Cultural and Social Awareness Commission and the Environmental Commission met April 6.
Cultural and Social Awareness Commission and the Environmental Commission met April 6.
Here is the minutes provided by the Commission:
I. Call to Order and Roll Call:
Commission Members Present: Ed Ellinghausen, Laurie Kacmar, Jaci Krandel, Steve Wenzel, Chair Erica Poremba, William Donato, John Hudson, and Jose Rivera.
Commission Members Absent: Ivy Sagrado
Staff Present: Human Resources Director Deb Schober, Assistant Public Works Director Tom Migatz and Chief Deputy City Clerk Jane Howie.
Others Present: Mayor Brian Sager, Cynthia Kanner, Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, and resident Dan Thomas.
II. Acceptance of Minutes:
Motion by W. Donato, second by J. Rivera, to accept the Minutes from the March 2, 2017 Joint Meeting of the Cultural & Social Awareness Commission and Environmental Commission. Ayes: E. Ellinghausen, L. Kacmar, J. Krandel, S. Wenzel, Chair E. Poremba, W. Donato, J. Hudson, and J. Rivera. Nays: none. Absentees: I. Sagrado. Abstentions: none. Minutes accepted.
III. Public Comment: Cynthia Kanner has been working on the County’s reusable bag initiative for over three years. She said it is an honor to make real change, but we need to take the next step. She is in the process of writing an Ordinance and she’s hoping this initiative will start in Woodstock and continue throughout McHenry County. The Proclamation was just the beginning. She added that as a Commission, we must continue to educate our communities that this is a smart choice and a great way to move forward. C. Kanner is proud of Woodstock for making a real change. This information is spreading all over the world. Enacting a fee, such as a 5 cent fee, helps people get serious with the program. This has been a positive experience. Ms. Kanner suggested there be a charge for both plastic and paper bags.
Dan Thomas opposes reusable bags and had several comments concerning plastic bag restrictions and fees. Mr. Thomas doesn’t think the City should dictate how businesses operate and what they charge for. He enjoys the convenience of plastic bags and he said he won’t go to stores that charge for bags, although he does like Aldi’s business model. D. Thomas added that it’s a hassle to pay for bags and pay to rent a cart, even though you get your money back from the cart rental. He shared information from studies he’s read regarding the use of reusable bags. Studies revealed that only 3% of people that use reusable bags wash them, and 99% of reusable bags contain many types of bacteria. A 2012 study traced norovirus back to a reusable bag and he added that there have been a lot of norovirus outbreaks including Barrington recently. These same bacteria are also found on shopping carts, merchandise and shelving. He noted that the contamination cycle began soon after reusable bag use increased. Washing reusable bags does not get rid of all types of bacteria and 3⁄4 of those surveyed said they used the bags for food along with other products. Reusable bags encourage cross contamination and growth of bacteria increases this risk. As an alternative to these changes, Mr. Thomas suggested that the City encourage a plastic bag recycling program. D. Thomas believes we can still be green without forcing changes on residents and businesses. He suggested that there could be more stores or locations that could have collection bin receptacles for the plastic bags. In his opinion, instead of imposing fees for reusable bags, the City should work harder at attracting additional businesses to Woodstock instead of putting restrictions on businesses. Promote a program to use disposal shopping bags, such as the collection of feces from pets and to line trash cans. If change does come, he will not shop at stores that encourage reusable bags. He’ll shop in other communities and spend his money elsewhere. The Commission thanked him for his comments.
Ms. Kanner appreciated how Mr. Thomas feels and his comments. She’s aware of the studies he quoted and said the 2011 and 2012 studies were funded by the American Chemical Company, which provides materials for plastic bags. C. Kanner said studies have revealed that the majority of bacteria come from our own kitchens. The amount of bacteria found in reusable bags is very minimal. Plastic bags breakdown, and eventually they will cause health problems from their chemicals and material. There is already so much plastic in our oceans, causing problems with ocean life and fish, which people eat. Be sure when looking at studies to also be aware of how they are funded. She offered her own reusable bag to Mr. Thomas. He did not accept it.
W. Donato said the reusable bag that this study was pertaining to, that was believed to have caused the soccer team’s norovirus outbreak, had been in the locker room for two weeks. He added that an Ordinance for reusable bags could include the use of plastic bags for meat products, produce, dry cleaning, and such. He noted that Target gives a rebate if you don’t use plastic bags. Stores have to pay for plastic bags; therefore, food is more expensive because stores have to buy bags. Food prices could decrease if more people used reusable bags.
W. Donato mentioned that he’s involved with the TREX challenge which uses plastic bags to make benches, etc. He added that many local stores already have receptacles for plastic bags.
J. Krandel told Mr. Thomas that we don’t want to discourage him from shopping in Woodstock. It is this Commission’s hope that Woodstock residents support the small, local businesses in the community where we live.
D. Schober appreciates the public comment from both sides. The opinions are helpful and we respect the opinions of all those who commented. W. Donato said it is important for this Commission to hear both sides of this initiative. Mr. Thomas asked what has been done to encourage and promote recycling in our community. He added that this Commission and the City of Woodstock needs to do more to educate the community about recycling and the reusable bag initiative. He suggested that there be a grace period for the use of reusable bags during flu season, when diseases are more readily transferrable. At that time, plastic bags should be used to decrease the spread of disease, just as churches forego hand shaking during flu season. D. Schober reminded Mr. Thomas that an Ordinance has not been presented to the City Council yet. W. Donato said this Commission still needs to work on an Ordinance.
IV. Discussion Items:
a. Mayor Sager Comments
Mayor Sager thanked the Commission for being here, for their time and effort with the reusable bag initiative, and for their exceptional work in bag distribution. The City of Woodstock has a reusable bag to be proud of. Mayor Sager thanked T. Migatz for mapping out the delivery routes and getting bags distributed. He said this Commission needs to continue to move forward, although that needs to be defined. 2017 has been declared the year of the reusable bag. Engage in the process, and get the community involved, bring awareness and a sense of ownership.
Mayor Sager agreed with some of the public comments that had been made this evening. He added that the bag distribution brought awareness and recognition and directed residents to the website. It is important to determine the best steps to move forward and with completing the bag distribution. The Commissions also need to continue their efforts in obtaining sponsorships, which is not so much about getting the money, but about obtaining buy-in, partnership and a sense of responsibility from local businesses and the community. Sponsorships will replenish the Environmental Fund where the monies were taken from for the reusable bags.
Mayor Sager is personally pledging $1,000 to this initiative. The Mayor recently spoke to the General Manager of Wal-Mart; he’s very interested in this initiative. Adding the bag to store shelves will create visibility and be a reminder to shoppers. Remember, Woodstock was the first community in Illinois to have curbside recycling and the Adopt-a-Highway Program.
Mayor Sager would like to the Commission to make decisions on some type of decal / sticker / window cling that will remind shoppers to bring their reusable bags. Perhaps window decals or signs by cart corrals in parking lots, maybe even putting a sticker in your car or on a key fob.
Mayor Sager suggested creating a type of task force to find retailers to work with us as a sort of advisory group. Many forums have recently been created with the help of the City’s Economic Development Department. It is preferred that the initiative includes incentives rather than mandates. Mayor Sager also suggested a rebate program be considered rather than instituting a fee. A thorough and in-depth discussion is needed in order to make the best decisions for all involved. Recently, the Mayor has received multiple phone calls, mainly from senior citizens, saying they use the small disposable plastic bags for many uses around their home. The Commission needs to be certain that all these elements and aspects are considered before making decisions. Such as, will there be a per visit charge vs. a per bag charge? Once Commission decisions are made, then determine the best way to make recommendations to the City Council.
Mayor Sager summarized his suggestions:
• “Thank you”, and, finish the task at hand. Get bags distributed and into the hands of retailers.
• Sponsorships, partnering with businesses
• Work to educate the community, determine where plastic bag recycling bins and/or stores with those bins are located.
• Come up with a recommendation on how best to move forward. We want to do what’s right for our community. This provides for better buy-in.
Chair Poremba thanked the Commission for their efforts and time. She thanked T. Migatz for all his work with this Commission and on this initiative, as well.
b. Commission Reminder, Thank you, Our Charge, City’s Charge
d. Big 7 meeting discussion
One of the ideas presented was to host a meeting with this Commission and local retailers to discuss plastic bags vs. reusable bags, more organic and more opinions. All opinions are welcome; both for and against this initiative. Mayor suggested the group work with Economic Development Director Garrett Anderson and Economic Development Coordinator Krista Coltrin.
J. Krandel suggested rather than giving out a reminder sticker or decal, maybe local businesses could put a sign or window cling up in their windows that reminds them to bring their reusable bags. Chair Poremba thinks Jewel would do something like this. S. Wenzel said there are signs like this in the Crystal Lake Jewel. D. Schober said there is money budgeted for such marketing materials of this nature. Chair Poremba said these ideas can be shared with the retailers; perhaps this meeting could be held in the summer. There is a definite need to educate the public.
e. Logistics Update
T. Migatz said approximately 6500 bags were delivered in the first round.
1. Deliveries remaining – volunteers are needed
The Commission discussed how best to go about getting the remaining bags delivered.
2. Sale of bags – City Hall and Library ($3.00 + tax)
3. Storage of bags wrapped in plastic for sales to retail and others
f. Website Update
1. Is there monitoring software that will tell us how many people are looking at the website?
D. Schober shared information about a tracking system. She added that there are other opportunities available for Sustainable Woodstock along with opportunities to educate the community.
2. Adding a page to the microsite – “Word on the Street” for commentary provided photos, etc.
g. Sponsorship Action Plan
1. How do we get sponsors and spread the word – thoughts?
J. Krandel believes an Ordinance would be premature at this time. W. Donato asked the Commission to think about what information should be included in the Reusable Bag Ordinance. He’d like to get feedback to assist in compiling the Ordinance.
J. Hudson is in favor of a bag rebate but does not agree with a fee for disposable bags. Chair Poremba mentioned that some residents are upset with the money the City spent on the reusable bags. It’s imperative that this Commission move forward quickly in obtaining sponsorships and buy-in as well as raising awareness and educating the community. D. Schober said there must be retailer and resident buy-in before an Ordinance can be adopted.
Motion by W. Donato, second by J. Krandel, to adjourn this Special Meeting of the Cultural & Social Awareness Commission and Environmental Commission. Ayes: E. Ellinghausen, L. Kacmar, J. Krandel, S. Wenzel, Chair E. Poremba, W. Donato, J. Hudson, and J. Rivera. Nays: none. Absentees: I. Sagrado. Abstentions: none. Motion carried. Meeting adjourned at 7:15 pm.