Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Bag Tax – Skinning the Cat

Why do I have to pay for bags when I shop in the city? On February 1, 2017, the city of Chicago imposed a bag tax. Consumers purchasing products within the city limits are asked to bring our own reusable bags or pay. The bags are 7 cents a piece of which the city will get 5 cents and the retailers will get the remaining 2. According to a Chicago Tribune article, the city stands to make 12.9 million dollars.

We pay for air. We pay for water to drink and then we pay tax on that. Soon we’re going to pay a tax on sweetened beverages. We pay to have our garbage picked up, and beginning July 1, we’ll pay a water and sewerage tax. At some point, as consumers and residents we have to stand up. We cannot keep normalizing this foolishness. This bag tax is another way for the city to piss on us and tell us it’s rain. I know what the stench of disregard for residents smells like, and this bag tax is it. Does the mayor pay the bag tax?

The bag tax is supposed to encourage people to recycle. And I definitely believe in recycling, but why be punitive? Why not give us 7 cents for bringing our own bags?  Retailers have that option.  Pete’s Produce pays 5 cents to customers for bringing bags. That’s a better idea to me. We pass too many costs on to the consumer in a city that pretends to be broke but is always being beautified in areas that attract tourists. The city had money to pay for the Cubs win and we always seem to have enough money for the die the lake green every year for St. Patrick's Day.

I’m sick of feels being imposed on, and I don’t see where it benefits me. Downtown Chicago is beautiful. The north side is lovely. The south where I live is full abandoned properties. The streets are in need of repair and we are under siege from the violence in our own neighborhoods. At What point do we individually and collectively say, “That’s enough?” Well, I'm saying that's enough.

I refuse to pay for bags. I don’t care if they are only 7 cents. That money adds up. I can easily solve my problem because I don’t have to shop in the city. I can take my hard earned dollars to the nearby suburbs, and I will when I want to do major shopping. But what about the people who don’t have the means to shop anywhere else but in the city? They will be hardest hit by this bag tax, so they’ll have to bring their own bags or ante up that cash for bags. This is my Resistance! I will not pay for bags.

Incident #1 I forgot about the bag tax when I went into Walgreens to purchase a few things. The cashier asked if I needed a bag, I said no and proceeded to put my stuff into my pockets and my purse.

Incident #2 I went to Family Dollar to get some dog food. This time I was ready. I placed my bag on the counter, but because I didn’t hand my bag to the cashier, she assumed I was bagging my own stuff. She explained that if customers give her the bags, she will gladly bag their stuff. I wasn’t exactly clear on who does the bagging when I bring my own bags, so I let it go because I needed clarity.

Incident #3 I went to pick up a prescription for my mother from Walgreens and decided to pick some items to do laundry. The cashier asked if I wanted to purchase a bag. I said no and placed my bag on the counter. She gave me my change and moved on to the next customer. So, I asked if I had to bag my own stuff. She said yes. I walked out of the store thinking about this and decide against it. I walked back into the store and ask for a refund. She was irritated and so was I, but I was not blaming her. I explained that I know that she has to do her job, but I’m not bringing my own bag and bagging my stuff.  I went home and wrote a complaint to Walgreens. Though they acknowledged the complaint, I did not receive a call back as requested.

Incident #4 I went to Target and bought a few items. I realized when I got to cashier that I had left my bag in the car. I had more stuff than would fit in my pockets and purse. So, I asked her to hold my stuff until I went to my car and came back. She did. I ended up bagging my own stuff because the cashier was kind enough to keep an eye on it until I came back.

To combat this bag tax, I realize that I have to have a strategy. I went to Mariano’s which is outside of the city limits, so the bags are free. I purchased a couple of reusable bags to keep in my car. When I go to Target in the suburbs, I’m going to reuse those bags as well. My mother has always told me that there is more than one way to skin a cat. This cat will need nine lives before I pay a bag tax. 

What are your thoughts on the bag tax? Do you think it encourages recycling? Leave a comment in the comment section.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Teacher’s Worst Nightmare

It’s been a long and challenging week. I have not been able to erase the memory of a former student from my mind. I keep seeing his round brooding face as he sat in my class. And now he’s dead. He was one of three young men found shot to death in a car. One of the other young men is also a former student. Though I did not teach him, I did have both of his younger brothers. My former student also has a younger brother who is a student in our school now.

My student’s death is troubling because he predicted it. Like too many young Black males he thought death at an early age was inevitable. So, he didn’t think about his future; He didn’t plan for one. When he was in 7th grade, I asked the students to write an essay where they saw themselves in 10 years

“You’ll be in your early 20s. Will you still be in school? Will you have a job? Will you be married? What will you be doing?” I like to ask students to begin thinking about their future. And I tell them it’s ok if they aren’t sure or don’t know. I also explain that as time goes on they may change their minds.

My student raised his hand. I acknowledged him.

“I don’t want to do this assignment,” he said.

“Why?” I asked.

“No disrespect, but I don’t think I’ll live that long.” There was no bitterness or anger in his voice. It was just matter of fact.

His words stilled me. I didn’t push him to complete the assignment. Instead I talked to him about why he didn’t think he’d live that long. I learned that tragedy had been visited upon his family. He had an older brother to die tragically and another in jail for murder. These two brothers would show up in his writing, and I encouraged him to write about it. To get it out. He seemed open to the idea, but he never wrote in any depth. 

At the time, I was teaching writing twice a week to students in grades 5th through 8th.  I had multiple classes at each grade level totaling nine classes. So, I had close to 300 hundred students.  Though we talked a few times, the student and I did not form a close bond. As is typical of teenagers, we actually locked horns on occasion, but nothing major. Adolescents challenging adults is par for the course.
He graduated and went on to the neighborhood high school, and I would see him standing around with a group of guys from time to time. I’d blow and they’d wave and I kept going. Unlike other students who graduated, he never came back to visit. 

This week, I was looking for a letter of recommendation for a student that I had written when I ran across an essay my deceased student had written in 8th grade. I was trying to get students to enter a contest in which they wrote about barriers they faced in their lives. I opened up his essay and read it. It was about missing his brothers and not being able to trust anyone. I had made comments on it for his revision, but he never did the second draft nor did we talk about it. It was spring and the only thing on the minds of the 8th graders was graduation.

What I wrestle with his how do you give hope to the hopeless? I wonder did I do enough? What else could I have done when this type of thinking is so common among young Black men? If they don’t think they’re going to die, then they think they’ll end up in jail. So they live a life of urgency—of right now.

There are people whose lives are tragically cut short taking their dreams with them. But what do you say to a person who doesn’t dream? I don’t know. I have experienced the death of a student, and it never gets easier. Looking down into a casket of a young person gone before they’ve lived is one of a teacher’s worst nightmares.

He predicted he wouldn’t see his 20s.  And now he’s dead at 18.  He thought Death would come knocking? Was it a premonition or a self-full-filling prophecy? Did he ignore the knocking or throw the door open in defiance? Questions that have no answers. Questions that no longer matter for him.  Until we find some answers, others will follow.

My student did not find peace in life; I can only pray that he finds peace on the other side.