The Brief: Paper or Plastic? Either Way, It Could Cost You 5 Cents a Bag

Plus, the first truly negative salvo of the mayoral campaign.

1. City Council considers a new five-cent fee on plastic and paper shopping bags.

The Gist: City Councilman Mark Squilla introduced legislation that would charge shoppers five cents for every bag they use, whether paper or plastic. Unlike past proposed bag taxes, this one seems designed purely as an anti-litter initiative, rather than as a revenue raising program. Squilla’s bill would give three of each five cent charge to the merchant, and just two cents to the city. Tricia L. Nadolny reports for the Inquirer that Squilla thinks his tax would raise $1 million to $1.5 million a year, “which would cover the cost of enforcement and benefit an antilittering campaign.”

Why It Matters: This one could actually happen. The 2009 bag tax proposed by former City Councilman (now mayoral candidate) Jim Kenney was pretty high: a quarter a bag. Kenney then tried to ban plastic bags, but failed. And by giving merchants a big cut of the profits, Squilla’s bill might just win over the bag tax’s biggest opponents. Why is it important for the city? Plastic bags in particular are one of the biggest single contributors to the city’s massive litter problem. If the tax changes consumer habits, that means fewer bags in circulation, which means fewer bags on city sidewalks, tangled up in trees, or blowing like tumbleweeds down city streets.

2. Anthony Williams campaign launches website — — attacking records of Jim Kenney and Lynne Abraham.

The Gist: The website compiles easy-to-attack bad calls and stupid quotes from the long, public careers of both Kenney and Abraham. The page is slickly designed. Kenney and Abraham appear sinister. The attacks on both focus on their seeming sympathies for cops accused of wrongdoing, which is about as hot-button as it gets given the national and local climate.

Why It Matters: Williams disagrees, but this site probably constitutes the first unambiguously negative attack of the mayoral campaign. Abraham has lobbed a lot of grenades herself, but those have been one-off press releases tied to news of the day. This site does something more: it attempts to cast Williams’s leading rivals as hostile to communities that distrust the police. There’s also a chance this website will serve as a template of television attack ads to come, either paid for directly by the Williams campaign or by his super PAC allies. The law forbids Williams or his campaign from coordinating efforts with the super PAC, but a website like this telegraphs a message to those allies pretty clearly: hit my opponents hard, and hit them on this issue.

The attacks are grounded in public statements, public votes and prosecutorial decisions, all of which is fair ground. These attacks aren’t out of bounds. But they do suggest that Williams — once seen as an enormous favorite in the race — is getting nervous about just how close this race is.

3. Councilwoman Cindy Bass Wants to Ban Developers from Land Bank and Other City Land Agencies

The Gist: Claudia Vargas writes for the Inquirer:

Councilwoman Cindy Bass wants to forbid any developer from taking part in the city’s land acquisition and disposition process.

Bass introduced a bill Thursday that would ban any person ‘who deals in real estate” to be a board member or employee of any agency that has control over city-owned property. Her intention is to avoid any conflict of interest in the city’s land transaction process.

Bass’s bill is opposed by Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, who was the driving force behind the creation of the land bank.

Why It Matters: Odds are, this bill goes nowhere, at least not as written. But it’s notable nonetheless in that that it highlights the deep distrust a lot of council members have of developers seeking land from the city. And it’s also a pretty striking example of why developers consider the city to its own worst enemy when it comes to redeveloping its massive inventory of vacant property.

4. Bonus Item: Sexy, Grooving, Terrifying Michael Nutter

Thanks, Billy Penn, for making it impossible to fall asleep last night — or ever again.