Aldermen Ed Smith, Walter Burnett, and Bob Fioretti got together this morning and called it a meeting of the City Council's committee on health. The one item on their agenda was consideration of a proposed ordinance imposing the latest Chicago prohibition: a ban on self-sealing plastic baggies smaller than two inches square that are often used to package drugs on the street.
Second-Ward alderman Fioretti, the chief sponsor of the proposal, conceded that outlawing the baggies probably wouldn't bring down the drug trade. But he argued that governments should do all they can to annoy and inconvenience it.
"I do believe the ongoing fight we have against drugs and gangs in our neighborhoods has to be approached on all levels, including some of the smallest levels we see," he said. "We want our streets to be safe, we want our kids to be safe, and we need to take the right kind of steps for it."
Twenty-seventh Ward alderman Burnett looked a little uneasy. "I signed onto this ordinance because I think we have to do everything we can to save lives and get drugs off our streets," he said. Then he added that he had a few misgivings about it.
"I was just outside talking to someone and I didn’t think about it until he said it, but generally when I get a brand-new suit, a lot of times they have extra buttons in plastic bags that they leave on the inside pocket," he said. "And I’m just concerned about legitimate legal people being put in a--"
"Well, first of all, as you know, in most of the suits that you buy, the bags are stapled and not self-sealing," Fioretti said. The ordinance, Fioretti pointed out, would impose a $1,500 fine on anyone who possesses the small baggies "under circumstances where one reasonably should know" they're going to be used for transporting or selling narcotics.
"So it is a little different here," Fioretti said. "And drug dealers, when they’re selling drugs, they won’t be having buttons in their bags."
"I just want to make sure that we don't--how do you say it?--bite off your head in spite of your nose or whatever," Burnett said.
Fioretti, Smith, and a narcotics specialist from the police department assured him that wouldn't happen. A few minutes later Burnett moved that the committee approve the proposal and send it to the full council for consideration. The vote in favor was unanimous.