Seattle Imposes Bag Fee and Foam Ban

Seattle City Council has voted to impose a 20 cent fee on paper and plastic bags in all grocery, drug, and convenience stores, beginning January 1, 2009. The city has also decided to ban plastic foam food and drink containers.

Replacements for these containers are already being used in Seattle and are made of sugar cane, beets, or corn. Grocery stores are being given an 18-month extension on the ban as replacing foam meat trays is complicated, due to machinery and health concerns. Read the full article on the new policies here.

4 Day School Week for Rural American Students

Many rural school districts across the U.S. are considering switching to a 4-day week mainly to save on transportation costs. 100 schools in 16 states have already made the switch. One school district reports saving $65,000 on transportation alone. Other districts report better student performance and improved school attendance. Read an article about the switch over.

Bottled Water Ban in Vancouver?

Vancouver councillor Tim Stevenson has put forward a motion to ban
bottled water in city facilities. In the
motion, Stevenson cites compelling reasons why bottled water should not be
available in city facilities, including the fact that 80% of waste from plastic
bottles ends up in landfills and that bottled water is not required to meet the
same health standards as tap water. Stevenson suggests that money saved from
not providing bottled water could be used to buy reusable bottles for city
staff. Read an article about the initiative.

BC Government Penalizing Disabled People with IQ Above 70

In July 2008 the BC government privately signed a new order that will deny access to services (such as housing) to developmentally disabled people with an IQ above 70. In 2007 a BC Court of Appeal ruled that the government did not have the authority to deny services based on IQ and this July 2008 order allows the government to sidestep that ruling. Although Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman has said that this new criterion of what it means to be disabled was signed as a temporary measure, groups who advocate on behalf of the developmentally disabled say they were not consulted or given any warning about it. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Representative for Children and Youth BC, says the wording isn’t even clear that the definition applies only to adults and fears that disabled teenagers could be made homeless because of it. Read an excellent opinion piece on the issue in the Vancouver Sun. Check out the BC Association for Community Living’s website, which boasts a comprehensive list of recent articles about this issue.

Climate Change Challenges Municipal Infrastructure

The number of severe storms and occurences of unusual weather in Canada and the United States is increasing, which is weakening municipal infrastructure such as sewage systems. Extreme weather events are making some areas more prone to chronic flooding and sewage backups because of more extreme storm events driven by climate change. This article in the Vancouver Sun warns that some municipalities should prepare to spend considerable amounts of money to upgrade vulnerable infrastructure.

Curbside Composing in Port Coquitlam

On July 14, 2008 Port Coquitlam launched its composting program.
Single-family homes are being asked to divert vegetable peels, coffee
grounds, and fresh fruit scraps from the garbage to their lawn
trimmings bin, to be collected at the curbside. The City is hoping to
reduce the amount of waste going to landfills by 16-26% per year, which
is part of Metro Vancouver’s plan to divert 70% of waste currently
going to dumps by 2015. Port Coquitlam’s composting program should
also lower waste disposal costs: hauling garbage costs $68/tonne while
kitchen and garden waste costs $50/tonne. Read an article about the recycling program or visit Port Coquitlam’s Kitchen Green Waste Collection Program website.

Ottawa Municipal Tax Reform?

City of Ottawa officials are anticipating a public backlash when new
property tax assessments are mailed out later this year. Increases in
property values, which had previously been frozen for the past three
years, has promped the city to begin an advertising campaign to alert
residents to the fact that the province controls the assessment system
and the city has little control. Ottawa is calling on the province to
overhaul the municipal tax system. This article in the Ottawa Citizen also points out that many U.S. states and almost all European countries have moved away from the property tax system.

International Local Government GHG Emissions Analysis Protocol

Since November 2007, ICLEI has been working with many organizations including the UN Environmental Program, the International Energy Agency, FCM and ICLE cities and stakeholders, to develop an easily implemented set of guidelines to assist local governments in quantifying GHG emissions from their internal operations and from their community as a whole.

The document consists of the general principles and philosophies that any local government, regardless of location, should adhere to when doing a GHG inventory. Release Version 1.0 of the Protocol is now available and ICLEI is welcoming any comments and feedback. Click here for more information about the Protocol and to download it.

Human Rights and Affordable Housing in Ontario

Report on the Consultation on Human Rights and Rental Housing in Ontario was released by the Ontario Human Rights Commission in
mid-June 2008. The report finds that all levels of government, as well as public and private sector landlors, discriminate against immigrants, refugees, single parents, the disabled, aboriginals, and the mentally ill. Such discriminating acts include advertising adult-only buildings or imposing credit checks, rent deposits, and minimum income requirements. The Report recommends that the federal government adopt a national housing strategy that would include measurable targets and sufficient funds to tackle homelessness. Also recommended is more rent supplements for poor families on the waiting list for public housing: the shelter allowance portion of welfare is only $544/month, whereas average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in Toronto is $1,052. Read an article about the report in the Toronto Star, or read the full report here.