St. Paul Mayor Carter Threatens Residents With Huge Tax Increase Over Garbage Vote

What would it take for St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter to come down on the side of average constituents in his city? Apparently more than an act of God.

A boilerplate “act of God” clause in the city’s contract with trash haulers would almost certainly let taxpayers off the hook from paying the $27 million due under the agreement should residents vote on November 5 to scrap the disastrous organized garbage collection system City Hall imposed on them last year.

But the Pioneer Press indicates Carter would rather punish taxpayers than fight for them if they reject his pet project, regardless of the outcome at the polls.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and City Attorney Lyndsey Olson have taken a different tack.

They’ve maintained that they can simply cancel the $27 million in funding for trash collection from bills mailed directly to customers by their respective haulers and move the same burden over to property taxes. The result would split the bill among many more taxpaying entities, dropping prices for residents of 1-to-4 unit buildings.

Property taxes for everyone else would go up.

In that case, the overall 2020 tax levy would rise $27 million — or 17 percent — due to trash collection alone.

Opponents of the unpopular system in which the city assigns residents haulers make the case that a citywide referendum rejecting organized collection clearly qualifies as an unforeseen event that triggers the act of God clause.

“I think probably the city could get out of (the contract) on the ‘force majeure’ clause, but that’s not to say there wouldn’t be a lot of litigation,” said Henry Blair, a law professor at Mitchell-Hamline School of Law who specializes in contract law. “There’s something like $100 million on the line.

Blair added that the question of the force majeure’s clause applicability will be front and center.

“(The outcomes) are not foregone conclusions,” Blair said. “Litigators could make something of that. A legitimate fight could be had.”

Patty Hartmann, a vocal critic of Carter’s collectivist system who’s running for city council, puts it this way on her website.

If a majority of the voters in the November 5 election vote “NO”—opting to get rid of the City’s mandatory trash plan—there will be NO enforceable obligation for the City to pay the haulers any money for unpaid trash invoices.  Their claim that it could owe the haulers $27 million is just more of the same “trash talk” the City has been spewing at its residents for the last two years.

Similarly, their claim that “unless otherwise directed by the Minnesota Supreme Court,” the designated haulers would continue to collect garbage under the terms of the existing contract is completely unsupported.  The court has already made it clear that a “NO” vote would invalidate the contract, making it illegal for the haulers to continue to collect the trash absent the consent of and contracts with individual property owners.

Of course, Mayor Carter knows all that. What it comes down to more than anything else is Carter’s inability to admit he made a mistake by not allowing organized garbage collection to go before St. Paul voters in the first place.