Woodstock’s Mayor Wants to “Change Behavior” by Cloaking a Tax Increase as Environmental Concern. I Guess He Really Is a Democrat After All.

Jewel ReceiptWoodstock’s ten-cent bag tax went into effect on January 1st, and I took an informal poll of shoppers as I walked the aisles at my local Jewel. Most seemed to know about it, but still had not brought their own reusable bags. I asked my cashier if there had been an uptick in the use of reusable bags, and she said “no”, and the young man bagging my groceries said the most frequent comment he was getting was that it’s not a big inconvenience to go outside of Woodstock to shop. I asked for a store bag to see how the charge is displayed on the receipt, and there it was.

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In the minutes of the September 17th City Council meeting, Mayor Brian Sager said the context of the program is not to be a revenue generator, but to change behavior. He noted the City distributed a reusable bag to every household and also passed them out to retailers for distribution to the public. He stated there are also many places that give bags away free of charge, providing the public with many opportunities to acquire reusable bags. Mayor Sager noted it a is way to change behavior to reduce the use of plastic and paper bags…which is what is wanted.

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If it’s not a revenue measure, if it’s really about changing behavior, why not allow the store to keep all ten cents, as Edwardsville, Illinois did with the ten-cent per bag fee it imposed in October? According to Edwardsville Alderman S.J. Morrison:

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“We didn’t want this perceived as a tax,” Morrison said. “It truly isn’t a tax. It’s a fee imposed on single-use bags. You can’t get out of a tax. You can avoid a fee by bringing your own bag. And it’s not a money grab by the city. We are not trying to raise revenue. We’re trying to change behavior.”

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Of the ten cents collected for each bag in Woodstock, the retailer keeps three cents and the remaining seven cents goes to the City. That certainly sounds like a revenue measure to me.

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I’m not against reducing the amount of plastic in landfills and streams, and I’m happy to use my own reusable bags, but the sanctimony on display in this instance is just too much. Cloaking a tax increase under the guise of environmental concern is no way to be open and transparent to those you would hope to represent.

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Own it, Mr. Mayor. It’s all yours.

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