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Stamford officials to vote on plastic bag ban, leaf pickup plan

September 30, 2018

STAMFORD — Two controversial ordinances could be in the bag Monday night.

The Board of Representatives are scheduled to vote on an ordinance to ban plastic shopping bags and require retailers to charge 10 cents for paper. They will also decide on the much-debated leaf pickup plan.

The leaf pickup ordinance, which drove a three-hour hearing last week, seeks to reverse Mayor David Martin’s recent decision to require residents to bag leaves for pickup.

The measure aims to codify loose-leaf pickup, which Martin has cut in favor of a bagged system for this fall. The ordinance would let residents decide whether they want to pack their leaves. The current ordinance only states the city will pick up leaves, but does not specify the method.

For decades, the city swept up tree debris if residents pushed it past the curb. As leaves soon start coming down, Martin’s move has kicked up a political whirlwind.

Martin said he chose to nix the program as a cost-savings measure after city representatives cut his budget proposal last spring. Wrangling loose leaves costs the city $660,000 a year, he has said, and involves 100 employees, 60 pieces of equipment and 4,000 hours of overtime.

But several city representatives see the program change as political retribution. The board cut Martin’s proposed budget by $1.4 million but added more money to the contingency account. Since the reduction, Martin has cut popular services and activities like the Fourth of July fireworks to save money.

Dozens of residents attended an Operations Committee meeting last week and nearly all of them spoke against the mayor’s leaf pickup plan.

The change disproportionately affects those in North Stamford who have large parcels to clean and will push the city’s cost savings on them, residents and officials said. The residents, if not up for the work, would also have to hire contractors and purchase the bags.

A compromise resolution — which would have asked Martin for a year’s delay of the new bagged-leaf plan — was withdrawn before Thursday’s meeting with city representatives. They instead voted 8-1 in favor of bringing the ordinance to the full board on Monday.

Martin and his staff said tossing loose-leaf pickup would save the city nearly $240,000. He also reiterated on on Thursday that it was necessary because his budget proposal had been cut.

City Rep. John Zelinsky, D-11, vice chairman of the Operations Committee, said he is not convinced the savings figures are accurate, citing the earlier $660,000 estimate. He also said Martin has “disappointed” his constituents.

Martin said the ordinance was “too little, too late.”

“We are now committed to a course of action,” Martin said. “So if you now come along and say you have to cut the budget, but now I’m going to specify you have to provide the service, that just doesn’t fly.”

Martin has veto power, which could send the ordinance back to the full board at its next regular meeting on Nov. 1 — likely too late to change pickup plans this fall.

barry.lytton@stamfordadvocate.com; 203-964-2263; @bglytton

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