Not democracy but bureaucracy

by Grass Roots Organizing

COLUMBIA, Mo 1/22/14 (Op Ed) -- A widely-opposed plan to replace Columbia city trash bags with roll carts is back from the dead, after city manager Mike Matthes pushed City Council members to reduce the number of black trash bags the city delivers to solid waste customers. 

About the plan's return, members of Grass Roots Organizing write:

Topdown policies rarely work in Columbia.

When our city manager and staff spend hundreds of taxpayer hours and resources to convince the City Council and residents to adopt roll carts and per-bag fees, we are witnessing not democracy but bureaucracy.  A few years ago, Columbians said 'NO!' to this idea. 

We don’t need City Hall forcing complicated and divisive changes to the popular system, only to face a hostile,  uncooperative public who didn’t want these changes.  If city staff think our solid waste system needs drastic changes, they should first ask us if we even want - much less need - those changes.

Why, in its 2014 Survey, did the City fail to ask Columbians if they were satisfied with ongoing trash collection?  Surely the staff knew about the City’s May, 2013 Direction Finder Survey, which we paid the ETC Institute of Olathe, Kansas to conduct.  Results show that over 90% of Columbia customers were "Satisfied" or "Very Satisfied" with our Residential Trash Collection Service. 

How could City Hall then assume we want drastic changes?
Roll carts increase risks of accidents and falls.  Roll carts are heavier and bulkier to handle and would have to be placed in the driveway. Roll cart use would increase injuries, especially to the elderly and disabled, who would need a "medical authorization" for city waste haulers to move their roll carts curbside.  

In inclement weather, black bags are convenient.  They can be put in a car and driven down even a steep driveway, then lifted or pushed out, a maneuver not possible with roll carts.  

R is also for Recycling, and if the City’s goal with roll carts is to increase recycling, that’s fine; however, city officials should start where little or no recycling takes place

1) At demolition sites
2) In business and industrial districts
3) In apartment complexesMany of these locations have dumpsters where everything, including recyclables, is dumped.

Many currently have inadequate-- or no -- recycling dumpsters.
Appearances count, and for those residents without a place to store a roll cart, keeping them outside the home will be aesthetically unattractive. 

Building a shed for a roll cart would be costly and even prohibited in neighborhoods with special covenants.  And even  for people who have a place to stow them, roll carts may linger on driveways for hours or even days.   Black bags, on the other hand, are out on the curb then completely gone by the end of trash day. 

With roll carts come odors, too, requiring periodic cleaning with bleach or other cleansers to insure sanitation.  There is no controlling when and how this would be done (or if everyone would even do it.)   Those who do are likely to drench the ground or wash these hazardous chemicals into our already polluted storm drains.
Spending and funding for this roll cart system would burden Columbia tax and rate payers with purchasing tens of thousands of plastic roll carts, each costing $55.00 to $75.00 and lasting roughly 5 years.   We would pay enormous costs to purchase new trucks with automated roll cart lifts, or pay to retrofit our current fleet.  The solid waste department would also require more space to store these larger trucks and carts. 

Add these costs to a proposed fee-per-bag option, and the city may create incentives for illegal dumping.  

Certainly, the roll cart system could require fewer workers.  But our trash collectors provide us good service and need the jobs to support their families. 
Hurry up and call your Council person! 

Tell them, in your own words: "Do not support roll carts or a fee-per-bag plan". 

Add it all up, and the city's talk about replacing our popular black bag trash system with roll carts is just that:  TRASH.
(For more information about how you can keep our black bag trash system and stop roll carts and per-bag fees, call 424-4365).