On Oct. 16, the Minnesota Supreme Court confirmed what I’ve suspected about the St. Paul citywide garbage collection contract: There is no easy out for the city; the contracted money must be paid regardless of the outcome in November’s city election (“Yes vote or no, city must pay haulers,” front page, Oct. 17).
Those advocating for repealing the ordinance maintain that, once the ordinance is undone, trash collection will revert to the way it was and the city will not have to fulfill the terms of the contract. The likelier result is that, after a long and protracted court case, the city will not only have to pay the trash haulers the amount guaranteed in the contract, but the legal and court fees as well. That total will leave the city far less money to fund our schools, maintain roads and sidewalks, develop affordable housing and produce other social goods.
Candidates for City Council who are campaigning to tear up the ordinance and the contract need to explain how they intend to cover the costs involved in voiding the contract and implement a different system of trash collection without raising taxes or cutting services.
Incumbents seeking to retain their seats should demonstrate some lessons learned in implementing the unified trash collection system. First, they owe city residents their apologies for prioritizing the concerns of the various trash haulers to the near exclusion of those of residents. Second, they should describe changes they will make to the current system so that it better serves all the residents of our city.
Trudy K. Cretsinger, St. Paul
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Those who criticize St. Paul’s decision to go to one trash hauler per street per week lose sight of the “common good.”
My city, Mendota Heights, is a microcosm of the problems St. Paul is trying to correct.
Mendota Heights has seven licensed haulers. Each week 10 trash trucks pound down my four-block street. These 44,000-pound behemoths, belching harmful emissions, contribute to the premature damage of my street for which I received a $16,000 assessment for repairs/improvements.
Then there is the money/cost factor. Each truck must travel 25 miles round trip to dump its load. These trucks average about 5 mpg. By having two trucks instead of 10 trucks, we could cut costs by 80% and thereby lower household hauling fees.
Notice that planned/gated communities have one hauler per week because it’s cheaper and less abusive to streets and has unsightly, overfilled containers just once a week instead of five times.
While St. Paul officials were a bit heavy-handed in imposing the unified system, most of the complaints come from people who find it a lot cheaper to dump their trash at Cub stores or city parks.
As always, a handful of households could use exceptions to the rule for good reason. A smart eighth-grader could judge those.
Meanwhile, act in the common good.
Robert Bonine, Mendota Heights
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It’s obvious that folks like a recent letter writer (“Go forward, not back, on garbage,” Oct. 15) and his cohorts have a pretty misplaced perception of what progress is when all they consider is the number of trucks in an alley. As an initial supporter of organized trash collection, I thought it became obvious that the city abandoned many of the initial objectives of the proposal and is now selling it as “fewer trucks.”
I guess it’s progress if we force half the small haulers out of business or hide the true cost of buying new carts on our property taxes. I guess creating an unregulated monopoly is a sign of progress. Ultimately though, the sign of a true progressive city government is to deny citizens the right to vote on an issue as guaranteed by city charter.
The only real progress I have seen lately at the city level, as noted in a recent commentary (“Garbage? Just beginning of St. Paul troubles,” Oct. 15), is progressively increasing property taxes by more than 20% in 2017 and 10.4% last year. These increases covered the mismanagement and cost overruns on a variety of projects and lawsuits brought on by the incompetence of city staff and the ignorance or arrogance of elected officials.
If all the progressives can focus on in the trash debate is fewer trucks, while allowing a city government to run amok, then they are entitled to progressively increasing taxes. It’s time to clean up St. Paul’s trash and government.
Mike Kenney, St. Paul
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An Oct. 17 letter regarding the St. Paul trash conflict repeated an argument that many opponents of organized hauling make: He will vote “no” on the November referendum because the city of St. Paul is forcing him into a contract he doesn’t want. As if it is self-evident that each resident of St. Paul, or any city, has some inherent right to tailor city services to his or her exact desires and to contract for such services with whomever one pleases.
I lived for 20-some years in St. Paul and never relished my freedom of garbage contract. In fact, I found it extremely odd when I moved in, having never before encountered that strange system (in fact, it’s a historical anomaly). I have now lived in Minneapolis for a decade and doubt that one could find a single resident who longs for the right to find his or her very own garbage hauler, specify the size of the bin and negotiate the rate. Every year. When you live here, the city picks up your garbage for a modest fee and that’s that. That’s how cities work for almost all services. That this remains controversial among my friends across the river is a mystery.
Stephen Bubul, Minneapolis
High time to reduce high emissions
According to a new report from the New York Times using data from the Environmental Protection Agency, 60% of greenhouse emissions in America are produced by 250 million passenger cars, SUVs and pickup trucks. The Times created a map with information about increases in local emissions in cities across America; emissions in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro from 1990 to 2017 have increased by 60% or an increase of 16% per person, a rate faster than an increase in population during that time.
Given the adverse effects of increased emissions on climate change, Gov. Tim Walz is to be applauded for joining California and other states as well as some automobile companies in opposing attempts to roll back emission standards set during the Obama administration. Those standards aim for cars to get 54 mpg by 2025, but the Trump administration wants to lower that to 37 mpg and not allow states to set their own standards.
Members of the EPA noted that their scientific input, which supported President Barack Obama’s original push, was ignored. The Department of Transportation was given the lead to formulate their argument that the push to achieve the 54-mpg goal would require building lighter cars and lead to an increase of 12,700 auto fatalities through 2029.
Given that it’s doubtful there is any scientific data to support the validity of this problematic claim, any failure to reduce emissions will not only result in far more deaths in the population due to health issues and lung disease, particularly in urban areas, but, over time, the ultimate demise of the planet due to climate change.
Richard Beach, Minneapolis
Let’s make this an occasion for art
I predict that trying to increase the number of public restrooms downtown by persuading more businesses to open theirs to the public will — mostly — fail (“Mpls. math: 250,000 people, 29 restrooms,” front page, Oct. 18).
More port-a-potties, regularly serviced, would be an effective, but ugly, solution.
But what if the city sponsored a potty-decorating contest? It could provide the structures to artists who would decorate them in much the same way the “Peanuts” characters were done years ago.
John Risken, Minneapolis
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