During this week’s City Council Meeting on June 4, they discussed both the Ban the Bag ordinance and the mayor’s Garbage Contract Proposal. City Councilman Festersen began by acknowledging the major sustainable strides in Omaha. Wohlners Neighborhood Grocery created measures to not use plastic bag and offers a 5% discount for reusable bags. City Councilman Rich Pahls, pointed out how it was interesting to see the younger people really making an effort from kindergarten to graduate level classes. He encouraged the high school Students for Sustainability to “meet with the business world” to organize with all of the players to have a more comprehensive approach. He argued that a one size does not fit all and that he wants everyone to find their own solutions. City Councilman Harding, also agreed that all stakeholders must work together instead of focusing only on one component. The Students for Sustainability, however, have been organizing together, even collecting over 10,000 signatures for support of this ban the bag. They meet every two weeks during school year and once a week during the summer. In conclusion, the override of the mayor’s veto was unsuccessful with one vote short from a majority: four to three. City Councilman Harding, however, revealed that he is currently working on a resolution for plastic waste to not just plastic bag. He hopes to have it out soon. City Councilman Jerram suggested that the students use those 10,000 signatures to fuel another campaign to petition this issue to be on the 2020 ballot. City Councilman Palermo concluded stating this issue is not going anywhere.
On the other hand, Mayor Jean Stothert testified with new additions to the garbage proposal, explaining that she is listening to the concerns of her constituents. Her compromise is a $22.7 million, 10-year contract with FCC Environmental, that has an added Saturday collection for all of yard waste, with six weeks in spring and six weeks in fall to allow unlimited yard waste pick up, and a sticker program year-round. Larger households could also request three carts, instead of two, after 90 days at no additional charge. City Councilman Harding simply did not think it would be reasonable to have Saturday pickups for yard waste. City Councilman Jerram regarded this Saturday collection as “a sad reflection of the compost system in Omaha” and that he must recognize his constituents concerns for a contract that recognizes how separating yard waste is an environmental benefit. On the other hand, Council member Rich Pahls wants to pursue a contract with West Central Sanitation, a Minnesota company that proposed a less-expensive proposal to Omaha. Pahls recounts this company as “something unique.” In conclusion, the City Council members denied the proposal 6-1, which means the Omaha Public Works Department must create a new proposal and present to the city council before the current bids expire at the end of July.