Plastic Banned in Chestertown

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It’s official, Chestertown has said goodbye to plastic bags. At last night’s town meeting the Mayor and Council voted 3-2 to pass Ordinance 01-2011. Mayor Margo Bailey and Councilmen Jim Gatto and Gibson Anthony voted yay and Councilmembers Marty Stetson and Mabel Mumford-Pautz voted nay.

The revised ordinance would ban plastic checkout bags, commonly referred to as T-shirt bags, at retail establishments within town limits. Restaurant carry out bags would be allowed as well as dry cleaner garment bags and small bags found in grocery stores to carry produce, meats, and seafood. Paper bags would be allowed as long as they are recyclable. The requirement that paper bags have language stamped or printed on them declaring them recyclable has been removed.

Businesses would have nine months to get rid of their plastic bag supply before the ordinance takes effect, an increase from the original six month time line. Stores, employees, or owners found in violation could face a municipal fine of $100 to $200.

There was a lengthy discussion involving biodegradable bags. Biodegradable bags were originally exempt from the ordinance, until questions were raised about how effectively the bags biodegrade.
“The latest curveball is about biodegradable bags. Are they actually biodegradable?” asked Anthony.

John Seidel, director of Washington College’s Center for Environment and Society which provided research to the Mayor and Council about plastic bag ordinances, said there is no current scientific standard to measure the effectiveness of biodegradable bags. He made the suggestion that the Mayor and Council change the wording in the ordinance from biodegradable to compostable, something other towns and cities have done in their ordinances, because how compostable something is can be measured.

The Mayor, Anthony, and Gatto agreed to the change and to allow businesses who are currently using biodegradable bags 12 months to make the switch to compostable bags.
Mumford-Pautz questioned why more time couldn’t be given to all the businesses to make the switch from plastic to paper. The Mayor said the time frame for when the ordinance will take effect has been expanded from six to nine months.

“We’re going to have to make a decision and the businesses will step in line. We have discussed this for two years. I think it’s time to either step up and do it or not. We need to move on or not,” she said.

Even though 2½ hours was devoted to public comment at the March 21 meeting, the public was again given the chance to speak about the ordinance.

Cynthia McGinnes, who has a cousin who works for the parent company of SuperFresh, said that while she is in favor of helping the environment she was concerned about the impact the plastic bag ban would have on local jobs.

“Chestertown is exactly in the middle of the stores they are thinking about closing. If the ordinance passes my cousin said they (SuperFresh) will scapegoat you. When you make your vote tonight think of those 80 full time and part time jobs that will be gone by the end of 2011,” she said.

Gatto said that he too had talked to employees at SuperFresh and was told that Chestertown’s store is not on the target list. “Stores are closed based on economics, not on local politics.”

Jeff Green said the plastic bag issue is not a social problem, it’s a litter problem. “I think we should start teaching people to clean up after themselves.”

Ford Schumann said that even though Chestertown is small “most things start with small steps. I’m proud to be part of a community that is going to make an important small step.”
What the ban would mean for area businesses was a major concern for the council.

“I believe in protecting the environment … but my vote is going to be no. I would support a national or state ban, but it’s wrong for us as little Chestertown to ban plastic bags because we’re putting our stores at a competitive disadvantage. We don’t live in a bubble, people can go somewhere else to shop,” said Stetson.

While Anthony agreed people going somewhere else to shop has become somewhat of a tradition, banning plastic bags will not cause folks to start running to Dover, Del.

“What bothers me is that something that would cost us a quarter per trip will end up costing us more because of gas. I think if we set our minds to it we can fortify our shops. If (SuperFresh) pulls out they will scapegoat us, but they would have pulled out anyway. I guarantee you it will have nothing to do with plastic bags,” he said. “I do worry a lot about what (McGinnis) was saying. I wish our timing was different … but when you’re confronted with it and asked to say yes or no you have to make a decision.”

The future of Chestertown’s SuperFresh is much more perilous than some think, according to Mumford-Pautz. “The people in this store have told me they have been asked to take a week’s less vacation and less pay to try to save the store. I don’t care about Vermont, California or anywhere else. I care about Chestertown and if we lose this store it will be bad for the town,” she said.

Gatto said what the Council decides tonight won’t impact SuperFresh’s decision, economics will.

“Macro-economics are working against us for our grocery stores … we’re a remote area which means there are extra shipping costs. There is no guarantee that SuperFresh will close or remain open … there are more pieces to this than just our ban.”

When the Mayor called for the vote McGinnis walked out shaking her finger at the council saying “Shame on you.” The remaining audience members applauded the Mayor and Council’s decision.
After the vote was cast Anthony said the Mayor and Council should set up a meeting with the area business community to discuss the ban. “We need to make that a priority,” he said.
The Mayor and Council agreed. The next town meeting is Monday, April 25 at 7:30 p.m.

Letters to Editor

  1. Keith Thompson says

    The most uplifting part of this story (from a “naysayer” perspective) is the call from councilman Anthony that working with the business community should be a priority. I think had there been more of an effort to communicate with the business community prior to the ordinance, the passage of the ban wouldn’t have been as controversial.

  2. Super Fresh closing wouldn’t be a wory if Walmart had been allowed to build a store here employing probably 3 times the people Super Fresh employs and may have slowed down the travels to Dover and Middletown. Chestertown is in dire need of a large company to reduce the unemployment and to make it more convient for people to shop. Banning plastic bags probably is a good thing to do if it reduces the litter, and It remains to be seen also if there is an increase in prices because of the plastic bag ban.

    In Queen Annes County raising the price of the tickets for dumping trash could prove to be a bad choice. How much trash is dumped along the highways because people can’t afford the ticket books anymore.
    That remains to be seen also.
    We are being priced out of existence by the Local and Federal Governments.

  3. “I wish our timing was different … but when you’re confronted with it and asked to say yes or no you have to make a decision.”

    That’s a very well positioned comment, for those who enjoy politico.

    “After the vote was cast Anthony said the Mayor and Council should set up a meeting with the area business community to discuss the ban. “We need to make that a priority,” he said.”

    In a townwide SWOT analysis, Gibson Anthony is taking issues, and focusing on the O component (opportunities).

  4. Perhaps if the SuperFresh gave better service and trained its employees to be more polite, helpful, and welcoming, they would not be in danger because the community would support the store. It has become a really unpleasant experience to shop there compared with the Acme where employees all greet you with a pleasant word and will take the time to help you find things. The SuperFresh has repeatedly refused to cooperate with Food Link, our local food rescue operation, which channels perishable food that would otherwise be discarded to the needy in Kent County. Meanwhile we have volunteers picking up food from the Acme 6 days a week. The corporate philosophy of SuperFresh seems completely antithetical to the needs of small communities like Chestertown.
    If the cost of bags is such an issue for them, why not do as in many other places and charge a small amount (t or 3 cents) for each plastic bag requested by a customer. People would soon get the idea and invest in reusable bags!

  5. from the article:
    “After the vote was cast Anthony said the Mayor and Council should set up a meeting with the area business community to discuss the ban.”

    Close, but not exactly.

    I’m interested in a meeting with the business community to discuss the possibility of an economic development strategy. The M&C have worked on several projects that could have positive economic influences for the town. I would like to know if we can develop a coordinated strategy that capitalizes on these initiatives.

  6. Cynthia McGinnes says

    My position was not as stated in your article. It is the fact that Super Fresh is in the middle of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization that made me question the timing of the ban. At the present moment, Super Fresh has not decided which of their smaller volume stores to close….by waiting a few months to pass this ban, the Town Council would not have given SuperFresh a reason…the straw that breaks the camel’s back…to choose Chestertown as a store to close.The fact that they could “scapegoat” this ban would also be a factor…no company likes to take the blame for closing stores and costing jobs. This ban gives them a convenient out for choosing Chestertown as a store to close. If the Council had waited until their reorganiztion was complete in a few months, then there would have been no risk of being the one thing that pushed the SuperFresh parent Tea Company into choosing Chestertown to close.

    At the risk of losing 80 jobs, it seemed to me that the delay of a few months was worth it. However, in our own version of March Madness, the Environmental Pelicans nosed out the Chestertown Economy in a great battle at Town Hall last night.We shall see how long the cheering lasts..

  7. Keith Thompson says

    @Gibson Anthony,

    I think this is wonderful. I’m assuming that you’re talking about the marina/waterfront and the town’s plans to purchase it. In order to make it work, I think the town has to find a way to make the waterfront the economic hub that drives the economy of the town. The business community will have to be a part of that. I’m curious to hear what the mayor and the various council members will say about it when we chat with them on WCTR in the near future.

  8. Joseph Mitchell says

    All this talk about SuperFresh et al goes right over the heads of the Mayor and Councilmen Gatto and Anthony because they have no regard for the business community, not when they can make a yuppie point and feel good. It’s the wrong time and atmosphere for this sort of ordinance. When Chestertown’s business situation gets even worse than it is now, will the Council be staying awake trying to figure ways to HELP rather than hurt and discourage businesses? I doubt it. They just don’t get it. Thank you to Marty and Mabel for realizing what is actually happening to this town. Plastic bags aren’t the issue or problem, the negative attitude toward business and retailers is.

  9. Just a thought – shouldn’t the meeting with the business community have come first?

  10. What has it cost us (the taxpayers) to pay for this ordinance in legal fees? How many hours has been put in to discuss and explore this ordinance? Now lets look at…..How many hours has been spent on looking for housing that local residents can afford? How many hours has been spent on looking at creating jobs and business for residents? How many hours has been spent on exploring anything for our youth to do? How many hours and money was spent on keeping WalMart out of town?
    In response to Liz bashing Super Fresh this was not fair I (and many people) find Super Fresh to be welcoming and helpful. How does banning plastics bag make someone want to bash a great store in town?

  11. Dale Genther says

    Things like this are what makes me happy that I live in Rock Hall, not Chestertown. At least in Rock Hall the elected officials have not chosen to further encroach on the rights of the citizens and businesses by making laws that are beyond the scope of their constitutional rights to do so. Perhaps the elected officials should spend more time worrying about real issues such as education, crime, drugs, etc. instead of bags. Or maybe it is just about votes.

    Dale Genther
    Rock Hall, MD (A FREE choice bag community)

  12. I am so stunned by the inane arguments of those opposed to the plastic bag ban that I am left speechless.Well
    done Mayor and Council!

  13. Linda Kuiper says

    What about the merchants who attended the March meeting and left with a “thumbs up” and an “Oh, your bags are OK!” I didn’t see them at the April meeting. Wonder if they’ve been personally notified that the 30 warranty on that decision ran out or they’ll find out when the paper comes out on Thursday. If the M&C have been working on this for 2 years why were there so many last minute changes Monday night? That’s no way to run a business (the business of the Town).

  14. Thank you Mabel and Marty, at least now we know just who does listen to the people. The Mayor never has, it’s always what she wants and the heck with the majority of the town residents. Super Fresh may not be the only store possibly closing, think we may lose Dollar Tree and a couple others that “us regular folks” enjoy shopping at. Well, maybe now the Mayor can start working on making the McDonald’s cups and wrappers laying on side the road her next project.

  15. Keith Thompson says

    @Stellal

    The anger I’ve heard over this from radio listeners, clients and those in the business community can hardly be described as “inane”. There’s a serious disconnect between two different groups of people in this town and that disconnect goes far beyond plastic bags. With the debate over the purchase of the marina looming, this gap will need to be bridged to build the town’s map for the future. The two sides are going to need to be partners and not adversaries in the future which is why I applaud the stated intent from the mayor and council to work with the business community. It should have been done earlier but if this recent dialogue means anything, it could very well mean that some eyes have been opened and that’s a good thing.

  16. Shari Herr Keen says

    Some may find it interesting to read in today’s USA Today’s front section (The Forum)
    “China sees the evil of plastic bags……But here’s why America shouldn’t applaud this type of statism”…..some interesting points made on this subject.

  17. Brian Stanslaw says

    Remember this vote when it comes time to vote for Mayor Bailey, Mr. Anthony and Mr. Gatto. I am sorry these people were elected to their positions to do what is best for the community and be our voice. It seems our voice has been blocked out in order to push a ‘Green” Agenda by the Jolly Green Giant herself and Sprout and I thought Mr. Gatto had more sense than this…. Shame on you for pushing your agenda on us.

  18. Carla Massoni says

    Thank you.

  19. @Linda – I’m listening to Keith right now, and he’s recounting the Mayor’s shock at the eleventh hour discussion on the BagOrd. This has been a theme with her recently, and that’s either a red flag or a wake-up call. Read more next Monday (plug!)

  20. Thank you… I can easily adapt to using canvas bags to go shopping, just as my grandparent’s generation (and those before them) used to use all the time.

  21. Now what am I supposed to carry my lunch in?? I don’t see a ban as the solution. What’s next? Banning aluminum cans (I see lots of beer cans thrown by the side of the road in addition to the McDonalds trash). Changing behavior is the solution. I think the M&C loose sight of the locals too often (and I mean the barefoot, big truck locals, not the Water Street locals – there is a difference)
    Guess I’ll have to shop in Rock Hall from now on.

  22. No store is closing specifically because they have to change bags. Actually, a better argument could be made for reusable cloth totes. If the store didn’t have to buy bags at all… wouldn’t that be a greater cost saver?

    Call it the “Effort To Save The Stores From The Cost Of Having To Give You More Expensive Bags Not That They Wouldn’t Just Pass The Cost Along To Us In The Form Of A Tenth Of A Percentage Price Increase Over The Total Of Their Product Lines Equalizing Any Loss They Would Have Realized And Instead Now Net A Larger Share Of Income From Not Only Charging For the New Bags But Not Actually Giving Them To Consumers Allowing For Further Profits To Be Used For Raises To Current Management While Making Some New Excuse As To The Reason Why They Still Aren’t Hiring New Employees Even After Experiencing Market Gains”

    It will be the greatest community effort ever. If not the longest titled.

    You see, I too feel this bag ordinance was a minor waste of time for little benefit… but the sky is not falling because it passed. People need to hyperventilate over something with greater importance. This is not the molehill to die on.

    P.S. Everyone thinks their own opinion is in the “majority”.

    P.P.S. It probably isn’t.

  23. I mean whats next? This mayor is only hurting the people that live here, and when is she going to actually do something that benefits the people that do live in Chestertown? This town will go bankrupt. Im sure glad I moved to Dover, DE. at least there you don’t have to put up with the bull$#!+ politics of this place. Also, this mayor is a complete failure.

  24. Chris says: “This is not the molehill to die on. ”

    B-I-N-G-O! Plastic bags are a symptom of what ails the Chestertown community. And trying to figure out the problem(s) that causes these symptoms seems to be a function of leadership of the government, the commercial types and the citizenry… in concert to create a unified voice. Where’s that leadership?

    So… an inquiring mind wants to know… what exactly does the community want from the C’town government? Mayor Margo ran unopposed (as did another ward council member) in the last election and made no secret of her Queen of Green platform. That seems like a mandate to continue the green parade.

    I think the question at hand is how we all can fill that green parade with some economic engines. Lots of small towns have done it, but it took a oneness of effort… sorta like building the Sultana.

    So let’s let the nasties rip… cleanse our souls… and get on with being part of the solution.

  25. Warrior Bob says: “I think the question at hand is how we all can fill that green parade with some economic engines.”

    1. Find dormant newspaper kiosks (not hard given the state of the industry).
    2. DCA members or whomever else can funnel ad dollars to reusable bags.
    3. Lean on out of towners to pay for them by strategically placing kiosks near Fountain Park. Have some available at the plazas as well. For sure, someone can figure out a breakeven point to determine unit price.

    win-win-win. Granted this should have been hashed out before now. We can lament that ordinance 01-2011 was passed in April and used on plastic bags. But it’s here. If there is a better idea than what I’ve described, then it’s incumbent upon the M&C to roll it out, or face the fallout.

  26. Cynical Eastern Shore Girl says

    You nasty old farts who oppose this ban, blowing your rusty horns about your rights and the like, your arguments are getting as tired as those American flag caps you run around in that are supposed to prove your more patriotic than the rest of us… This is step towards taking responsiblity for ourselves, the amount of trash we generate, and the way we use our – yes, they are FINITE – resources. Get yourselves a couple bags, toss ’em in your car and lets be done with this. Think outside your own convenience for once. This is not a utility shaking you down for more of your hard-earned money or a community association telling you what kind of trees you can and can’t plant in your yard… this is easy, and a good thing for our natural resources and wildlife as well. Get over it.

  27. Monsier Troup’er…

    I’m lovin’ this one… and I already have a couple of inquiries out about some used newspaper vending machines. Now if they only come in orange and maroon. And we talked about some other ideas off line.

    I’ll search out some possible locations tomorrow.

  28. Keith Thompson says

    @Cynical Eastern Shore Girl

    But I think you have to at least recognize one NOF (nasty old fart) argument, in that a lot of the resistance to the ban is as geared as much towards the way the ban was presented as the ban itself. Instead of the town presenting the idea to the business community for feedback and selling the idea to them as a partner, the town presented this in an adversarial way that in effect said to business; “we don’t care…we’re doing this and you’ll just have to deal with it”.

    What has happened, especially in the dialogue leading up to the ban and the last minute changes, is that apparently a nerve has been struck. There’s a disconnect in the community and the debate over the bag ban is simply a sign that a group of people who have felt disenfranchised are starting to speak out and that the powers that be are starting to hear it and react. All in all the plastic bag issue is on the low end of the totem pole and my hope is that the dialogue we’re starting to hear will help the town make the hard decisions (especially over the marina) that determines the town’s future. Dialogue and ideas are good. MBTroup’s cloth bag kiosk idea is one of those ideas that may be able to bridge that divide that exists here.

  29. Daniel C. Menefee says

    This is great news. My congrats to the council for passing this historic legislation. I’ve been bringing my reusable bags to the store, and have felt no pain or inconvenience. We’re all gonna’ be just fine.

    Thanks to the Mayor as well for getting this passed. Greatt job!!!!

  30. Daniel C. Menefee says

    @Kieth,

    There would have been no good way to engage the business community if there were dead against it, and many businesses were.

  31. Daniel C. Menefee says

    Bravo, Cynical Eastern Shore Girl!

  32. Keith Thompson says

    @Daniel,

    I think you missed my point. If the town attempted to engage the business community and were rebuffed, you’d have an argument. However you’re saying that it’s useless for the town to attempt to engage the business community because they’re already dead set against it, then you’re describing an adversarial arrangement in the town. It leads me to ask the obvious question; why is there an adversarial relationship between the town government and the business community? This adversarial relationship IS the problem, and the arguments over the bag ban are signs of the symptoms of the problem, not the problem itself. Judging by Gibson Anthony’s comments on the Spy and from Mayor Bailey’s comments from my radio interview with her the day after the vote, I think they may understand that there’s a disconnect and that they need to reconnect with the business community, and that’s a good thing in my opinion. Given that the impending sale of the marina will drastically alter the future direction of the town, no matter what decision the town makes, it will be very important for the town to develop an economic development plan that will reflect the new direction of the town. The town leaders MUST engage the business community…and ALL of the business community whether it’s downtown or in the shopping centers…if the town is going to survive.

  33. MD Eastern Shore says

    If this is all the town government has to worry about, their work is all done, they should just go home and call it a day.

    When it comes to paper or plastic, I’m pro-choice. You make your choice, I’ll make mine. Leave me alone.

    And for all you reusable bag people, you do wash those bacteria growth mediums at least once a week, don’t you?

  34. John Seidel says

    Elected officials should solicit input, but let’s not forget that democracy is a two way street. Keith, the M&C asked businesses to talk about this as far back as February of 2010, and it’s been under discussion for at least two years. Perhaps I missed it, but I didn’t see a whole lot of engagement by businesses over a lot of that time. If an individual or a business has any vested interest in an issue, it is equally their responsibility to engage in the process – and preferably well before the eleventh hour.

    By and large, the dialog in this issue was civil, which is a good thing. But maybe everyone can learn from this one. The town will be a lot better off if folks get engaged in constructive ways early on (emphasis on constructive), and if the M&C does more to reach out. But it has to work both ways.

  35. Yeah, I’m with Keith on this. Part of why I wrote what I wrote in the opinion section was because the ideologues in this equation said that if you didn’t like the ordinance as written, then you’re pro-pollution. They implied a one size fits all strategy was the way to go. To the Mayor’s credit (perhaps at the nudging of the Council) she listened. As we’ll find out next week though, she only gets a silver star.

  36. Everybody here has an opinion but there is a dividing line.

    Some who comment address the facts as applied to the future

    Others anchor their soapboxes on very thin reeds.

    I would rather postulate a plan then bestow tenure on stupidity.

    I think the good guys won this round.

  37. By the way, seems like the computer is a hour slow. I am writing this at 11:54

  38. Keith Thompson says

    @John Seidel,

    My comments about engaging the business community goes back to an interview I did on the air with Mayor Bailey, well over a year ago, when I asked her about concerns the business community would have over this. Her response, at the time was, “I don’t care”. That’s an adversarial attitude and not conducive to eliciting positive feedback. I think a more proactive approach is to sell the idea to the business community.

    The other lasting impressing I get is that the engaging of the business community really only extended to the downtown businesses and didn’t really extend to the businesses in the shopping centers (Marty Stetson’s concern); the businesses most likely to be affected by the ban. My recent conversations with the mayor and other comments I’ve seen from council members seems to indicate some awareness of the disconnect I see in the community and I think this awareness is the best thing that’s come out of this dialogue over plastic bags.

  39. John Seidel says

    Interesting, Keith…I agree that there’s no question that something like this should engage businesses in every part of Chestertown, not just downtown. That certainly was the philosophy behind the “world cafe” visioning exercise last year. In some of the larger issues facing Chestertown, it’s important that we also bring in folks who live outside town, on both sides of the river. What happens in the counties will have a huge impact on those of us in town and vice versa.

    Let’s hope the stage is set for more inclusive and proactive conversations. I also hope that folks get involved early. The town will have to begin a new comp plan before long, and maybe that’s a good place to put this into practice.

  40. I too am impressed with the the glimmer of dialogue between business interests and the town council. Jeff and Ira Green who organized the petition against the bag ordinance, are good friends of mine. I even signed the petition.

    Then came the cast of characters from stage right, and this is where it goes a bit heady.

    The Tea Party has a standard script either spoken of guiding them: Fight government, avoid taxes and scare voters. This is true even if future generations are decimated economically and environmentally in the process. What a neat self-serving trick for the trust babies and others to kill two birds with one stone. Casting concerns for the future environment as costing jobs today. Pitting neighbor against neighbor.

    Shadows on the cave wall….Thank you Plato.

    I detest the fact that a class war was orchestrated by 21st Century founding spinners and word smiths hired to create the tea party. Even Reagon raised taxes.

    So as far as I am concerned the bag ordinance issue had higher implications. I don’t care if Margo is on an ego trip. Who says that Ms McGinnes was not.

    Taking on environmental issues is the job of government maybe one of the few things they do that I like about modern times.

  41. Keith Thompson says

    John, the problem I have with the World Cafe is that its passive. It’s a worthwhile exercise because you’re inviting dialogue, but a more active approach is to actually get out and visit people on a one on one basis. It’s extra work to do that, but its worth the effort. I also think the dialogue we have here on the Spy is extremely valuable, especially when local officials respond to reader’s questions and comments. In our case at WCTR, we’re trying our best to get as many divergent community voices on the air we can and we really appreciate the folks who are willing to come on the air and get their message out. Not everyone is williing to come on the air though.

  42. Daniel Menefee says

    —–Keith,

    “My comments about engaging the business community goes back to an interview I did on the air with Mayor Bailey, well over a year ago, when I asked her about concerns the business community would have over this. Her response, at the time was, “I don’t care.””

    Is that what the Mayor really said? Do you have that on tape? Because her more than year-long effort gave the business community plenty of time to participate, and the second to last meeting showed she was willing to compromise on some of the details and make some refinements. Hardly a characterization of someone who doesn’t care about the business community.

    Mr. Seidel also nailed it! The opposition arrived in the 11th hour when they should’ve been at the table in the embryonic stage of this law. What I saw of the opposition simply tossed threats around and predicted Armageddon, and I heard nothing to convince me that a ban would be debilitating to local businesses.

    The psycho-babble about they way the bill was presented and passed suggests that group therapy was needed to get EVERYONE onboard before a vote, which is impossible. At some point the council had to bring this to a vote and the represented majority cast the vote in favor of the ban.

    What also is true is that no voluntary system has ever worked to reduce the proliferation of plastic bags; only laws have been successful.

    And I know I’ve said this before, but try to imagine voluntary speed limits. Would people self regulate as effectively as a cop on the beat? I’m certain we’d have to build more emergency rooms. Would corporations stop polluting the Bay under a voluntary system, or do you need laws in place to mitigate what is dumped in the Bay?

    I’ve been to ACME and Super Fresh since the ban passed. There are already a good number of folks bringing their own bags, and the checkout lines do not appear to slow a nanosecond when someone presents their own bag. This is pretty amazing considering the law is nine months away from actually being enforced.

    I personally like the fact that I’m participating in this effort. It is empowering.

    I think “acceptance” is the best therapy for everyone at this point.

  43. Keith Thompson says

    Daniel, she definitely said it (it really caught me off guard because I wasn’t expecting that response to the question) and I’m sure that I still do have it somewhere in our production computer (we save everything) but it would take forever for me to find it since I don’t remember the date. This dates back to the time before we were considering going to our full time talk format, so I was more focused on being an oldies DJ than a local radio talk show host, so the full significance of the quote only hit me later…but I clearly remember her saying “I don’t care” because it struck me as a rather odd and bold comment to what I thought was a simple question.

    As for the 11th hour response, there are various reasons. Laziness or a state of denial from certain elements of the business community was certainly a factor. The disconnectedness between downtown and the rest of town I’ve already cited was a factor. The part of the original draft of the ordinanace that also focused on limitations to paper bags was a factor especially from businesses that didn’t figure the ordinance applied to them because they believed it only dealt with plastic. However, I think the biggest reason why there was an 11th hour effort relates to recent growth and changes in local media (especially the Chestertown Spy, War For The Shore, and our new talk format at WCTR) which has given people an opportunity to voice their opinions far more than in the past.

    As a part of the business community (and also through our membership in the Chamber Of Commerce) we understand that the feeling the town is unfriendly towards business is real and that the plastic bag ordinance was seen by many in the business community as another example of them being taken for granted. In retrospect, the hard feelings would have been eased had the mayor and council made the effort to go out and talk to businesses on a one on one basis to hash out business concerns and to discuss the economic benefits. I think there’s more awareness of that disconnect now and that awareness should foster better communications in the future.

    Finally, I think Roy Kirby’s impending sale of the marina has gotten the attention of the mayor and the council and they’re aware that some very big decisions are coming up concerning the future of the town. I think they know they’ll need to work with the business community to deal with these changes. The bag ordinance was the little stuff, the big stuff is yet to come.

  44. Daniel Menefee says

    Keith,

    You are really great at sorting out all the competing interests and defining a path towards good governance. I’m really impressed with your in depth analysis and perspectives on the issues facing Chestertown. Keep up the good work!

  45. Keith Thompson says

    Daniel, thanks. I appreciate your insights although we’re on opposite ends of the issue. The dialogue is what is important. I feel blessed to be able to contribute to that dialogue. I don’t live here so I don’t have a vote, but I do work here and my livelihood depends on the town being successful. I feel like I have a lot invested here.

  46. kevin walsh says

    The Mayor had the Police arrest me again on Thursday. As I was outside of the Town Hall, on Monday…..I have the guts to fight for the truth in Chestertown. It will be a trial of how the Mayor is wrong! She should buy a orange jumpsuit to wear on vacation on Flatland Road, for 6 months! I will wear mine on Halloween….and bring her some candy at the jail !!!

  47. I have lived here for 15 years. Certainly a stranger by all local standards.

    In all that time I have had very little to say. So maybe I have been overcompensating recently. Before I go back to my usual dormant status maybe I can offer one last comment about the fallout to the pro-regulation position I took on the bag issue.

    One very gentlemanly, family prominent official who I have always enjoyed conversing with, (even as a stranger), Seems to have taken offense with my support of environmental sanity. Something of a surprise to me since I thought him to be quite moderate.

    Meeting me at the bank today his words we standard status-quo dogma, but the tone was like searing lava. With more passion and persistence than I expected. I guess it doesn’t matter that I don’t have a union label, I have been clearly tagged by this normally mild mannered person as lesser peer. (oxymoron intended)

    I have very little stake in the establishment of this community but the thought of being a part of the generation that scorched this earth gives me little peace in my old age.

    Anyway this is a nice forum. I will try to be less lofty if I comment here again.

  48. Carla Massoni says

    This sounds like a tempest in a teapot. If the success or failure of businesses in the Chestertown area depend on whether or not we use paper or plastic – or washable bags – then the problems are far deeper than the dialogue would suggest. When is a good time to promote these environmental “small steps” in our community? The Mayor is a friend of mine – we have talked about this issue at our morning coffee at Play it Again Sam’s for over three years. I have never heard her say that she does not care about the business community. But I dare say she might care about the legacy we leave for our children in this beautiful area we are blessed to serve as stewards for at least in our lifetime. Join the Downtown Chestertown Association – get involved – study the issues and show up at the Town Meetings while solutions are being proposed. Being a contrarian is easy – looking for long term solutions – is a long, hard, frustrating job that only a few stalwarts have been willing to tackle. Bravo to the M&C – they did the work – now live with it.

  49. @Carla

    It all boils down to concern about the future, that should turn into resolve.

    Funny how finally getting real, brings back old fashioned words like contrarian to add human value and understanding to this otherwise manipulated reality. People are being paid and not paid to confuse our thinking even about basic survival truths. The Tea party is right out of what we used to call Madison Avenue…the spin/lie machine…. How easily frightened confused people rise to the bait.

    Someone commenting here raised Atlas Shrugged as if to say Ayn Rand who wrote the book was a kindred spirit. As if quoting her mantra endowed contrarians with a special license to resist logic. Going to another Ayn Rand novel Fountainhead Roark and Tooey never existed as presented. Its not like that. Real capitalists are as diverse in philosophy as Warren Buffet and Rupert Murdock and for some reason Buffet the most “liberal”, is the wealthier along with Bill Gates.

    So what does this have to do with T shirt plastic bags? I went to both meetings. All the players were there. The near-sited trust baby revving self serving fears, the tree hugger trying to sanitize eternity, The experts who at first would not advise or clearly state the problem, Margo haters, Know Nothings, people so old they are divorced from the future they leave their own grandchildren and so on. And least we forget Chucky in the orange jumpsuit screaming and rolling around in the street. A real cross section.

    And there were those brave enough to struggle for change to maybe alter the future, real heroes, in the middle of the chaos. We should be thankful for leaders who fight for the good cause despite the odds and for a town that believes in democracy.

  50. Daniel C. Menefee says

    I believe many used the bag ban as conduit to wage the same old ideological war on whether government has or hasn’t a role to play. It wasn’t about the bag anymore than the budget showdown on Friday was about money. I believe the vitriol absolutely spoke to great dispair and uncertainty about our future. People are struggling, vulnerable, and scared- and three wars and 17 percent unemployment are driving the collective anxiety.

    In robust economc times, this bill would have recieved little attention, and businesses would have used this opportunity to claim leadership of the “green initiative.”

  51. Keith Thompson says

    @Carla,

    I’ve interviewed Mayor Bailey on WCTR about the bag ordinance frequently for the last couple of years and I know the passion she has about the environment. She also posesses a wonderful sense of humor about it which was proven when I (dressed as a police officer during the Halloween Parade in 2009) “arrested” her for posession of a plastic bag. I don’t feel that she has any animosity towards the business community, but I think her zeal for the issue led to a bit of tunnel vision which made her less sensitive to answering some of the business community’s concerns than she could have been. Recent interviews with her seem to indicate to me that she feels like she understands this and could have done a better job at engaging the business community.

    I do agree with you that this issue was a tempest in a teapot and that the success or failure of a business in Chestertown has far more to do with factors other than what kind of shopping bags are used. I think the town can learn to communicate with certain elements of the business community better and I think certain elements of the business community can also look at themselves and try to shrug off some of the sense of entitlement that exists here. The town has a big decision coming up concerning its future and how much its willing to invest in its heritage. Perhaps the plastic bag ban was a dry run for the marina and the town can use both the positive and negative lessons learned to present its case to the community.

  52. You got that right Dan.

  53. Well said, Daniel.

  54. countrygirl says

    It may be a hassle remembering your reusable bags while shopping in Chestertown. The stores will have paperbags to offer. And for those who use the plastic bags for other purposes (picking up after your dog, etc)., other stores in the county and other states you shop will still have those bags for us to use. I am one of the reusers of the plastic bags (not for dog doo though) and I know I will continue receiving them in other locations.

    It’s just a sign of the changing of times in Chestertown for the better of our environment.

  55. JOURNALIST says

    The issue of plastic bags took up a ton of time, was bandied back and forth, and goodness knows how much in legal fees it cost to change the ordinance, etc. But the measure went to vote, and the majority ruled. This is, for better or worse, how our governments work, right? The argument that plastic bags will hurt SuperFresh is flawed. What is hurting that store and many others in town is the cost of trucking goods to Chestertown. If you all want to do something to save the businesses like supermarkets, then lobby your Congressmen and women to get something done about the speculators who control the oil futures and are making zillions off betting on prices going up on down. This is what is setting the price of gasoline: the price of crude oil. Baloney that Libya is causing this. Baloney that Mideast unrest is causing this. The Mideast has been volatile for centuries.

    It’s the cost of gasoline that is killing us all, and it is going to get worse. When a gallon of milk goes to $5 along with gasoline, then what? The elite will still be able to afford everything, but the poor and working poor are going to be crushed. Does anyone out there care? Plastic bags have nothing to do with the macroeconomics of our world right now. Time to move on, Mayor and Town Council and help your constituents survive the crisis that’s here.

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