COUNCIL DIGEST

Bag ban delay still on track

By DANIEL A. KITTREDGE
Posted 7/1/20

Implementation of the city's ban on single-use plastic bags for retail checkout purposes remains set to be delayed, although final action will not occur until this week. During a special meeting on June 18, the City Council's

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COUNCIL DIGEST

Bag ban delay still on track

Posted

Implementation of the city’s ban on single-use plastic bags for retail checkout purposes remains set to be delayed, although final action will not occur until this week.

During a special meeting on June 18, the City Council’s Ordinance Committee voted 5-2 in favor of an amended version of Citywide Councilman Ken Hopkins’ proposal to delay the implementation of the ban – which was slated to take effect July 1 – for one year.

The amendment, successfully proposed by Ward 3 Councilman John Donegan, would require the city to notify affected business owners of the ban at least 90 days prior to its enactment.

The Ordinance Committee’s vote sent the bag ban delay to a special meeting of the full council on June 25, where another successful amendment – this time to delay its effective date for six months but eliminate fines for noncompliance until July 1, 2021 – resulted in it being unanimously continued to a special July 2 meeting to allow additional time for re-advertising.

The bag ban was adopted on Earth Day in 2019 through a unanimous override of Mayor Allan Fung’s veto. At the outset of discussion on June 25, Hopkins, who was part of that vote, said he remains supportive of the measure but sees the delayed implementation as necessary in light of the economic effects of the pandemic. Many businesses, he said, have yet to reopen, and others have a significant stock of plastic bags that remain unused.

“I am firm supporter of getting businesses back on their feet,” he said.

Donegan said he believed Hopkins’ “intent on this is pure and it’s in the right place” with the proposed delay, but he faulted the Fung administration for what he said was a lack of effective outreach to the business community in the year since the ban was adopted.

“I think that COVID or not, this extension could have been avoided by better advertising and outreach beforehand,” he said, saying he planned to vote against the delay “more or less out of principle.”

Citywide Councilman Steve Stycos – who also asserted that the administration “completely dropped the ball” on the ban’s implementation even before the current crisis – then asked Hopkins if he would be supportive of a six-month, rather than yearlong, delay in the ban’s effective date.

Hopkins said he would be open to that approach. Ward 5 Councilman Chris Paplauskas – one of the original backers of the ban, along with Donegan – then suggested the compromise that was ultimately adopted, which provides for a six-month delay in implementation and the 12-month grace period for any fines.

The amendment was approved on a 7-1 vote, with Ward 1 Councilwoman Lammis Vargas opposed. The council – which was without Paul McAuley, who has resigned from his Ward 2 seat, for the first time – then voted 8-0 to send the matter to the July 2 meeting for final action.

During the discussion, Daniel Parrillo, Fung’s director of administration, pushed back against the criticism from Donegan and Stycos over the city’s approach to the ban’s implementation. He noted that the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, in mid-March, came well in advance of the ban’s effective date.

“I don’t believe the administration dropped the ball,” he said, although he added: “We’ll do a better job, I promise you, next time.”

The bag ban, known more formally as the “Plastic Bag Reduction” ordinance, specifically prohibits what are defined as “plastic carryout bags” at the point of a sales transaction. Fines of $250 are allowed for second and subsequent violations. Reusable bags and recyclable paper bags are permitted under the rules.

The measure also includes exemptions for “double-opening” bags such as those used to protect dry cleaned items and “plastic barrier” bags such as those used to transport items ranging from produce to newspapers.

Fung has suggested he will sign the delay in the ban into law if it reaches his desk.

Police contract sent to full council

During a special meeting on June 25, the council’s Finance Committee voted 6-0 to recommend the full body approve a new, three-year contract agreement with IBPO Local 301.

The committee members – absent McAuley, following his resignation – briefly discussed the contract during the public portion of their meeting following a roughly hour-long executive session. Chief of Police Col. Michael Winquist, Maj. Robert Quirk and Michael Caramante, president of Local 301, took part in the discussion.

The meeting was held via Zoom, and few details were discussed during the public session. According to a fiscal impact statement attached to the night’s docket, the pact calls for 3 percent increases in each of the next three fiscal years for a total additional cost of roughly $1 million.

That is offset, however, by provisions allowing for four positions to remain unfilled at various points during the contract’s term – a savings of $395,000 and other changes, including savings in health care costs. Overall, the impact statement finds the contract will cost the city an additional $871,465 over its full term, which runs from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2023.

Council President Michael Farina said the agreement provides “tremendous management rights” to the chief and will enhance efforts to diversify the Cranston Police Department’s ranks. He also called the agreement “fair” to the city and the union.

Ward 6 Councilman Michael Favicchio also highlighted the expanded management rights, adding: “This is one of the best contracts I think we’ve had.”

The contract agreement was set to be considered by the full council during a special meeting July 2.

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