Is the ordinance that wouldn’t die finally dead?
As he has repeatedly over the past ten months or so, Councilman Mike DuPont tried getting his ban on plastic bags passed by Red Bank’s governing body last night.
This time, even his fellow majority Democrats sat in deafening silence when called upon to second the proposal so it could be voted on.
The rebuke followed a PowerPoint presentation by DuPont that several food and plastics industry representatives ripped as factually inaccurate; a critique by a Broad Street merchant who claimed she’d been misled about the scope of the ordinance; and a scolding by a resident that the council was wasting its time on something so “petty.”
“This is such a tiny, tiny, petty thing,” said Ambassador Drive resident Les Hathaway, who also characterized the proposal as un-neighborly to the town’s only supermarket, the Food Circus SuperFoodtown, whose executives have strongly opposed the ban. “It’s a waste of your excellent talents.”
Cindy Wolfson Ciullo, owner of the Backward Glances clothing and tchotchke store, said she had ordered 10,000 heavyweight plastic bags for her Broad Street business after being assured by DuPont that such bags wouldn’t be affected by the ban only to learn that they would be verboten when the proposed ordinance took effect next July 1.
Packaging industry representatives said DuPont had overstated the extent of municipal bag-banning efforts in various major cities, and challenged some of the assertions in his PowerPoint presentation, which included a photo of a river covered in garbage all the way to the horizon and a quote from a 1975 study claiming that ships at sea dumped 8 million pounds of plastics annually into open waters.
Plastics and food industry representatives also teed DuPont up for failing to convene an ad hoc committee of various interested parties themselves, business owners, environmentalists and others to discuss the bag problem, as he had indicated in September that he would.
“Did I miss something?” asked Scott Ross, a lobbyist for the the New Jersey Food Council. “Are we just going piecemeal?”
DuPont replied that he had “spoken to anyone willing to listen,” but did not address the question of the committee.
Democrat Sharon Lee cited the absence of the meeting in her refusal to back the ordinance. “We made a promise to this community to set up a committee to review this, and we have not,” she said.
Still, DuPont got gentle treatment from Lee and other council members that is, after fellow Dem Kathleen Horgan broke the silence to say that, if not for the challenging economic conditions that retailers face, she’d be on board with the ban.
“I feel very strongly about banning them, but I don’t want to make it more difficult for our businesses,” she said.
Others on the council, including Republicans Grace Cangemi and Jim Giannell, praised DuPont for bringing the problem of flyaway bags to the fore.
But they too, said they couldn’t support the ban because of its economic impact and, in Cangemi’s case, because she believes in fostering more recycling of bags while encouraging shoppers to shift over to durable reusables.
“Having not heard a second, the ordinance will fail at this time,” Mayor Pasquale Menna announced at the end of the discussion.