Hats off to the Baltimore communities who won the city’s 2013 Clean Community Competition, judged on their efforts to beautify their neighborhoods by increasing recycling tonnage, cleaning lots, alleys and storm drains and other greening efforts.
But there’s an irony to the sponsorship of the competition. The cash prizes for the winners, announced today, came from the American Chemistry Council.
The ACC is the industry lobbying group that opposed this year’s Baltimore foam container ban that would have prohibited those polystyrene cups and carry-out containers frequently found clogging city storm-drains and waterways.
In fact, the ACC’s representative who opposed the ban before the City Council, Mike Levy, shared the podium today with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, lauding the city’s anti-littering and clean-up efforts.
Last June, the bill was poised to move forward in the City Council when it was removed from consideration on the eve of a vote – reportedly amid lobbying by Lisa Harris Jones, who represented the ACC.
Jones, a close friend of Mayor Rawlings-Blake and principal of the Harris Jones & Malone lobbying firm, said she did not speak with the bill’s sponsor, Councilman James B. Kraft, about pulling the legislation, which had seemed likely to win preliminary approval by the full Council.
Jones is no longer listed as a lobbyist for the ACC, but two members of her firm – Sean Malone and former State Sen. John A. Pica Jr. – are, according to city records.
Meanwhile, the ACC has hired another lobbyist, Frank D. Boston III, to keep an eye on Bill 12-0104, the polystyrene ban, which remains in the Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee chaired by Councilman Kraft.
Last month, the ACC was the subject of a special report by the D.C.-based watchdog journalism group, Center for Public Integrity.
The center highlighted the ACC’s efforts to squelch regulatory curbs – even simple disclosure requirements – affecting the chemical industry in state and city governments, including Baltimore.
Winners Announced at City Hall
The winners of the annual neighborhood spruce-up contest were announced today via a press release and congratulated in person by Rawlings-Blake, Levy and Public Works Director Alfred Foxx at an awards ceremony at City Hall.
Winners of the 2013 Clean Community Competition are:
• Northwest Quadrant: First Place: 3200 Carlisle Block Association; Second Place: Greater Remington Improvement Association (won First Place in 2012)
• Southwest Quadrant: First Place: South Baltimore Partnership; Second Place: Gwynns Falls Business and Homeowners Association (won First Place in 2012)
• Southeast Quadrant: First Place: Re-Build Johnston Square; Second Place: New Greenmount West Community Association
First-place winners were awarded $5,000 each and the second-place finishers received $1,000 each.
(Four city quadrants initially participated in the contest, but no community from the Northeast Quadrant submitted a final presentation to the city, according to Caron Brace, of the Mayor’s Office of Communications.)
A committee of judges assessed improvements and overall cleanliness, according to the press release. Extra points were awarded for adopting vacant lots through the “Power In Dirt” initiative and for installing clean-themed storm drain stencils.
“Innovative Solutions to Challenges”
The city’s release described the American Chemistry Council as representing “leading companies dedicated to providing innovative solutions to the challenges of today and tomorrow through plastics.”
Last June, Levy testified against the polystyrene bill, saying a ban on foam containers “will not reduce litter since the substitute food service products would be littered as well. And trading one type of littered item for another simply changes the makeup of litter without reducing it.”
Rather than ban specific products, Levy said his group supported “litter education,” recycling and, we now know, clean-up contests with good optics.