The Lacey City Council on Thursday night once again upheld the city’s plastic bag ban, voting 4-3 against putting the issue before voters and paying for those costs with a private group’s money.
The council voted quickly on the matter, spending a little over a minute to reach a 4-3 decision. As soon as the vote was complete, Mayor Andy Ryder adjourned the meeting at Mountain View Elementary.
But the meeting didn’t end so quickly for Councilman Michael Steadman, who was approached after it was over by Justin Kover, chairman of a political action committee called the Effective Self-Governance Association.
The ESGA was willing to spend $2,500 to get the plastic bag ban on the November ballot, and members of the group had recently testified at City Council meetings, urging the council to support their cause. That effort led to Thursday night’s vote.
This is the third time council members have voted on the bag ban. They voted 4-3 to approve the ban in early 2014, joining Olympia, Tumwater and unincorporated Thurston County. The ban took effect in July 2014.
That was followed by a county-conducted online survey six months later, which showed that 57 percent of the 1,365 Lacey residents surveyed wanted the ban lifted.
Based on that data, Councilman Lenny Greenstein made a motion in May to get the issue before voters, but it also failed 4-3.
Greenstein and council members Virgil Clarkson and Jason Hearn have wanted voters to decide the bag ban issue all along. Mayor Ryder, Deputy Mayor Cynthia Pratt and council members Jeff Gadman and Steadman have voted to support the ban without a vote.
Steadman defended his vote in May on Facebook, but Kover challenged him online, asking whether he would support putting the issue before voters if he could raise the money.
A screenshot of that Facebook conversation was sent to The Olympian. It appears to show Steadman agreeing to Kover’s terms.
After Thursday’s vote, Kover approached Steadman and asked, “Why did you break your word?”
Kover said later that he didn’t get an answer so he walked away.
Steadman acknowledged Thursday that he did say he would support putting the issue before voters if Kover could raise the money, but he also said he wouldn’t be bullied into a decision. He added, too, that Kover didn’t keep his word, saying he asked Kover for an itemized list of donors to the political action committee to ensure they were from Lacey.
Kover disputed that Thursday night. “The sum of our deal was on Facebook,” he said.
Before the plastic bag ban vote Thursday night, the council was peppered with questions from an audience of about 50 people at Mountain View, at the second of three “on the road” meetings for the council.
The audience asked questions about the city’s budget, sales taxes, recreational marijuana, quality of life issues in northeast Lacey, traffic on Marvin Road and the city’s fireworks ordinance.
Public Works Director Scott Egger told the crowd that the city and Hill-Betti Partnership will seek a transportation improvement board grant to fund road improvements to Marvin Road between Britton Parkway and 30th Avenue Northeast.
Hill-Betti is a property owner in the area.
The estimated cost of the project is $4.7 million. Hill-Betti would pick up $1.1 million of the cost, while the city would pay $1.2 million. The difference would be covered by the grant, Egger said.