Petition seeks vote on Seattle plastic-bag ban
Craig Keller, a Republican activist, has launched a petition drive to put the city's new plastic-bag ban to a vote.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A West Seattle man has launched a petition drive to put the city's new plastic-bag ban to a vote.
Craig Keller, a Republican activist who gathered signatures to repeal a plastic-bag fee two years ago, calls the city's new ordinance eliminating plastic shopping bags and charging 5 cents for paper bags a tax and a limitation on people's choice.
"It's misinformation that these are single-use bags. I use them to line wastebaskets. Other people use them for dog waste. None of them go wasted," said Keller.
The Seattle City Council on Dec. 19 passed a ban on thin plastic shopping bags that includes grocery, retail and convenience stores. The ban also calls for a 5-cent charge on paper shopping bags. There's no charge to customers who bring their own bags. The ban goes into effect July 1.
Keller created a website, www.saveourchoice.us, where people can download a petition. The effort needs 16,503 signatures of registered Seattle voters by Jan. 17 to qualify for the August primary election. To date, he said, about 400 people have visited the site.
Keller has been in the news before, primarily for heading the group Respect Washington, which seeks a state crackdown on illegal immigrants and unsuccessfully backed a state initiative that would have required employers to use a federal citizenship-verification program.
He's also gathered signatures for some of Tim Eyman's anti-tax initiatives but said he hasn't turned to Eyman for financial or organizational help on the plastic-bag ban.
Keller also plans to leave petitions at stores opposed to the bag ban. The ban had the support of the Northwest Grocery Association, which represents some of the city's biggest chains including Safeway and QFC, but was opposed by the Washington Food Industry Association, which represents some independent stores.
Keller acknowledges the 30-day timeline makes gathering enough signatures a challenge but said he's devoting his efforts over the next month to the cause.
"I'm going to work hard at this," he said.
One argument made by advocates for the ban was that the plastic bags end up littering roadsides or in Puget Sound, where they can harm marine life. Keller said he doesn't think plastic bags adversely affect wildlife.
"I can't say it doesn't happen, but as far as litter, I probably see more Starbucks cups and pop cans than plastic bags," he said.
The Seattle City Council adopted a 20-cent fee for both paper and plastic bags in 2008. With funding from the plastics industry, enough signatures were gathered to place the measure on the August 2009 ballot, where it was defeated.
So far, Keller said, he hasn't received any indication that the plastics industry will support the current signature-gathering drive. In a public statement after the ban was unanimously approved by the City Council, a spokesman for Hilex Poly, a manufacturer of plastic bags, said the company would likely address the issue at the state level and not directly fight the Seattle ban.
Three other Washington cities, Edmonds, Bellingham and Mukilteo, have adopted plastic-bag bans. Only the Edmonds ordinance has gone into effect.
Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Morning Memo
The Morning Memo jump starts your day with weather, traffic and news
Search local job listings on NWjobs.com
Career Center Blog
Your Opinion Matters
Take our survey and enter to win $100. Enter Now!