NEWARK, NJ - The City Council delayed a vote on a bill that would ban plastic bags in Newark until officials complete community meetings that will help decide how to implement such a measure.
In agreement with the administration, the council decided on Thursday to defer the bill for the sixth time, punting a vote on the ordinance to one of its meetings in December. A sign posted inside an elevator at City Hall showed a host of meetings scheduled citywide to discuss the matter with residents.
Kenyatta Stewart, the city’s corporation counsel, said officials are deciding how to roll out the measure should it be adopted, including instituting a six-month pilot program and finding ways to advertise the law so residents are not caught off guard.
Stewart said among the concerns with the bill are people who believe the fines outlined in the ordinance would be levied against customers instead of retail establishments. Fines for using plastic bags, should the bill become law, would range from $250 to $1,000 for business establishments who don’t comply.
Stewart said the city has not determined whether it would charge customers a fee to use paper bags, as other municipalities around the state have done, and whether such an ordinance would be too much of a burden on small businesses.
“People are concerned about the smaller bodegas if they’re going to be able to provide bags and things of that nature,” Stewart said.
Over the course of time the bill has been making its way through the legislative process, council members have expressed concerns over its ineffectiveness if surrounding cities and towns don’t enforce such a law. Others believe the city bill should be scrapped and instead wait for the state legislature to make banning plastic bags a law for all of New Jersey.
The council did pass, without issue, administering more than $16 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that would fund four existing housing programs through August 2020.
The funds include more than $7 million for a Community Development Block Grant and $5.8 million for the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS program.
Another $2.4 million would fund the HOME Investments Partnerships program, which provides affordable housing to low-income residents and more than $600,000 would go toward an Emergency Solutions Grant, which provides assistance to the homeless.
The nine-member body also passed an ordinance that would grant a five-year tax abatement extension to the developer of Newark’s FBI headquarters.
While the developer, identified in the bill as Claremont Newark Urban Renewal LLC, had initially asked for a 15-year tax abatement extension for an improvement project at the site, Mayor Ras Baraka recommended only five years, according to the bill.