The Monrovia City Council compromised its integrity on Tuesday when it overturned an ordinance adopted two weeks ago in a 3-2 vote to institute a reusable bag ordinance for major retailers in the City. The ordinance was included in the Consent Calendar for final reading before implementation; items in the Consent Calendar are considered routine and generally enacted in one motion.
The ordinance had been debated at the Council’s May 6 meeting after lengthy public comment not only at that meeting, but at its April 1 meeting as well when the Council received the recommendation of its Reusable Bag Regulation Ad Hoc Committee to draft the ordinance. On Tuesday, two of the three who voted in favor of the ordinance, Council Members Spicer and Blackburn, were unexpectedly absent and Mayor Pro Tem Shevlin took advantage of their absence and pulled the motion from the Consent Calendar. Further, there were several persons present to speak in opposition to the ordinance who had not been there when it was docketed for public discussion. This begs the question of whether they had been recruited to speak and, if so, why the agenda posted on the Council’s website did not indicate as much, thus alerting proponents as well. The requests of a citizen and Mayor Lutz to postpone the vote until the full Council was present were denied and Council Members Shevlin and Adams then voted to reverse the Council’s prior action.
I was a member of the Ad Hoc Committee that presented the recommendation for a reusable bag ordinance to the City Council. The recommendation was made after researching the fiscal impact of such ordinances on retailers in neighboring cities that have instituted similar bans (negligible), considering the significant harm done to both the environment and wildlife by discarded single use plastic bags, and acknowledging the reality that only 5% of those bags are actually recycled. While I was in favor of the ordinance and would have been disappointed had it failed on May 6, I would have understood and accepted that the process of democracy had nonetheless been served.
What happened on Tuesday felt like an ambush and an insult to the democratic process.