Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Notice to Start Petition to repeal bag ban in San Jose which can be used in other cities as well

Here is an example of a letter to start a petition

As a resident of San Jose which which banned the bag Jan 1 of last year . I have experienced many negatives of the bag ban. The benefits is far from outweighing the drawbacks of implementing a ban I find Cupertino city council really should listen to the will if its people not to fall into pressure by special interest groups threats or false rewards. Cities are not slaves of SavetheBay or SierraClub or plastic industry but they are civil servants for people who pay taxes and elect their officials.

First of all we don't have a retail bag litter problem that is often exaggerated by proponents of the ban  according to Trash audit data from many parts of the country such as from city of San Francisco department of public works environment department, City of Toronto Solid waste Management, Calwaste, Keep America beautiful, and random Bay Area water board cleanup records. Grocery plastic bags only account for 0.05%-0.6% of the waste stream. Puny compared with other plastic waste even including non retail plastic bags which are not covered.  Therefore in reality it would not help Cupertino reach litter reduction goals at all.  In fact a Santa Clara County study with information from San Francisco has proven product bans do not reduce litter.

second It doesn't take a rocket scientist or mathematician  to figure out that figures used by groups to push the ban are completely wrong. Using the statistics they show simple math can easily refute the one million bag claim to actually 1800 which is 1/500 of their claim. Sometimes these claims including those of prices to clean up the are often interchangeably used and copied. Some say California is spending 24million others say Texas is spending 24million cleanup fee and Alameda county will save $24 million in cleanup fees. Its just bogus. I

Experiences with retailers in San Jose made me ask what is success anyways, making poor customer service mandatory?(stores more often run out of paper bags more quickly due to lack of space to stockpile them) Having people walk out with items in arms? Increasing shoplifting in hard times when police are cut back. Lucky supermarket in San Jose had to install metal barriers to control theft as unbagged groceries and large bags from outside makes it very hard to spot thieves.  and self checkout machines are very hard to use now as they are programmed to work only with plastic bags. Having mom and pop stores spend an impossible $10,000+ to bring up to compliance?  The ordinance would also apply to those mobile vendors such as fair/flea/or farmers market who have just a cart or a van and go to multiple cities it is not realistic for them to meet bag and auditing requirements for all these different cities.
Many retailers are poorly educated of what they can or cannot do, Many listen to their corporate uppers and have to wait for them to make a decision which might not be best for their customers. Many San Jose and unincorported Santa Clara county non grocery mall type retailers and bookstores many already use thicker plastic bags theatrically exempt from the ban and fee requirements but they over read the ordinance it and still switch to paper bags. Some storeowners are afraid that if customers bring their own plastic bags in they could be busted.  Its is also quite ridiculous to make mall retailers comply as many use just one bag a customer and almost never the thin grocery type.

 Despite all these claims against plastic bags. In reality I find bags are actually heros and not villians  as people reuse them to contain compress litter and prevent them from spreading and minimize the size of the garbage pile which would otherwise end up in the wild.
 Banning the bag was actually proven backfire in many areas as people would either buy bags containing more plastic for dog poop cleaning, garbage wrapping, wet clothing, hazardous materials, which they now reuse bags for which results in greater bag litter not including other plastic litter which has actually been proven in San Francisco after 2007 in litter audits in the years following increased from 1.1%  to3.3% due to trash bin liner use. Or loathe to properly bag their garbage allowing it to be blown away and scattered.  For example Ireland saw 10% increase in total plastic use and 400% increase in trash liner usage all adding to the landfill after raising their bag tax. Similar situation occurred in Hong Kong after its bag levy. Is this what we call success?

I look and take pictures and noticed the streets of San Jose look worse than ever after the bag ban even then before with garbage piling up on streets, freeways, back alleys, and vacant lots or creeks. Real issue of littering was not plastic bags but bad garbage policies. Now without small bags those who stop to buy snacks on the go have nothing to hold on to their used plastic wrappers therefore they get blown off their hands and onto the streets not to mention garbage piles up quicker when they are unbagged. Though once I leave the borders of San Jose the streets are much cleaner. What is success anyways.

Please don't deny the fact that people are shopping outside San Jose after the bag ban even the ones who actually use reusable bags. Trader Joes managers would easily confirm this each time I go to a non San Jose branch location. Asian stores in Cupertino and Milpitas also saw a spike in customer traffic after Jan 1 2012, parking lots fill up even on weekday evenings just like they do on weekends.

The most important negative consequence is health and safety 

While we have health standards and health inspections for food stores and restaurants it is not possible to make sure reusable bags are sterile unlike plastic bags and baggers would be touching bag to bag. There is no way to make sure reusable bags are cleaned properly before entering the store. The country is suffering from the worst e coli breakouts and it has been confirmed cases in Oregon that a reusable bag was to blame there must be countless cases that are not yet confirmed. According to utexas study grocery bag bans in California is responsible a 34% increase in ER visits where ecoli is included in principal diagnosis it also notably increased death rates. 
In Cupertino with markets like ranch 99 marina, maxim and countless other stores who sell large amounts of bloody raw seafood and meats  as well as countless other imported from China products hygiene cross contamination is a great concern as plastic bags are most likely to be reused only as garbage bags but reusable bags would be used against to place more food inside.  Please place the health and safety of your citizens.

We the people support measure that actually makes a difference and help our community. Such as making better storm drain covers and street sweepers. Also I would like to push reward better than punish everyone if we can reward residents for bring plastic and paper leftovers to designed areas for recycling or composting we can really make a difference in trash amounts in the city. We should also help store and restaurant owners find biodegradable bags and packaging that fit their needs and budgets. Please put these measure to a public vote or future hearing thank you.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cinco De Mayo weekend - San Jose's buracracy at its worst

Today is Cinco De Mayo, I wonder what does Cinco De Mayo means to you aside from its May 5 in its direct official translation. 

While it officially defined as the day Mexican Indiginous and Spanish colonists stopped French from invading North America. It was known as the battle of Puabla in which the Mexicans defeated the French army from invading Mexico. It was also taught that the French ultimately were wanting to join forces with the Confederate states to defeat and takeover the Union states up north.  Though in San Jose it means a week of nightmare spontaneous rowdiness in which the police do little about except setup numerous barricades throughout the city and preventing residents from going home. There had been reports that residents had to drive two hours out of their way in extreme congestion just to return to their home a few miles away due to the barricades or even spend a night parked in their cars. Not only are drivers blocked sometimes the police even block pedestrians from heading where they needed to go. Those using transit are also left stranded due to girdlock and reroutes which they might be prevented from getting to buses or trains. While in recent years the city claimed that residents can show proof of residency that they are just trying to return home it has been controversial whether the police would honor it as some residents claimed that they had to confront police drawing guns on them also would residents trying to get home in a whole different neighborhood but requires going through the roads to get there. Would police honor their requests? As how would the police know they are legitimately returning home not to go through and vandalize or meet up with their gang partners. The issue also affects residents just traveling through the city on the Freeways as they some times close down and force entire freeway traffic to detour off in a particular ramp and blocking off other ramps in order to prevent more traffic fr.

I live in the Evergreen area. While my neighborhood is generally east of much of the celebration commotion it is a potential nightmare if have to travel anywhere west of Capital Expressway on the first week of May.  Unlike commute or event traffic its never known where or when a Cinco De Mayo gridlock would occur and whether its possible to steer away from it it is not just the unreasonable revelers causing the jam but the police department which might mandate everyone go the route they want you to go with no way of turning around or to a less congested route. I remember a year when took nearly two hours to get home from church on a Sunday afternoon as well as one year when my sister trying to get home from Daly City when the freeway got shut down without notice. They claim they are do it to try to keep more troublemakers and vandals from gathering in troublespots but there must be better ways. Its very unpredictable its impossible to plan ahead to avoid problems. It would not be enough excuse for us to cancel appointments or church or any other activities that require going anywhere we could barely make aware of the situation until we get caught in it. The city always claim the same excuses over and over year after year. Even though it had plenty of opportunities to improve it relationship with its residents over the issues. The residents had complained for years. The city claims they could not know whether they should close down a street or freeway ahead of time but for many years they should had known potential trouble spots that had been subject to emergency road closure and alert residents and visitors ahead of time.

Each year the city comes up with many excuses about why they do what they do without noticing the residents ahead of time. They claim that they cannot predict what the crowd would do and they have to decide in a whelm to force traffic go in certain directions to control the flow of troublemakers. However since this as happened repeatedly for nearly a decade I am surprised that the city won't learn from its past lessons. For example there is no reason Caltrans and CHP cannot turn on electronic signs ahead of time as they already know historic recurring troublespots and have caltrans ready to adjust the signs to reflect current traffic conditions delay times exit and road/freeway closures/blockages, and be ready to issue a sigalert if a freeway becomes blocked. Traffic reporters are also either lazy or tightlipped on Cinco De Mayo as well compared to normal sudden emergency traffic jams until well after the jam had formed. Worst of all they continue to schedule the Sharks game at Cinco De Mayo weekend while its pretty obvious that large sporting events certain to fuel rowdyness which combined with large crowds and drinking during Cinco De Mayo weekend is bound to bring Mayhem. Other large cities in the country such as New York City and Chicago and around the world can deal with this kind of situation without taking such measures which essentially locks the city down for its residents. San Jose should really take a look at other cities with large Cinco De Mayo activites such as Los Angeles, Denver, as well as Puabla De Los Angeles in Mexico for handing revelers.

What San Jose could and should do to control chaos without declaring war on its innocent residents,

-Schedule the San Jose Sharks Game in another weekend
-Partner with Caltrans and CHP to program electronic signs to calculate commute times throughout the weekend as they usually do and to provide the most updated information on traffic congestion as well as road, freeway, interchange, and ramp closures or blockages. 
-Have Caltrans ready to issue a sigalert if situations require
-Partner with transit/traffic 511 as well as other traffic and news sources to alert potential trouble spots
-Find a way to alert residents by reverse phone calls, texts, or otherwise if violence erupts enough to warrant traffic quarantine.
-Have signs and and media communication to advise drivers traveling down 101 or 280 to travel on 85 when exit ramp shutdowns or traffic control measures are in effect
-Designate official "cruising" parade routes that are well supervised with designated waiting lines to get in that would not tie up traffic for others.

With some twicks San Jose can better its relationship with residents and visitors well maintaining a level of safety and keeping rowdyness in control.