CITY HALL — The mayor's floor leader in the City Council is sitting on the fence on a proposed ban on plastic shopping bags.
"I'd like to know more about it before I have to vote on it," said Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th) following a committee meeting Wednesday.
In that, he echoed Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose press office has said the administration is weighing the proposal while the mayor is in Israel attending a leadership conference in connection with the 90th birthday of Israeli President Shimon Peres.
"He'll be back in the saddle in a couple days, and we'll hear," O'Connor said.
The Committee on Health and Environmental Protection heard testimony from those in favor and opposed on Tuesday, but did not act to pass it. O'Connor said he is "confident" it will not be on the agenda of next week's council meeting.
With a proposal "this controversial," O'Connor said, "it's important to be sure you understand all the nuances."
Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), the lead sponsor, says Chicagoans use an average of 500 plastic shopping bags a year, which translates to 3.7 million a day.
O'Connor, however, heeded Illinois Retail Merchants Association warnings that it would constitute a "tax" in that paper bags are more expensive than plastic, adding that cost could be passed on to consumers. O'Connor said it would be "difficult" for many alderman to vote for the ban if it were to raise prices.
"It creates more environmental damage to create the paper bags than it does to use the plastic, if I'm reading the information correctly," he added.
"I actually give out cloth bags" with his name on them, O'Connor said, "because I like to encourage people to utilize them." Yet he acknowledged, banning plastic shopping bags outright "would be a change in the way most people shop."
Ald. George Cardenas (12th), chairman of the Health Committee, has said the votes are there to pass it through committee.
"I wouldn't predict it," O'Connor said. "I just don't believe that it's ready to be teed up. George obviously will make that call."