Fee suspension? Fix the mess

We are huge fans of politics, with its attendant legerdemain and practiced sleight of tongue. Show the people one thing; hand them another.

A case in point: Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s showman-like dispatch of the city’s ridiculous 10-cent fee for disposable paper bags in retail establishments, such as grocery stores.

The fee is suspended for the duration, the Anchorage Daily News reports, but the city’s silly ban on single-use plastic bags remains in place. Good grief.

The fee was part of an ill-conceived ordinance that was supposed to “coerce people to change their behavior,” forcing them to shun single-use plastic bags and turn, instead, to paper bags, heavier reusable plastic bags or, worse, reusable fiber or cloth bags as part of the Left’s quest for environmental nirvana.

Unfortunately, reusable bags can be nasty, unsanitary things, bringing into stores all manner of cooties that end up in carts and on counters. During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, who needs any more cooties to deal with? Most of us want to shop in a safe environment. Suspending the 10-cent fee for paper bags simply does not move us even an inch toward that goal.

To save us, if you will recall, the Anchorage Assembly ordered city retailers as of Sept. 15 to no longer provide shoppers with single-use plastic bags. It, instead, dictated they must provide paper bags upon request, and charge customers a dime for each for them. Many opted to bring their own bags.

At its best, Berkowitz’s fee suspension is a useless bit of political theater. The real problem, the single-use plastic bag ban, remains in place. While the mayor may have saved us all a few cents, the unsanitary, dangerous use of reusable bags remains a health threat and becomes more so each and every day.

The Assembly, the same group that gave us the ban in a 9-2 vote, should act to amend the ordinance and allow the use of single-use bags for the duration of this crisis – and beyond. And it should move quickly.

There are six seats up for grabs in the election. Four members running for re-election voted for the ban. You should call them.

Assembly members Christopher Constant, Felix Rivera, Pete Petersen and Suzanne LaFrance were in the group that happily rammed their we-know-best plastic bag ban down the city’s throat. Austin Quinn-Davidson, also standing for re-election, had not yet joined the Assembly for that 2018 vote. The sixth open seat is being vacated by Fred Dyson.

The Berkowitz fee ban did nothing to make us safer. It is time the Assembly fixed its mess.

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