Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Would a Garbage Fee Mean the City Would Throw Our Recycling Bin Back in Our Yard and Not Leave It Out in the Street Anymore?

We hope Michael Berry wasn’t the only member of Houston City Council to make the rather obvious observation that the recommendations by Mayor Bill White’s Solid Waste Task Force amount to “less service, higher costs,” but we fear that Berry may be alone among the herd of independent minds on council.

The justifications for the panel’s proposed imposition of a first-ever garbage collection fee and curtailment of heavy-trash pick-up are that 1). Money from the city’s general fund now spent (we refuse to use the word “subsidize” here) on picking up recyclables and unwanted sofas could be used for parks and libraries and police and whatnot (and how can you argue against that---it’d be like moving to evict the mentally retarded from their long-time … oh, never mind) and 2.) All the other big cities in Texas do it, with monthly fees ranging from $16 to $23 for basic service.

We like parks and libraries and figure that Houston could always use more, but in the great scheme of things we’d consider hauling off the trash, whether it’s stuffed in the can or stacked by the curb, to be a more pressing priority. For the moment, though, let’s set aside the “higher costs” end of the equation and examine the “less service” portion.

According to the task force, one of the uses to which the new revenue would be put is stricter enforcement against illegal dumping. Of course, one guaranteed result of cutting heavy-trash collection from once a month to twice a year (eventually on an “on-call basis,” as the task force would have it) would be a marked increase in illegal dumping.

Not to worry, though: the service cut will be accompanied by “substantial enforcement” in “abused/abusing neighborhoods,” the former being where the folks just put out too damn much heavy trash, the latter being where commercial operators take advantage of the pick-up to get rid of their crap (which we would argue is better than dumping it in a vacant lot). The task force elaborates:
Effecting change in Houston will require strong enforcement (for a period of time until practices change) and material fines being levied that exceed the cost of taking the trash too a landfill or a neighborhood depository. The cost of enforcement and opening new depository sites can eventually be borne from heavy trash savings achieved. Enforcement will initially require extra funds …
Yes, one revenue stream begats another, till the mad rivers flow into the peaceful sea.

In outlining what it sees as the “problem,” the task forces observes that use of heavy trash pick-up is “unevenly distributed among neighborhoods,” with some using it “excessively” and others hardly at all (we’d guess ours would fit the first category, whatever “excessively” means, and Mayor White’s the second). That may be true, but it’s a meaningless observation---in some neighborhoods households can go weeks, months and maybe years without calling the cops while in other neighborhoods residents phone for police service “excessively,” so maybe the city should consider tacking a monthly “protection” fee on to water bills, just to make everybody happy.

On second thought forget we mentioned it, as we can see the day coming …

(By the way, we noticed the head of the county Republican Party came out against the White panel's recommendations, so we’re wondering where his Democratic counterpart is, Democrats being the party of progressives and populists and William Jennings Bryan. Oh yeah: Democrats are the ones pushing this.)


Banjo Jones said...

you beat all, Slampo

Slampo said...

The only thing I'm beating these days is my ... head against the wall. See you at the Tuesday Evening Oprah Book Club Disucssion.