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Morning Sun
  • OUR VIEW: Trash problem needs a clean solution

  • Of all the subjects that could have prompted a protest in front of Pittsburg City Hall, few would have guessed the subject would be trash.

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  • Of all the subjects that could have prompted a protest in front of Pittsburg City Hall, few would have guessed the subject would be trash.
    And it’s interesting to note the reason for the trash protest. It was not a protest to call for more trash clean-up in the city. It was not a call for citywide recycling or additional ways to get rid of refuse. Rather, it was a call for the city to leave well enough alone, and to show support for their local, family-owned trash haulers.
    The frustration had as its catalyst a meeting between Pittsburg City Manager Daron Hall and representatives from the area trash haulers. Perhaps some were upset that this meeting was open to the public largely in name only. But we take no issue with the semi-private nature of the meeting.
    That’s because there is something to be gained from sitting down face to face with affected parties before any sort of official action were to take place. Giving people a “heads up” is a good way to build relationships, no matter what the message.
    But that issue wasn’t really what caused the protests. Rather, the issue was that several haulers came out of the meeting believing the city was going to be divided into quadrants, and then each quadrant was going to be put out for bid. Furthermore, the interpretation was that the larger trash companies would come in, outbid the smaller, family-owned trash haulers, thereby driving them out of business.
    First, we want to point out that this isn’t exactly what was said, just the interpretation. Chris Norris, of Norris Trash Service, the author of a Facebook post that made its way through the community, told the Morning Sun that Hall “didn’t come out and say” that the city would be divvied up and opened to the highest bidder. That was just what they got from reading between the lines. It was their assumption, and we don’t need to tell anyone what happens when people assume.
    We would also note that no meaningful action could have possibly taken place at this meeting. Not a single member of the Pittsburg City Commission attended this meeting. Although the city manager does have a great deal of power, the city commissioners are the ones who ultimately give the green or red light. If they weren’t there and hadn’t approved the plan, then it’s not an official plan, even if it had been suggested by Hall.
    Furthermore, the process of government (on any level) is so slow and methodical that there are plenty of opportunities to have one’s say. By state statute, it takes 22 months, plus dozens of open meetings, to be able to have a city takeover of trash. The process prevents secrecy and deception. Bureaucracy has its negatives, and they are legion, but it also has its positives. And the bureaucratic process preventing doing anything of this scale behind the public’s back is one such positive.
    Page 2 of 3 - That’s not to say the protests were wrong to occur. We love seeing people engaged in politics. We love seeing people show passion not only for their beliefs, but in support of their local businesses, even something as seemingly mundane and blue collar as trash hauling.
    Protesting something that hasn’t occurred or even been proposed in an open meeting yet is fine, too. They’re getting ahead of the issue. They’re making sure city commissioners know where they stand in case a decision does arise.
    So where does this leave everyone and what to do now?
    City commissioners have long stated that there is a problem in this city with the clean-up of the city.
    They say that businesses see people using their Dumpsters illegally all the time and that this is a problem. They say that 30 percent of the city does not have a trash service.
    The trash haulers agree, but their job is simply to pick the trash up from the curb and take it to the landfill. They don’t go into someone’s garage to clean it out or go onto a porch to take discarded items or even grab a trash bag and walk the streets of the city to clean it up. They don’t guard Dumpsters to make sure only those authorized dump their trash there.That’s not their problem.
    If the city has a trash problem (and we are not going to disagree), then something should be done. Operation Clean Sweep is underway and making some progress, but bigger steps are required.
    The city has an Adopt-a-Street program, but that program is not well used. Wouldn’t pushing businesses or organizations or nonprofits to enroll in that program be a positive step?
    What about publicizing the ways to get rid of refuse, such as the bulk drop-off at SEK Recycling, or the opportunities at local landfills? In March 2011, the city did away with the citywide clean-up, saying that it was “abused.” Perhaps the benefits outweigh the negatives, if the trash problem has become as bad as they say. Or maybe the trash haulers could help out with the citywide cleanup in some way if it were brought back.
    We don’t have a silver bullet. We don’t know what the answer is.
    What we do know is that if the city has a plan, it’s not been put on paper yet. If the city doesn’t have a plan, it needs to consider some of its other options first. If the city wants input on how to clean up its city, there are a number of people that were gathered on its front lawn on Friday that were willing enough to spend time sharing what solutions are unacceptable, so maybe they would be willing to help the city find solutions that are acceptable.
    Page 3 of 3 - The city’s not wrong that there is a trash problem. The protesters aren’t wrong to support their local trash haulers. Both sides, we believe, should not be satisfied until a solution is found that is right.
     
    For the Morning Sun

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