Independent Coalition for Our Neighborhoods

SJ-R Opinion: waste haulers snuff out real trash reform

By The Editorial Board
The State Journal-Register
Posted Dec 05, 2012

It looks as if Springfield’s waste haulers have successfully snuffed out a progressive ordinance that would bring the city’s trash pickup standards up to the 20th century.

Instead, Mayor Mike Houston has introduced an inferior ordinance that would transfer billing responsibility for recycling, yard waste and large item pick up from the haulers to the city.

It’s unclear today whether the haulers will oppose Houston’s ordinance and wage a campaign of misinformation against it, as they did against the ordinance sponsored by Ald. Cory Jobe and Ald. Doris Turner that would have assigned responsibility for trash billing to the city, ensuring every resident has pickup.

Houston’s ordinance does not go far enough, but we must reluctantly support it because the city’s costs for recycling, yard waste and large item pickup exceed what residents are being charged.
The fee would go from 50 cents to $1.50. The current fee only raises $188,000 when the costs for recycling, yard waste removal and large item pickup are $530,000. Other tax revenue has subsidized those services, a bad fiscal practice that the city council should end.

“If we are going to continue important community projects like the large-item pickup, which allows residents to have large items picked up at no cost, the recycling fee needs to be increased,” Houston said.

Houston is correct, but that does not eliminate the need for true reform of the city’s trash pickup system. Too many residents in parts of the city do not have trash pickup and dump their garbage in alleys and on other residents’ property, if they even remove it in the first place.

It has become a public health issue, just as much as abandoned and dilapidated buildings have become. Yet aldermen have not objected to two successive mayoral administrations’ aggressive effort to tear down these structures, while at the same time obstructing progress on making sure every city resident has trash pickup.

“For too many years, we ignore the problems, and the problems never go away and the costs continue to increase,” Jobe said.

While Jobe and Turner have withdrawn their comprehensive trash reform ordinance for now, we hope they keep the heat on their fellow aldermen in the coming months and continue to discuss the issue with the waste haulers. Too many aldermen think only of their own ward and not the good of the entire city when they vote on ordinances. The trash issue is another example. The status quo remains unacceptable and a detriment to having a beautiful city of which residents can be proud.