2008-04-24 / News

Green movement champion grew up in Jamestown

By Sam Bari

Ross Mirkarimi Ross Mirkarimi Ross Mirkarimi, who grew up in Jamestown, made a major coup for the green movement by writing legislation to outlaw the use of plastic shopping bags in San Francisco, where he now lives.

The law went into effect last December with much fanfare. According to People Magazine and other publications that have spread the word about Mirkarimi and the legislation, cities, towns and countries around the globe are eager to follow suit and ban the ubiquitous plastic that has caused so much damage.

Mirkarimi, 46, is an elected representative on the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco where he has lived for 24 years. He is in charge of District 5, which encompasses the famed Haight-Ashbury area of the Golden Gate city.

"I totally credit my childhood in Jamestown for my green views," Mirkarimi said. "I'll never forget living near Ft. Getty and exploring the unspoiled island with my dog Oscar when I was a boy."

He said that he knew the statistics about the ecological damage that can and have occurred when plastic bags are not disposed of properly, and he thought it was time to do something. "It can take a thousand years for the things to decompose, and if statistics are correct, each year Americans use somewhere between 30 and 100 billion bags, few of which ever see the recycling bins," he said.

A number of issues influenced his decision to write the legislation and initiate efforts to preserve the environment, Mirkarimi said. He added that he has been displeased with the federal government on many issues, particularly their lack of environmental responsibility, citing the refusal to sign the Kyoto Accord in Japan as one of them.

"I'm surprised, but delighted that the legislation got so much attention," Mirkarimi noted. "I'm kind of shy about the personal publicity because that's sometimes difficult to handle. I expected some opposition from grocery and drug stores, but I never thought I'd be the target of the O'Reilly Factor, Rush Limbaugh and all those extreme conservatives. But the national attention in People Magazine, and Forbes recently called, is good for the green movement."

Mirkarimi said that since the legislation went into effect it has worked out well. The people of San Francisco, who are environmentally responsible anyway, supported the idea, and seem to be comfortable with doing whatever they can to help the ecology, he said. He also recommended that Jamestown consider a similar ban. He said that island residents are very environmentally conscious and he believes the idea would be well received.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency and other research sources, less than one percent of plastic bags used by Americans ever make the recycling bins. China recently banned the use of the bags, and Ireland is soon to follow.

People Magazine claimed that 12 million barrels of oil are required to manufacture 100 billion plastic bags. They clog landfills, kill thousands of sea turtles and other marine life every year, and the seemingly indestructible bags have even been found in Antarctica, arriving on ocean currents.

Mirkarimi is modest about his accomplishment and downplays the significance of what he says is a small victory. However, because of his efforts, the first major city in the U. S. has taken a big step to fight the status quo and oppose corporate giants who have supported a serious source of pollution.

Ross Mirkarimi's mother, Nancy Kolman Ventrone, still lives in Jamestown with her husband Richard Ventrone. Both are actively involved in civic affairs. She said that Ross attended Jamestown schools after they moved to the island in 1973. "He graduated from Bishop Hendricken High School before leaving

to attend St. Louis University where he earned a degree in Political Science and studied Russian

literature," she said.

Mirkarimi said he also studied at San Francisco University. Afterwards he worked under Ralph Nader and spent nine years working for the San Francisco District Attorney on white-collar crime.

He co-founded the California chapter of the Green Party over 14 years ago and has been involved in many civic and community service activities ever since. He was elected to office in 2004 and has been heavily involved in making progressive reforms in local government. Mirkarimi is single and lives with his pets, a dog and a cat.

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