The city of Monterey may back off a 25-cent fee retailers are supposed to charge patrons for large, grocery-size bags.
The paper-bag fee, intended to encourage the public to use reusable bags when they go shopping, started at 10 cents and then jumped to 25 cents under a city law that also banned retailers from using plastic bags.
But council members said Tuesday the 25-cent charge, which took effect this month and goes to retailers, is causing confusion. Some people think the city is getting the money, while some shoppers and retailers are confused about the size of bags covered by the charge.
Councilwoman Libby Downey said the ban on plastic bags remains vital as a way to reduce marine pollution and litter, but the abrupt increase from 10 to 25 cents may not be ideal for educating the public.
Councilman Frank Sollecito said the plastic-bag ban was not meant as punishment, but was instituted because city officials "believe in the science." He said the measure was working with the 10-cent charge, and the city should return there and maintain public education efforts.
Councilman Alan Haffa cast the only dissenting vote, saying he believed the city is reacting to a small number of complaints while "a lot of the public supports what we are doing."
Just the fact the city is getting complaints about the measure, Haffa reasoned, shows public awareness is on the rise about reusable shopping bags.
City Attorney Christine Davi said it may be awhile before a proposal to roll back the fee is ready for council action.
"It's not as easy as just saying we don't like 25 cents," she said.
Larry Parsons can be reached at 646-4379 or firstname.lastname@example.org.