The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a group of Bloomington residents who sued the city after it adopted organized trash collection without putting the matter up for a citywide vote.
Wednesday’s ruling said the proposed amendment to the city charter was constitutional and did not represent an improper referendum.
Bloomington officials are reviewing the opinion and planning their next steps, said City Manager Jamie Verbrugge. The city’s contract for organized trash collection remains in place, and there won’t be a change to collection services for now, he said.
City officials in 2016 rejected a petition from the group, called Hands Off Our Cans, to amend the charter and put garbage collection on the ballot. The group sued the city but lost in district and appellate courts. It then appealed to the state Supreme Court, which returned the case to the Court of Appeals to address unresolved issues.
In a 2018 ruling, the Court of Appeals agreed with the city that the amendment was improper. The Supreme Court reversed in a 4-3 decision, with the majority holding that the proposed charter amendment was constitutional.
The city’s organized collection program began in fall 2016 with the goal of reducing the number of garbage trucks out on collection day, minimizing wear on the roads and mitigating pollution, officials said.
Gregory Joseph, an attorney who represents the plaintiffs, said his clients “could not be happier” with the ruling.
“My clients’ rights under the city charter, and those of all the people of Bloomington, have been completely vindicated by the Supreme Court’s ruling,” he said.
The ruling, Joseph said, means the city didn’t have the right to refuse placement of the amendment on the ballot. He said plaintiffs hope city officials now will let voters decide on the amendment, and added the case was less about trash collection than the right of residents to propose changes in charter cities.
“Whether city officials will finally honor the rights of the people by obeying the law and allowing a vote remains to be seen,” he said.
Mara Klecker • 612-673-4440