provided an incentive that would lead to a behavior change.  Mr. Hanks explained enforcement would not occur during the phasing period.  Complaints would drive enforcement and be managed through compliance. 
Chair Weir went on to explain lifecycle inventories calculated the amount of energy used to make paper bags over plastic.  Essentially paper bags cost more to produce environmentally than plastic bags.  There was an increased environmental degradation shifting to paper.  Reusable bags would have much lower total lifetime environmental cost.  This was the educational part of creating an Ashland centric bag for the community.  Chair Weir would forward the report on specified values for paper versus plastic to Council.
Commissioner Buck referenced an email from the Ashland Food Coop Outreach Manager Annie Hoy regarding charging for bags.  Ms. Hoy reported an 80% reduction in paper correlated to the surcharge.
Additionally, there was potential for the City to collaborate with the Chamber of Commerce to provide the first set of reusable bags to launch the program with components that could subsidize bags for low-income households.  The program could lead to a statewide and nationwide program with Ashland as a leader.  Bag logistics would occur in the next phase. 
Mr. Weir thought the City could allocate a portion of the funds from the Franchise Agreement for the educational component that could target schools, community outreach, and visitors.  Mr. Hanks would get overall program costs the City of Eugene incurred.  The Growers and Crafters Market also expressed interest regarding the program.
Council was interested in moving forward with staff presenting the educational roll out, draft ordinance, and timeline to the Conservation Commission for fine tuning then brought to Council March 2014.  Ordinance concerns regarded the threshold issue, minimizing reporting requirements for stores, and marketing strategies for the community.  A comment questioned the value of having an Ashland specific bag since there were many bags available already, and suggested offering to collaborate with grocery stores on bag production instead.  Another issue was remembering to bring the bag to the store.  Some Councilors thought the educational component and ordinance should be a two step process or done in phases, using the same timeline and allowing for late updates to the ordinance before approval or establishing the educational component before the ordinance.
City Administrator Dave Kanner thought January was ambitious considering workloads and the end of March more feasible.  Staff would create a detailed plan for the program and ordinance using the City of Eugene as a model.  Mr. Kanner clarified funds from the franchise fees were already allocated in the General Fund.  Staff would determine funding.
3.     Discussion of Housing and Human Services Commission involvement in social service grant screening
City Attorney Dave Lohman explained Council could express their opinion regarding the topic without deliberation by not commenting on other Councilorís comments.
City Administrator Dave Kanner researched other communities and there was not a consistent process on Commission involvement regarding grants.
Councilor Voisin thought it made sense the Housing and Human Services Commission participated in the grant process since the Housing Commission made recommendations on CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) awards and were current with the issues. 
Councilor Marsh supported making the change, it would be worthwhile having people making those decisions who had the expertise.  Additionally, the whole process needed to start with a review on the parameters for spending the money. 
Mayor Stromberg explained he had emphasized to potential applicants the importance of the Commission having a collaborative relationship that aligned with Council.
Councilor Morris thought the Commission should make recommendations to the Budget Committee who would make the final assessment.
Mr. Kanner questioned when the applicant presentation would occur if both the Budget Committee and the Housing and Human Services Commission reviewed applications. 
Council decided to add the item to the following night's agenda.
Meeting adjourned at 6:45 p.m.
Respectfully submitted,                                
Dana Smith
Assistant to the City Recorder

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