Politicos should give their thanks this Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving holiday is here. It has been a tough year for most everyone I know. Luckily, San Francisco politics never cease to entertain even in the worst of times. Let’s consider what some of our local politicos are probably thankful for this year:

Ed Lee: Having endured numerous public lashings by his opponents during the mayor’s race, Lee is thankful that he can stop smiling like a chump and start exacting revenge on his “people I secretly hate” list. State Sen. Leland Yee had better hope it is alphabetical by last name.

Joanna Rees: Eric Mar’s term as District 1 supervisor has basically amounted to Occupy the Board of Supervisors. With no discernible agenda except for global peace and “whatever David Campos is doing,” Mar has been a progressive placeholder for almost four years. I’m betting he will be easy pickings next November when he has to run for re-election. Guess who else lives in District 1 and has designs on public office? Joanna Rees. And I’ll bet she’s thankful that Mar continues to disappoint.

Ross Mirkarimi: Having introduced legislation to charge people for using environmentally friendly shopping bags and also to give a tax credit to businesses that hire felons, Mirkarimi is thankful that his strategy of “I’m going to keep introducing ridiculous legislation until you force me from office by making me sheriff” has apparently worked. Phew!

Sharmin Bock: When I was 10 years old, I ruined my mother’s expensive day planner and was grounded for two weeks. Bock’s mother gave $140,000 to an independent expenditure committee to support her candidacy for district attorney, and Bock came in third in the race. I’m sure hers is a lovely family, but I imagine this will make for some interesting moments around the turkey. On the bright side, they can all be thankful that it wasn’t $150,000.

Political hacks: State Assemblywoman Fiona Ma is due to be termed out next year, which means the battle is on for her seat in next November’s election. As this will be a race for state office, there will be no ranked-choice voting or public financing. The gloves will be off and everyone who lost a bid to be mayor (plus a few others) will be trying to win so they can avoid the horrifying possibility of getting a real job. I can’t wait.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Proposed bag ban goes too far

When proponents of a city ordinance keep saying, “it worked in [insert European country],” hilarity usually ensues. In our proud tradition of clumsily following international eco-trends, today the Board of Supervisors will vote on whether to add a tax (of sorts) on degenerate souls who do not bring reusable bags when they shop.

Under the current law passed in 2007, large grocery stores and chain pharmacies can only provide customers with compostable plastic bags, recyclable paper bags or fancy reusable bags (those designed for 125 or more uses). Single-use plastic bags are not allowed.
There are two parts to the new law proposed by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi. First, all retail stores and restaurants would be covered by the law, not just big chains. Why the pink bag purveyors in Chinatown aren’t more up in arms about this is beyond me. Second, starting July 1, all retail stores would have to charge customers at least 10 cents per paper or fancy reusable bag that the store has to provide. In July 2013, this “dime bag” charge would apply to restaurants and cover compostable bags too.

In 2014, the mandatory minimum charge for a paper, compostable or fancy reusable bag would go up to 25 cents. The stores would keep all the money.

Proponents of this law love to talk about Ireland as the grand example of how this system would work. In Ireland, the government did not ban single-use plastic bags; they simply started charging for single-use plastic bags, and the use of those bags went down 90 percent. Significant decreases happened in Washington, D.C., and San Jose when each city began charging for paper and single-use plastic bags.

The difference between the available studies and what our Board of Supervisors is considering is this: Those other laws punish bad behavior (using single-use plastic bags) and we would be punishing good behavior by charging for eco-friendly bags that are compostable, paper or reusable.

Because we are going a step further than other cities, no one really knows what effect this law will have, but that hasn’t stopped environmental-minded folks from pushing for the ordinance. And it hasn’t stopped the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition from objecting to the law. The coalition has officially put The City on notice that it plans to sue if the new law is passed. And while I’m not convinced the coalition will win the case, I doubt the “it worked in Ireland” defense will go very far.

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