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City View Newsletter

Volume 1, Issue #8  •  July 30, 2008
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On Monday, the Council passed two pieces of environmental stewardship legislation. Reaction has been passionate from all sides.

My E-Newsletter is designed to keep you informed about my activities on your behalf at City Hall, including votes I make that you may not agree with.

Environmental Stewardship: Voluntary Bag Fee and Styrofoam Ban

I voted with the majority of my colleagues on Monday this week to pass two environmental stewardship laws. Seattle becomes the first city in the nation to use market forces to encourage residents to stop using disposable plastic and paper bags in favor of reusable bags by creating a voluntary "use" fee.

Each time a shopper chooses to use disposable bags at the check-out counter of grocery, convenience, and drug stores a $0.20 fee per bag will be imposed. This fee does not apply to plastic bags used for vegetables, bulk items such as nuts or candy, meat freezer bags, or pharmacy prescriptions. The new plastic bag fee takes effect January 1, 2009.

An estimated 360 million disposable bags are used in the city each year. The "use" or green fee is expected to reduce use of disposable bags by at least 50%. The fees will be used by the city to offset a portion of upcoming solid waste rate increases associated with the new city garbage contracts and also to support the city's waste prevention and recycling programs.

We also voted to ban the use of expanded polystyrene (commonly known as Styrofoam) food containers usually used for take-out food or restaurant leftovers effective January 1, 2009. We voted to delay a similar ban on plastic tableware and polystyrene meat trays.

Read The Seattle Times and Seattle PI editorial support for passage of these laws.

These laws are a good example of how government can help the market to implement necessary environmental change. I supported the voluntary bag "use" fee because it maintains the ability of consumers to choose whether to use their own reusable bags or pay a fee for disposable bags provided by the store. This is a market-driven strategy to help protect our environment.

I recognize that change like this is difficult. I remember when Seattle imposed mandatory recycling a few years back. There was a lot of discontent. But, today, we accept recycling as part of our civic duty, our contribution to stewardship of the earth. (According to a recent study, Seattle ranks 7th in total recycling rate among the nation's 30 largest cities. You can see our ranking by downloading this PDF file.)

I believe we will adapt our behaviors related to plastic bags as well; I know I'm trying to do that. I've placed reusable bags in my car trunk and in my scooter's storage box. I've almost got it down, although just last week while standing in the grocery check-out line I realized I had forgotten to bring my bags inside with me. I froze in a near panic. What to do? The person in front of me had nearly completed paying for her groceries and I would be next. I imagined the hordes behind me starting to point and scream. "Get moving!" "What's the hold-up?" "Hey, aren't you that City Council turkey who wants to put that bag 'tax' on all of us?" I quickly regained my composure, pulled out of line, rolled my cart to the vegetable aisle for safe storage and hustled out to my car to grab my reusable bags. Lesson learned, although I'm sure it will take a few more practice runs before the "bag grab" becomes part of my natural instincts.

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Civilian Oversight of Police Conduct Strengthened

On July 21 the Council unanimously adopted changes to our police accountability laws that will strengthen Seattle's system of civilian oversight of police conduct. The measures give the civilian auditor of police internal investigations more authority, including the power to order further investigation into misconduct complaints. We also voted to expand the civilian Office of Professional Accountability Review Board to seven members and required greater collaboration between the Board, the civilian Auditor, and the civilian director of the OPA.

The changes also require the police chief to file written explanations with the Mayor and City Council whenever he reverses the recommended findings of the OPA.

These changes mark the beginning of a new era in police accountability. We have strengthened civilian oversight by giving more authority and responsibilities to the civilian leaders who oversee police practices and behavior in our city. We have created more transparency. I believe these changes will help create stronger public trust and confidence in our police officers.

Next Tuesday, August 5, at 2 p.m. in Council chambers, my Council committee will consider the nominations of the seven new members of the Review Board. You can read about each of them here.

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Child Prostitution in Seattle

Also next Tuesday, my committee will receive and discuss a report on youth prostitution in Seattle. Prepared by Debra Boyer, PhD, this report presents a chilling assessment of what’s happening in our city and how we can best respond to and help young people involved in prostitution.

There is growing attention being paid nationally to child prostitution. The New York Times yesterday addressed this issue on their editorial page. This story is in today's New York Times on the premier of a new documentary on child prostitution and trafficking.

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