Debra J. Saunders

Even the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce is on board. "You're outlawing the plastic bags but also encouraging reusable," said Vice President Jim Lazarus.

"The chamber reflects the community we live in," Lazarus added. I ask how big department stores, which send off their merchandise in brightly colored bags, feel about the bill. "A number of retailers must prefer not to have this regulation," he answered, "but are resigned to the changing demands of communities of how bags are used."

That's the story of San Francisco. The left squawks when, say, the mayor suggests that Occupy SF activists decamp from their illegal digs in Justin Herman Plaza. The mayor backed off for weeks. But when City Hall tells law-abiding businesses and customers to change their behavior, it gets results.

But not always the desired result. A Safeway spokeswoman explained that Mirkarimi's 2007 plastic bag ban prompted customers not to bring their own reusable bags, but to ask for free paper bags.

Given a choice, San Franciscans chose free bags. Bingo, a new law.

Of course Safeway supports the new Mirkarimi measure. It makes Safeway charge for bags it has been giving away.

The lonely job of opposing the measure falls to Stephen Joseph, who represents plastic bag manufacturers. Because most reusable bags are made overseas whereas most plastic bags are made in America, he claims, the new measure essentially would kill American jobs and replace them with Chinese jobs.

Joseph doesn't believe consumers will use reusable bags as often as expected. They get dirty, so you don't want to put food in them.

Also, San Francisco is a tourist mecca. Where's the hospitality in charging visitors to buy a bag to take their purchases home?

My objection: City documents report that single-use plastic bags represent 0.13 percent of California's total waste stream. If the supervisors want to address a "nuisance," as Mirkarimi calls plastic bags, they should work with the mayor to go after bigger nuisances that dramatically alter the quality of life in San Francisco. Read: aggressive panhandlers, hostile street people who use the city as a public toilet and substance abusers who drive up crime rates. But that would require city pols to moderate their politics.

So they go after people who have the cheek to buy things in San Francisco stores and expect a free new bag. They're the only group in San Francisco that won't protest.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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