Finally! Bloomington Gets to Vote on Freedom to Choose Garbage Hauler

Bloomington officials have quietly acknowledged residents will finally get to vote this fall on whether they want to be able to choose their own garbage hauler, more than three years after city hall illegally prevented the issue from going on the ballot. The development puts the future of the controversial organized garbage collection system that eliminates competition between providers, as well as choice for citizens, on the line with the possibility it could be scrapped if the majority of citizens vote for the freedom to choose their own collection service.

The action follows a February 12 Minnesota Supreme Court finding that Bloomington City Hall effectively disenfranchised residents in 2016 by rejecting their petition to put a ballot measure over whether to implement organized trash collection before voters.

“A recent supreme court ruling means organized collection is going to be on the ballot in Bloomington in November,” Bloomington Mayor Tim Busse said on an update on the city website. “More information on that will be coming out very soon.”

The Minnesota Supreme Court has twice ruled in favor of grassroots activists whose petition with thousands of signatures was arbitrarily left off the ballot, even though the Bloomington city clerk said it met the legal standard. The activist group, Hands Off Our  Cans, was prepared to turn to the courts again to seek enforcement if necessary.

“It should have happened a long time ago but yeah, the right thing is happening,” said attorney Greg Joseph, who represented the petitioners pro bono. “The overarching message is, if you do not exercise your rights under a charter city, they will take them away, guaranteed. It’s so important. I hope people never stop doing it.”

RELATED: MN Supreme Court Rules Bloomington Disenfranchised Voters on Trash Petition

The possibility that residents will reject organized collection this fall has already disrupted negotiations between haulers and the city on a new five year agreement. In a virtual meeting on Monday, the Bloomington City Council approved a contract that essentially extends the current deal with a key caveat. If voters turn down organized collection on November 2, the agreement ends with haulers compensated $20 for every trash bin they pick up afterward.