Petition drive to bag the bag fee: West Seattle signature-gathering


bagpetitions.jpgWent down the hill to Thriftway in Morgan Junction a short time ago; as we got out of our car, the gentleman you see in the photo above was a few steps ahead of us, heading for a spot outside the store’s southwest-facing door. He identified himself as a paid signature-gatherer for petitions pursuing a referendum to cancel the 20-cent disposable-bag fee (and foam ban) just approved by the City Council (original WSB report, with 60+ comments, here). He said he wasn’t sure who’s sponsoring the referendum (we’ll be looking that up shortly), just that he’s got a contract to get paid to gather signatures. And from a quick look at the petitions (photo at left) after he’d been in business just about 15 minutes, he seemed to be having a success rate of almost one signature per minute. MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: Still trying to figure out how to find out who’s behind this. Found the city rules for referendums, and they note that you do not have to file anything in advance to circulate petitions – and you’re not supposed to bring them in till you think you have at least the required number (almost 15,000) – so this wouldn’t necessarily be on record anywhere.

39 Replies to "Petition drive to bag the bag fee: West Seattle signature-gathering"

  • pam August 10, 2008 (4:15 pm)

    I really really really wish people would not just sign those things while walking by. If the guy can’t say who’s sponsoring the referendum, he’s not a credible source for information about the referendum.

    Don’t get me wrong, go ahead and sign if you’ve done the homework and support the issue. But please please please read up BEFORE you sign, k?

    Your informed citizen loving neighbor in Gatewood who must have JUST missed our WSB correspondents today…


  • me August 10, 2008 (4:38 pm)

    Don’t sign that – unless you are pro-pollution.

  • Creighton August 10, 2008 (4:49 pm)

    Not sure if I want to sign anything, and give any information, to anyone I just met.

    PS: You’ll notice your gallon of milk jug already has a handle built in. Use it. No need to bag the milk at least.

  • ValMalGal August 10, 2008 (5:33 pm)

    In the majority of Europe, bags cost $$, and everyone is in the painless habit of bringing their own. It’s one of the easiest things we can do to “be green.” It is something we absolutely, positively must do if we are to have any hope of reducing our damaging, disposable lifestyle.

  • Boh August 10, 2008 (5:41 pm)

    Funny how everybody misses the point with arguement of how 20 cents isn’t a big deal to pay for the bags.


    This is not your local store saying “hey we want a nickle for the bag you used.” Stores have this in overhead costs and you are already paying for the bag. This is the goverment with a new buzzword. They can’t hit your gas or property taxes anymore so they now hide it under “BEING GREEN”. I would gladly support a bill like this if I knew the money wouldn’t just be tossed into the “GENERAL FUND” and actually go to Eco-Friendly projects or even to support our state forests.

    I personally hope they find out who’s supporting this is legitment, till then don’t give out your personal info.

  • WSB August 10, 2008 (5:45 pm)

    Creighton – especially if we are just there for a few things, we leave without getting a bag at all. Junior Member of the Team and I had to stop for this newsgathering moment while baglessly juggling a jug of buttermilk, a head of cabbage, a loaf of bread, and a carton of lemonade; it was pretty funny, I made the poor kid hold onto as much of it as he could while I whipped my camera out of my purse and started asking the petition guy some questions.

  • Alvis August 10, 2008 (6:06 pm)

    Does anyone know if and how the bag tax applies to those tear-off plastic bags in the grocery store’s produce section?

  • AJ August 10, 2008 (6:56 pm)

    I don’t understand why everyone is so huffy about the bag charge+tax. It *will* work as an incentive for me to use the “green bags” that I’ve bought and always forget to use.

  • I\'ll be there - sign me up August 10, 2008 (6:58 pm)

    Thanks for the news. I’ll be sure to come by and sign (although I’d appreciate a confirmation once WSB has it as to who is behind this petition).

    I use my own bags most of the time, get insurance discounts for how little I drive and generally try to be environmentally conscious.

    I agree somewhat with Boh here, though, that this is an additional intrusive tax. Even if it went straight to education (I work in the public schools) I’d have to disagree with this one as I did with the latte tax. There is a point at which the govt. is just too intrusive and in fact complicating the tax code with scores of ridiculous local taxes.

    Why ridiculous – in this case WSB staff probably had more plastic in that jug of OJ than in all the plastic bags that would have been used even if shopping for a full week’s of groceries. If a reasonable balance is not maintained there will be a backlash against environmentalists – I’ve already heard it from many, actually, and so I just quietly recycle everything I can and minimize using “stuff”.

  • JimmyG August 10, 2008 (7:05 pm)

    1. I won’t sign any petition where a paid signature gatherer is used.

    2. I’ve got no problem with the .20 cent fee as I’ll rarely pay it. I’ve brought my own bags for years, and .20 cents doesn’t impact my bottom line.

  • ikahana August 10, 2008 (7:27 pm)

    Why should the bags be free? What is so darn difficult about bringing a bag to a store? Why do we expect everything to be given to us? So what if we have to pay 20 cents now and then for a bag – what else can you buy for 20 cents? What is wrong with having to actually THINK before going into a grocery store or before going shopping?

  • marco August 10, 2008 (7:31 pm)

    @ikahana: Bags were never free… you pay for bags via the price of the items anyway. If you use your own or not.

    So if that lowers the price of goods in the store and makes me remember to bring my own bags, I’m all for it :)

  • th August 10, 2008 (9:16 pm)

    As previously stated – the bag fee is a tax that will go to the city government – it will not offset the cost to the store. I used to bring my reusable bag to the store the majority of the time but I do like to keep a stash of those awful plastic bags on hand. They come in handy for picking up the dog poo and putting the wet bathing suit in after the wading pool. If I did not get the plastic bags from the store I would have to buy them anyway. So…. since I have until January I have put my reusable bags away and am adding to my stash.

  • J August 10, 2008 (9:22 pm)

    Paying for the bags is not the point. What IS the point is Mayor Nichols regular “green” measures that do nothing but gain money that will be wasted by the local government. Banning water bottles, closing Alki on Sunday, “Leave your car at home summer” (while hizzoner rides to work in a SUV), etc. Nichols has lost his little mind and become a pathetic Mussolini wannabe. The fact is most of the private sector has already been taking steps to go more green. Having the Great Green Leader Nichols declare that the entire market is not moving fast enough for him and making private businesses re-model their business, redo their budgets and find different suppliers on HIS whim and ego is simply wrong.

  • flynlo August 10, 2008 (9:28 pm)

    Some questions for thought —

    How many hundreds (thousands?) of pounds of plastic
    does the parks dept use to line garbage cans in the city parks each year? In other city departments? What percentage of those garbage bags are “recycled” vs being thrown in the dump?

    How many thousands of pounds of plastic were used to create the custom garbage cans for the parks dept?

    Does the city line waste baskets in city offices with plastic? If it does, what percentage of them are recycled?

    How many hundreds (thousands?) of pounds of plastic water bottles are thrown in the garbage each year? Why isn’t there a tax on them? For the most part, they have far fewer secondary uses than grocery bags. Ever tried to pick up dog poo with an empty plastic water bottle?!

    Don’t get me wrong – of course we should be recycling all that we can, however why doesn’t the
    city show some leadership regarding recycling rather than just imposing yet another tax?

  • SarahScoot August 10, 2008 (9:57 pm)

    th – Actually, 5 cents of each bag fee will, in fact, go to the store to offset the administrative cost of enforcing the program. Additionally, any smaller grocery store (most “mom & pop” shops) that grosses less than $1 million per year is actually allowed to keep the entire 20 cents per bag. To all the other dissenters: I was so irritated by all the whining from WSB commenters that I wrote a letter to the P.I. editor:

  • La August 10, 2008 (10:14 pm)

    If the result is fewer plastic bags – period – I’m for it.

  • WSB August 10, 2008 (10:18 pm)

    I still haven’t found out who’s behind the referendum drive. Posed the question on HA but if you think things get prickly here sometimes, you’ve never seen anything like a comment thread there … and nobody seemed to have an answer to the question. So tomorrow I will pursue through city government – not sure if you have to file a referendum before you gather signatures. Will find out! P.S. tonight we bought a 71-cent reusable bag at PCC, where the cashier informed us they are sold at cost. – TR

  • Mark WS August 10, 2008 (10:37 pm)

    When is the Mayor going to get after the multi-unit dwellers for recycling?? That seems to be the greatest opportunity in the ciy to step up recycling progress. Why do the apartment tennants get a free ride?

  • OP August 10, 2008 (10:55 pm)

    I signed. Period. No more ‘green’ back door taxes for Mayor Eco-Eeyore & Friends.

    20,000 sigs in 2 weeks? Good luck in ‘green’ Seattle. But a worthy endeavor.

    @ikahana: Bags were never free… you pay for bags via the price of the items anyway. If you use your own or not.

    Not at .20 a pop you don’t. It’s fractional.

    If the result is fewer plastic bags – period – I’m for it.
    No proof that it will. Still for being taxed for nothing that can’t be proved?

  • OP August 10, 2008 (11:12 pm)

    1. I won’t sign any petition where a paid signature gatherer is used.
    I didn’t pay a penny.

  • Jenny August 10, 2008 (11:26 pm)

    Hey, lookie here, someone’s doing a reality TV show about (some of) you guyz!!!;thumb;0


  • Jenny August 10, 2008 (11:30 pm)

    p.s. It’s not Gaia-worship per se that gives me the willies; it’s these coercive social engineering fads.

  • th August 11, 2008 (8:26 am)

    It sure is nice that since businesses are unable to make good choices and the general population is unable to make good choices we have a mayor that will impose them on us. We are adding another level of government to regulate grocery bags for goodness sake. What is next????

  • boh August 11, 2008 (9:15 am)

    Joe that’s great and yes I had seen it. Let me ask you a question how much of “lottery” fund that supposed to go to education actually makes it there. Don’t fool yourself, sure they may have good intentions but you can expect to see this fold into the slush fund as there is no accountability for any money we hand over.

    When the government decides to handle it’s money similar to a business. Looking for way to improve efficiency instead of always looking for a handout I will gladly hand them more cash.

  • wsguy August 11, 2008 (12:26 pm)

    flynlow is on the right track. If our city government wanted to exhibit leadership on the issue of plastic grocery bags ending up in the landfill, it would call upon the citizens of Seattle to rally behind a recycling “call to arms”. It would educate people on how and where to recycle their plastic bags as an alternative to throwing them in the garbage.

    Imposing a backdoor tax as a means to reduce, if not eliminate, the use of plastic and paper grocery bags to further one’s social agenda, infringes on personal freedoms. To paraphrase a popular bumpersticker, “If you don’t like plastic grocery bags, then don’t use one”.

  • J August 11, 2008 (12:57 pm)

    Aren’t all signature gatherers paid? Isn’t this ALWAYS how we get initiatives on the ballot? If I am wrong, please correct me…

  • WSB August 11, 2008 (1:00 pm)

    It’s an increasing trend, but no, not all signature gatherers are paid. I’ve seen drives in this state and others where organizations mobilize volunteers. No obvious nonprofit organization to tab on a “cause” like this, but I’m still curious whether the bankroller is, oh, say, a Tim Eyman type, another citizen gadfly type, or perhaps (making up this name) the Plastic Bag Makers of America.

  • worms roxanne, I'm afraid of worms August 11, 2008 (1:39 pm)

    I had no idea this was such a hot button issue for folks. It seems like minor issue compared to the gov budget shortfalls and loss of services, failing infrastructure, and amount of lb/gallons of non and point source pollutants pouring into the sound. I see both sides of the issue but it seems trivial.

  • toomanyratsinacageakaWS August 11, 2008 (1:47 pm)

    More money for our government to squander away? Where do I sign?! Just check out the kiro investigations tab on their website if you need examples. The city council making money on the gas allowance is a real gem. I don’t care how much it is, I hate contributing to organizations that waste money.

  • Jenny August 11, 2008 (3:01 pm)

    What is next????

    Here’s my bet: Cellphones.

    Wait – have they banned trans fats from Seattle yet? Or was that just San Francisco? It’s getting hard to keep up with’em all. Hey, I think there’s an idea for a website in that…

  • Alcina August 11, 2008 (3:49 pm)

    The independent grocers are behind the petition drive for the referendum. See this Biz Journal article

  • WSB August 11, 2008 (4:14 pm)

    Yeah, that was just posted a short time ago. Going to mention it higher on the page. Guess we were the first to report the signature-gathering, so far as I can tell!

  • grant August 11, 2008 (9:56 pm)

    This is a joke. Seattle is a joke. All this is a way to create income for the City. Why dont we focus on something of importance. Like coming up with a real transportation system and infrastructure. Of course we have the S.L.U.T. Now that is money well spent. Go Nickels, Go City Council. Solving those issues all of Seattle is concerned with!!! Replace the rascles!!

  • tpn August 12, 2008 (10:00 am)

    I would bet my money that a substantial part of the financial support is coming from the plastics industry, as they tried to keep an even lower profile then the grocery chains:

  • J. Hewitt August 12, 2008 (6:31 pm)

    I think people who consider it a small friendly environmental issue are not thinking this through and considering how this will affect people other than themselves.

    I’m disabled, older, and without a car. The bus line doesn’t run between my home and the store so it’s usually a walk of over 12 blocks. I do carry a backpack with me for groceries, but always end up with a few items in bags that can be heavy.

    The Bag Tax taxes the poor, the elderly, and the disabled who are already struggling on very limited incomes with limited means to get around.

  • Kristy August 18, 2008 (8:41 am)

    The bag fee is a way to get people to shift to bringing their own bags. Bring your own bag and you do not pay ANYTHING! Google Pacific garbage patch and you will find that there is a pile of plastic floating around in the Pacific the size of the UNITED STATES! It is easy to bring your own bag.

    I will not longer shop at Thriftway after hearing that they are co-sponsoring this petition.

    I city will be giving away thousands of bags to the poor and elderly.

    Plus, the man was REALLY rude and did not explain anything about the petition and harrassed my husband when he was with out two young children.

  • Steph August 20, 2008 (11:01 am)

    I’m not confident that our government allocates our money appropriately, therefore I will continue to bring my own bags in and not give them my money (for this tax anyways). I’m “ok” with the bag tax. I just wish I knew where exactly the money was going.
    “The remainder will be used to offset expected increases in the city’s solid-waste rates.” This statement is too vague for me.
    Seattle’s got bigger problems. I’m gonna save the rest of my breath for those. Happy shopping!
    side thought: This story reminds me of the man on the bus I pondered last year. He had a paper bag that looked as though it was the only one he’d ever used. He had taped and taped and re-taped that bag so much that it almost didn’t look recognizable. I wondered if he had had a bet with someone to see how long he could use that bag. Likely not.
    I challenge you to reuse the same bags for ten years. I will pay you 20 cents if you can do it.

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