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Increase in litter fine is weighed

The Baltimore Sun

Littering in Annapolis could wind up costing you $250 under a proposal from the city's mayor.

City Council members are expected to vote at their next meeting, on Dec. 10, whether the littering fine should be increased from $100 to $250.

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer expects the proposal to pass.

"We have hosts of public servants and volunteers that spend their time doing just that - picking up the trash," Moyer said. "People's time and taxpayer dollars are important. We want a clean city."

A public hearing on increasing the fine was held Monday, but no one spoke about the measure.

The proposed penalty would be higher than the $50 fine in Baltimore, but equal to the littering fine in Westminster.

The executive director of the Annapolis Business Association, Clare G. Vanderbeek, says a high littering fine is an effective deterrent.

"That's a steep amount," she said. "But it has to be in order for it to be effective."

In July, Alderman Samuel E. Shropshire sponsored a bill to ban the use of plastic bags in the city, which would have fined retailers and restaurants $500 for not providing recyclable paper bags or reusable bags. Environmentalists backed the ban but the proposed ordinance met stiff opposition from grocery stores and some business owners.

The proposed ordinance was killed by the City Council earlier this month.

The city is now distributing reusable cloth bags and has a committee that is examining the city's environmental practices and initiatives.

Moyer said an increase in the littering fine came from the debate about plastic bags.

"When you listened to rhetoric, it was about aesthetics and littering," she said.

Shropshire, a Ward 7 Democrat, supports the increase in the fine.

"When we strengthen the litter law, it's not only for the sake of having less trash in the streets," he said. "We're indirectly trying to protect the bay."

Chris Corsaut, an Annapolis resident, agreed that a tidy city is important as he picked up a Styrofoam cup and a stray newspaper off of Main Street. But the 23-year-old said the fine is too much.

"That's rough," he said. "A $100 fine will teach you a lesson as much as a $250 fine."

Corsaut admits he has thrown away an occasional apple core.

"It's biodegradable," he said with a shrug.

"They need to think of more creative ways than increasing fines," he added.

Annapolis police would be responsible for issuing tickets for people caught littering, and the fine would go into the city's general fund.

County police can enforce state laws and issue $140 fines for drivers who throw litter from their vehicles.

Some people questioned how the police would enforce the littering laws.

"I would be curious to see the monitoring and how they're actually going to pinpoint the people," said Annebeth Bunker, president of the Maryland Avenue and State Circle Association.

Bunker, who owns a specialty foods and wine shop, said she supports the proposed increase in the littering penalty, as she often picks up loose wrappers, coffee cups and beer cans in front of her business.

Shropshire said city police officers are often busy fighting crime and "have more important things to do" than enforce littering laws.

One resident enthusiastically welcomed the $250 fine and had another suggestion.

"I'd give them a $500 fine for throwing away a cigarette butt," said Molly Hall of Annapolis. "I think higher fees - it stops and makes people think."

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