Leaders air concerns over bag ban and recreation trail

October 29th, 2013 | by Barrett Newkirk | Comments
Members of People Over Pollution hold signs outside a Coachella Valley Association of Governments committee meeting Monday in Palm Desert. Barrett Newkirk / The Desert Sun

Members of People Over Pollution hold signs outside a Coachella Valley Association of Governments committee meeting Monday in Palm Desert. Barrett Newkirk / The Desert Sun

Plans for a regional ban on plastic shopping bags and a recreation path across the Coachella Valley received a cool reception from area leaders Monday.

Measures related to both projects ultimately won support from the Coachella Valley Association of Governments Executive Committee, but not without some opposition and skepticism.

The vote on the bag ban means CVAG with forge ahead with developing a plastic bag ordinance that the same committee could consider as soon as next month. If it passes, individual city councils would then each have a chance to decide on whether to implement the ban in their communities.

More than 80 California cities have passed rules regulating the use of plastic bags, but the trend hasn’t yet spread to the Coachella Valley. Palm Springs and Palm Desert developed similar draft ordinances that ban the use of plastic shopping bags and require retailers to charge at least 10 cents for paper bags, but have not yet implemented bans. A regional ordinance from CVAG is expected to work in a similar way.

The CVAG Executive Committee is made up largely of area mayors.

Mayor Kathy DeRosa of Cathedral City expressed doubts about whether her city would go along with a regional plastic bag ban, saying the City Council felt this was not the right time to look at it.

The California Grocers Association is backing the valley’s approach to banning plastic bags. At the meeting, the association’s Tim James said past experience has shown that, if given a choice, shoppers will gravitate toward retailers providing free plastic bags. Asked by DeRosa what it would mean if one city chose to not adopt a ban, James said it could “create problems” since stores outside of the ban would have a competitive advantage.

Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone said that if the Grocers Association is supporting bag bans, it should seek voluntary participation from its members instead of asking governments to legislate on the issue. Stone and fellow supervisor Marion Ashley both voted against CVAG developing a regional ordinance. As he voted, Ashley said it was an issue that would be better handled by state lawmakers.

Other committee members, including DeRosa, voted in favor of CVAG moving forward on an ordinance, although several said they’d have to see what was developed before agreeing to take it to their cities.

The committee also voted to earmark $12.6 million in federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds for the CV Link recreation path.

Members of a citizens group called People Over Pollution told the committee that the CV Link path was not a proper use of the CMAQ money, and Indian Wells Mayor Mary Roche expressed the same concern saying, “I don’t think it fits.”

Roche was also concerned that there wasn’t more information about how the path would move through Indian Wells. She and Stone voted against the CMAQ funding measure.

The entire CV Link project is expected to cost around $80 million. DeRosa said the price tag made her think the project was becoming too grand.

“Some of the numbers that have been thrown out make me think we’re going down the wrong path,” DeRosa said.

CVAG Executive Director Tom Kirk responded to the concerns by saying there would be more information and many more proposals related to CV Link coming before the committee as the project moves forward.

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