Letters to the editor

Plastic bag tax is bad for consumers

The Seattle mayor’s proposal to tax paper and plastic bags in Seattle is bad for the environment, consumers and retailers.

As someone who provides retailers with these bags, I was invited to a meeting the day before the mayor’s announcement was to be briefed by his staff. The mayor’s proposal is based on a similar tax that Ireland implemented in the late 1990s. Based on the comments from the mayor’s staff, they have not made any attempt to discover the negative impacts of this tax in Ireland. Here are some facts about the issue from Ireland.

1. The tax on plastic bags in Ireland reduced plastic grocery bag use by 90 percent but increased overall plastic use as consumers now need to purchase alternate bags that are thicker and use more resources instead of reusing grocery bags (PIFA/Kidwell Associates 2004).

2. Retailers in Ireland report the loss of 450 wire baskets and carts per month by retailer on average — a loss of about $39 million, which is passed on to consumers.

3. The tax has led to a significant increase in ‘push outs’ (shoppers filling their carts and walking straight out without paying) at a cost to retailers of $17.2 million annually. Again, this is passed on to consumers.

4. In studying the results of the tax in Ireland and the UK, research by the government-funded Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) found that a levy on plastic bags in Ireland only made matters worse.

In our meeting before the announcement, the mayor’s office said a major reason for this tax is the public’s perception of plastic bags as a significant litter problem. They also stated that while this is a public perception, plastic bags are simply not a significant part of the litter problem.

The mayor’s office also said it intended to provide low income and elderly citizens with free cloth bags. My response to this was, “Rather than fund something that is not a problem, why don’t you spend the money to educate consumers in the truth about litter and educate them in how to effectively recycle plastic bags?”

Mercer Island Directory

Once again, residents of Mercer Island opened their mailboxes three weeks ago and found the latest copy of a telephone directory published by a guild that supports Children’s Hospital. This book has been coming out every spring for over 40 years. The members of the guild heartily thank all the volunteers who sat with us on March 21 and stuffed the envelopes in preparation for mailing. It all went smoothly, and we are done in record time.

The dedicated group of women who work on the directory strive to make sure that names, addresses and telephone numbers are current and correct. About four months ago, the City of Mercer Island installed a new telephone system and all their numbers were changed. Regrettably, one important mistake was made, and we would like everyone to make note of it and correct your book: On pages 1 and 3, emergency numbers and the other Police business number should be 275-7610.

The directory is sent out free to all residents of Mercer Island. We ask for donations to cover the cost of publication, and all extra monies are sent to the hospital to help with uncompensated care. In the last 45 years that the directory has been distributed, donations have exceeded $2,650,000. We are proud of our accomplishments. Extra copies of the book are available at the Chamber of Commerce and Island Books.

The Mercer Island Guild is always looking for new members. We meet once a month, but as we prepare the book, there are other times when we get together. Please call 232-1844 for more information and join us in this important endeavor.

Martha Weiss

Mercer Island Guild

MISF says thank you

The Mercer Island Schools Foundation raised over $200,000 at the fifth annual Community and Business Leaders Breakfast.

We want to thank the business community and the Mercer Island community, which continue to invest in our schools and teachers, ensuring that we can provide the materials and training necessary for outstanding education. This incredible outpouring of generosity will ensure excellence in education, rich in varied learning experiences that encourage all students to reach their full potential.

Over 450 people attended the breakfast fundraiser, held at Mercer Island High School on Tuesday, March 25.

Champion Sponsor Wells Fargo honored the seventh-grade Social Studies team with the 2008 Excellence in Teaching Award for their outstanding work in implementing a new curriculum, Mercer Island’s first online course and a gifted program.

In a continued partnership with Bailey Gatzert Elementary School in Seattle, 10 percent of the funds raised will go to a community with fewer resources.

Business sponsors, donation-matching Angels and the community attendees were the key to our fundraising success.

The Mercer Island Schools Foundation is extremely grateful for the great partnership we have with an outstanding Mercer Island community.

The Mercer Island Schools Foundation

Dirk van der Burch, President

Penny Yantis, Executive Director

Island music in China

Spring break this year was different for 54 MIHS students. Members of the MIHS Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band traveled to China to tour and perform music. They were accompanied by MIHS music department staff as well as Craig Olson, associate principal at MIHS, and four additional parent chaperones.

Band Directors Parker Bixby and David Bentley planned and directed the trip, providing leadership for the entire group. The group traveled to the Chinese cities of Beijing, Zhengzhou, Kaifeng, Luoyang and then back to Beijing. They performed on the Great Wall, at a high school in Kaifeng, at a teachers college in Zhengzhou and at a music club in Luoyang. The group also attended two Chinese musical performances, one with ancient Chinese instruments, and they viewed a special Kung Fu demonstration put on by Buddhist monks.

The extra effort put forth by Bixby and Bentley to make this trip happen, with help from staff members Ryan Lane, Chuck Colburn and Carole Krell, was remarkable. In the past three years, students in the MIHS Band Program have participated in the Tournament of Roses Parade, played at a Monday Night Football game here in Seattle, participated in an exchange program with Pasco High School, and those in the Wind Ensemble and the Jazz Band have now traveled and performed in China. These activities are in addition to the myriad of other rehearsals, performances, competitions and daily class responsibilities that Bentley and Bixby manage, as well as the teaching and encouragement they provide for the steady progress that students make in developing their musical skills. These educators are truly Mercer Island treasures and should be recognized as such. Thanks are obviously also owed to the MIHS administration for supporting these people and providing them with a solid place to help kids learn from these rich experiences.

This trip couldn’t have happened without the support of many groups and individuals. Another MI treasure, world class trumpeter Allen Vizzutti, supported the band and recruited a close friend, fellow world class trumpeter Vince DiMartino, to come from Kentucky to MIHS for a benefit concert that was held on Feb. 23. The benefit was a huge success, with the students playing for over two hours with these two remarkable professional musicians to a standing-room only auditorium. The concert was organized by volunteer Cathy Ramsay. This concert marks the second time that Mr. Vizzutti has contributed his talents to a major fundraising effort for the band.

Others contributing to the trip’s success include the Mercer Island Rotary Club, the Mercer Island Arts Council, the Mercer Island Community Fund, the Mercer Island Schools Foundation and the MIHS PTSA. All of this support was important and appreciated!

Mercer Island businesses including the MI Car Wash, Alpenland, Coldwell Banker Bain, the South-end Starbucks and the Storage Court of MI also contributed to the trip’s success. KOMO radio supported the trip, as did the EJ Bartells Company, Zegrahm Expeditions and the Island Insurance Foundation. Alki Bakery contributed significantly to the concert evening in February.

These trips don’t happen without support from lots of people and without encouragement from the school district, the teachers themselves, parents, and of course the students involved. The students invested a lot of effort in the trip to raise their own funds and to do their regular school work in addition to learning and preparing the extra music needed for the trip. Hopefully this lifetime educational and cultural event will help them remember their time on MI and in the MIHS band program as a special time for them.

MIHS China Trip Steering Committee

Dr. Al Azose, Mary Jo Bruckner, Suzanne Foster, Erik Jensen, Kanako Kashima, Tracey Landsman, Cathy Chen Lee, Beth Picardo, Paul Picardo, Cathy Ramsay and Sue Reichert

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