Plastic bag ban must widen scope in SF

In its Nov. 27 reporting on pending improvements to The City’s plastic bag ordinance, The San Francisco Examiner looked at it the wrong way. San Francisco passed a groundbreaking ban in 2007, but is now falling behind. The region’s largest city, San Jose, passed a strong ban applying to all retailers in 2010 and other cities are following that lead. These common-sense amendments have the support of groups like the Small Business Commission.

The problem in San Francisco is that the existing ban only applies to big stores. Expanding it to all stores would level the playing field, while charging for paper bags preserves customer choice.

Bay Area residents discard more than 100 plastic bags per second. San Francisco needs to do more to reduce the estimated 1 million plastic bags that blow into the Bay each year and pollute our neighborhoods.

Allison Chan, Save the Bay, Oakland

Careful with legal language

As an attorney, I would like to correct your Thursday website bulletin on the civil trial of former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle and four other officers.

“Guilty” or “not guilty” apply only in criminal cases. This was a civil proceeding to determine civil liability, not a criminal case. The finding by the jury was that the officers were not liable for civil damages. It was not a finding of not guilty as stated in your bulletin.

The distinction is not merely a matter of semantics. The burden of proof in criminal cases is much higher (beyond a reasonable doubt) than in civil cases (preponderance of the evidence). A finding that an individual is not civilly liable is fundamentally different than a verdict of not guilty in a criminal case.

The general understanding of legal matters among members of the public is not enhanced when a major news source such as The San Francisco Examiner uses incorrect terminology to describe legal proceedings and the results thereof.

James T. Reilly, San Rafael

Banks failed to snuff fire

This past week, the Federal Reserve joined the world’s other major central banks to provide cheap, emergency U.S. dollar loans to Europe. Fed officials stated it was their purpose to ease strains in world financial markets.

Partisans may disagree on which president, George W. Bush or Barack Obama, gave away money with more good intentions. But the point is that twice, the Fed gave big banks cash to bail them out of trouble. The banks took the cash and then dribbled loans very selectively, without much effect on the recession or the world economy.

It would be better if bankers modeled their conduct on firefighters. No one needs to tell a firefighter when to turn on the hose to fight the fire and save the house.

Al Ujcic, San Francisco

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