Huntington Beach Councilman Joe Carchio failed Monday to convince enough of his colleagues to cut a fee imposed on paper bags as part of the city's plastic-bag ban.
The councilman's effort to reduce the fee to 5 cents failed in a 3-4 vote, with council members Carchio, Jim Katapodis and Dave Sullivan voting in favor.
The fee was a result of the city's anti-plastic-bag ordinance, which allows grocery stores to charge shoppers 10 cents for a paper bag. The law, approved last year, was intended to reduce litter throughout the city, with an emphasis on the beaches and ocean.
Carchio's amendment also would have given grocery stores the option to not charge a fee for paper bags at all. In addition, the councilman proposed a buy-back program for plastic bags that would give customer credit for returning plastic bags to stores.
"We haven't accomplished anything here," Carchio said. "The 10 cents is not fair to the consumers. We never thought about that. … The 10 cents was supposed to be a deterrent. It was the threshold where you would no longer use plastic bags and you would get a reusable bag. That's so far from the truth."
Carchio said the fee was created by the grocery industry to make money back from not using plastic bags. He added that the stores keep the 10 cents and none of it goes to the city.
"Why should four people up here make the decision for 200,000 people?" Carchio said. "You think you know better than they do? I don't."
Tensions flared during the discussion when Mayor Pro Tem Joe Shaw proposed a substitute motion to table the item until after the state legislature makes a decision on California Senate Bill 270, which aims to ban plastic bags statewide.
The bill is expected to be voted on by the state Assembly this week.
Despite being told by Mayor Matthew Harper and City Atty. Jennifer McGrath that comments were closed once a motion to table is made, Sullivan yelled an expletive.
"Four people on this council didn't let the people vote and now they're going to cut off discussion?" Sullivan said. "This is outrageous."
However, the motion failed in a 3-4 vote, with Katapodis, Shaw and Councilwoman Connie Boardman voting in favor.
"There are 116 local jurisdiction now that have adopted similar ordinances and over a third of the state's population now lives in a jurisdiction that has reusable bag ordinances," Boardman said. "This is not declining throughout the state, it is increasing. … I think that it's finally reached a tipping point now where we're going to see a statewide ban pass."
Carchio argued that though the entire state might ban plastic bags, his proposed ordinance would be exempt as long as it was enacted before the statewide legislation goes into effect. McGrath concurred with the councilman's remarks.