July 23rd, 2010 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics, City Hall, Environment

State Lawmakers and Portland Mayor Agree to Collaborate on Plastic-Bag Ban (Updated)

State lawmakers' agreement with Mayor Sam Adams

Mayor Sam Adams has backtracked on his pledge to bring an anti-plastic-bag ordinance to City Council, conceding to state lawmakers' wishes that he instead support a non-binding resolution calling first for an Oregon-wide ban.

In a memo signed July 22 [PDF], the mayor says he will bring an ordinance banning the petroleum-based bags in Portland only if the proposed state ban fails in the 2011 Legislature. The memo comes just one week after Adams promised on the steps of City Hall to charge ahead of state lawmakers' efforts to curtail the use of plastic shopping bags.

So why does it matter whether it's an ordinance or a resolution?

An ordinance, even one that wouldn't take effect for several months, can be referred to Portlanders for a popular vote almost as soon as the ink on the measure dries. If Portland city commissioners passed an ordinance this summer striking down the widespread use of plastic bags in the city, petroleum advocates could then seek to overturn the measure at the ballot box. It's not clear they would be successful in getting a majority of voters to side with them here in lefty Portland. But even if the pro-petroleum forces failed to kill the Portland ban, their efforts could prove a deadly distraction from the efforts in Salem to bring a statewide measure.

The July 22 agreement between Adams and state lawmakers would prevent that distraction.

UPDATE: Adams told WW this afternoon that he agreed to give the Legislature a chance to pass a statewide ban next year because lawmakers told him they were concerned a local effort would get referred to the city ballot and hurt plastic bag-banning efforts.

"I agreed to compromise on this out of respect to state leaders," Adams said. "They wanted to have a full session to give it a try. I have no problem going after them if they try and can't do it. One way or another, we're going to have this in Portland."

For what it's worth, Adams said he brings his own bag when he shops.
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