Philly Council member wants retail businesses to corral their shopping carts or face fines

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By Michael D’Onofrio

PHILADELPHIA — Corral your shopping carts, business owners, or face a potential fine from the city.

That’s the warning City Councilmember Cherelle Parker issued on Thursday after introducing legislation that would mandate some businesses set up shopping cart containment systems to prevent people from walking off with them.

Abandoned on properties and streets throughout the city where they accumulate trash, the four-wheeled carts contribute to blight, the councilwoman said.

The issue was pervasive, particularly around malls and other large retail establishments, she said, and the city should not have to foot the bill to remove or return them to businesses, although she did not have figures for annual costs to the city.

“We can no longer just act like we don’t see that these carts have become instruments that provide blight in our neighborhoods,” Parker said.

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A council committee will hold a hearing on the bill, which has yet to be scheduled.

Parker’s bill had no sponsors, which raises questions about whether the first-term councilwoman can garner enough support to pass the legislation before the City Council’s last session on Dec. 12. Any legislation not acted upon by the end of the year, which is the end of this council’s four-year term, is scrapped.

Parker faces no challenger for her seat in the Nov. 5 election, when the the entire 17-member City Council, Mayor Jim Kenney, sheriff and other offices are up for election.

If the bill does not pass by year’s end, Parker, who is all but assured of winning re-election, said she will reintroduce the legislation at the start of the new council term.

Under Parker’s proposal, retail establishments with 10 or more shopping carts would have to set up a system to prevent people from taking them from business owner’s property.

The legislation leaves it up to each business to set up its own system, but suggested a wheel-locking mechanism activated when someone crosses an electronic or magnetic barrier along the business’ perimeter, or a physical barrier.

Penalties for violators could add up quickly: The legislation would allow for fines up to $1,000 a day. The city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections would enforce the proposed legislation.

If the bill is passed, it would not go into effect until January 2021.

Michael D’Onofrio is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.