The Portland City Council left one important piece of unfinished business when it enacted the 5-cent fee on plastic bags: what do to with the revenue created by this new fee?

The bill as passed simply allows the big grocery store chains to pocket the money. That’s just not fair.

Sacrifice should be shared. If regular working folks are going to take a hit, the grocery store chains shouldn’t make a profit from a problem that, to be honest, they created in the first place.

Press Herald columnist Ethan Strimling has argued that low-income people who can’t afford their own reusable bags should get reusable bags for free.

That’d be a great use of the money – the City Council seems to have forgotten that people living on food stamps can’t afford to buy a bunch of canvas bags to avoid the fee.

During the public comment period at the June 16 City Council meeting, people suggested the city switch to covered recycling bins so that plastic bags don’t blow away and become litter.

Others suggested using the money to clean plastic bags from our parks, beaches and sewers.

The City Council says that there isn’t room in the city’s budget for these services – but all they need to do is eliminate the corporate handout they just created.

In fact, the special task force chaired by Councilor Ed Suslovic recommended that a majority of the money from the fee go to these kinds of public purposes. Also, an amendment to adopt the task force’s formula was drafted by Councilor David Marshall, but the council adjourned without voting on it.

Other towns are already talking about enacting similar fees, and they’re likely to use Portland’s bill as a model.

The council should address this unfinished business before the bill goes into effect next year.

Steven Biel

Portland