Inside City Hall: Did Lisa Harris Jones stall the polystyrene cup ban?

Lisa and Damian Center Maryland Inside Out

Lisa Harris Jones is co-host of podcast “Inside Out” with public relations guru Damian O’Doherty.

Photo by: Center Maryland

A proposed Styrofoam cup and container ban had been unanimously approved in committee and had strong support leading up to today’s scheduled second reader vote in the Baltimore City Council.

Or so advocates thought.

“I thought it looked pretty good and that it was coming up for a full Council vote at the 5 o’clock meeting. But then I find out they met at 3 o’clock and it’s been sent back to committee?” said George Peters Jr., of Hampden, founder of Zero Litter and an active advocate for the ban.

Asked to explain his reason for pulling the bill, Councilman James B. Kraft (the bill’s chief sponsor), said later that “there were just some concerns about the bill and we’re going to go back and do some work on it.” Kraft zipped off to an event involving visiting school children and didn’t elaborate.

Peters said he’d had an inkling something was going on when certain Council members who were friendly to the bill appeared to be avoiding him in recent days – and not returning his calls.

“These are people where we each have each other’s cell phone number and, suddenly, crickets,” said Peters, who was nevertheless taken aback by today’s turn of events.

Paid Lobbyist for Chemistry Council

How did Council support for the bill – aimed at getting the cups and containers out of the city’s waste stream, streets and waterways – abruptly erode?

Sources say lobbyist Lisa Harris Jones, registered to represent the American Chemistry Council before the City Council “on polystyrene and related matters,” was in City Hall today working the bill hard.

Jones has been in the news because of her close relations with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other elected officials that her firm, Harris Jones & Malone, lobbies.

Did Not Speak to Kraft

Jones confirmed tonight that she was in City Hall, but said, “I did I did not speak with Councilman Kraft concerning his decision to send his bill back to committee.”

She received $12,500 last year from the Washington-based Chemistry Council, while her husband and lobbying partner, Sean Malone, picked up $6,250, according to disclosure forms filed with the Baltimore Ethics Board.

Asked to discuss her substantive critique of the bill on her client’s behalf, Jones told The Brew, “I’m not authorized by my client to speak about that.” But she provided a copy of her client’s oral testimony delivered to the committee last week.

“We support the concept [of] litter education and prevention, waste minimization and recycling, and supporting programs that address all litter and waste to keep the city of Baltimore clean,” said Mike Levy, director of the Chemistry Council’s Plastics Food Service Packaging Group, in the statement.

Jones, whose firm represents nearly half of the total businesses seeking favors from City Hall, has been in the news because of her close personal friendship with Mayor Rawlings-Blake.

Her Las Vegas wedding last month to Malone – officiated by the mayor and attended by numerous other elected officials attending a shopping center conference – raised eyebrows.

Then the disclosure that the mayor and her daughter stayed over the Memorial Day weekend at Jones’ Rehoboth Beach vacation house stirred even more controversy. The mayor has said she paid Jones $400 for the weekend beach house stay and produced a check made out to the lobbyist.

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  • davethesuave

    I cannot fault Ms. Jones for doing what she is paid to do, and doing it well.

    I can fault the American political system generally, politicians specifically, and active voters individually for allowing lobbying by special interest groups & their mouthpieces, “contributions” by corporations & PACs, and money in all its manifestations to corrupt our so-called “representative democracy”.
    It has been posited that money is the root of all evil. I would love to test the theory personally some day; in the meantime, how can we not see the results in the quotidian games being played, at our expense, in the hallowed halls of what passes for municipal “governance”?

  • janjamm

    Shame on the City Council—gutless. They would rather please the corporate lobbyists, then the people who elected them and care about the issue. Not banning a poisonous material like Styrofoam because it’s a “behavior problem,” is like not banning heroine because it’s a “behavior problem.” There is no “earthly” reason materials like Styrofoam should be in our environment. Even if people disposed of the containers properly, the stuff is still toxic to air when it is incinerated, the land when it releases constituents chemicals in landfills and especially to our water as it morphs into poisonous viscose materials that eventually form the glelatinous goo referred to as the ocean “garbage patch.” Failing to ban this stuff is a crime.

  • Lizzie 58

    Jim Kraft failed to provide any cost/benefit analysis of banning plastic foam food containers and to get citizen support beyond the environmentalists. And coming on top of the storm water runoff fees and the proposed bag tax, it was a hard sale with working and middle class citizens in this city feeling under siege.

    Baltimore Brew: please keep reporting on the activities of Harris Jones Malone. We are loving every minute of it.

  • ushanellore

    Bravo Brew–keep at the throats of the corrupt until they wither in shame.

  • KC123

    Thanks for all your coverage of Harris Jones Malone. I would hire them in a minute – they seem to do an excellent job. Thanks to your site I know they are bright, well connected, tenacious and popular. What more could you ask for in a lobbying team! i am proud that they are from Baltimore.

    • Tom Gregory

      Excellent spin job. Certainly “well connected” is the operative term. The poor and disenfranchised do not stand a chance for change in Baltimore’s/Maryland’s pay to play political machine.

  • trueheart4life

    Oh NO ~ it’s Slimy and Sleazy!!! Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy, Sleazy, Slimy … I’m reaching out to each of the clients:
    McDonald’s $18,000
    Lexington Square Partners $17,000
    American Chemistry Council $12,500
    Digicon Corp. $10,250
    Korean Retail Business Association $6,250
    East Baltimore Development Inc. $6,000
    Wal-Mart $5,000
    Xerox State & Local Solutions $1,000
    Joseph Smith & Sons $1,000

  • River Mud

    Reminds me of the 5 cent plastic bag tax at the state level. At the 11th hour, the plastics lobbying folks mobilized and hit up the PG County and Baltimore City reps (who supported the bag ban). They (lobbyists working for the plastics industry) convinced our representatives that a 5 cent bag tax is “racist and discriminatory” towards the African American community. Those lobbyists, from their comfy mansions in the suburbs, had the audacity to make such claims to our elected officials. And our Democrat elected officials believed it, and joined with Tea Party Republicans to defeat the “racist” 5 cent bag tax.

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