Will Citizens’ Last-Minute Opposition Trash St. Paul City Garbage Grab?

Who collects your garbage may not be the most compelling issue of the day–until it comes to your city and street. Just ask the thousands of residents of St. Paul who are pulling out all the stops to prevent the city from implementing “organized garbage collection” next Monday. But it’s not over until it’s over, according to the Pioneer Press.

The city of St. Paul has almost finished rolling out 73,000 new trash carts, but organized residential trash collection — which is scheduled to begin Monday — may be facing its greatest challenge yet.

After more than 14 months of contract negotiations and a year of preparation, Minnesota’s capital city is staring down the possibility that organized trash collection could come to a halt in late October or late November, just a few weeks after its expected launch.

The elites on the St. Paul city council have already wasted $4 million in taxpayer funds in their bid to usurp residents’ choice and private competition in garbage collection.  It appeared to be a done deal, until thousands of citizens decided they should have a direct say in the change in policy through a petition with 5,800 signatures to put it to a vote.

The petition, calling for a public referendum, seeks to block one of the key city ordinances that authorized the new citywide residential trash hauling system that is scheduled to go into effect Monday for homes of one to four units.

If that threshold is met, the petition would be submitted to the St. Paul City Council and then the city attorney’s office.

The citizens’ campaign puts the city’s plan to take away their right to choose who provides a basic service everyone depends on up in the air.

Until the next general election, the existing ordinance would likely be put on hold, in whole or in part, under the terms of the St. Paul city charter.

“My standard position is (that’s the) city election next year,” said Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Mansky, shortly after receiving dozens of pages of signatures on Thursday. The city of St. Paul is not scheduled to host a political primary in 2019.

“The ordinance would be suspended … but a legal determination would need to be made about the program proceeding forward,” said St. Paul Public Works spokeswoman Lisa Hiebert. Otherwise, she said, the city has the legal authority to call for a special election as soon as Feb. 12.

The city’s takeover of garbage collection will move ahead–for now.

It’s unclear how the city could switch gears and abandon coordinated collection once underway. St. Paul has already spent $4 million on 73,000 new wheeled, lidded trash carts and signed a five-year contract with more than a dozen trash haulers, including national companies such as Republic Services and Waste Management.

“No matter what happens, it’s going to be messy,” said Bobby Stewart, a third-generation trash hauler with Highland Sanitation, noting that legal challenges have yet to block organized trash collection in Bloomington. “This opposition would have been fantastic a year ago. People need to pay attention to what their city does.”

Meanwhile, another group of residents plans to submit a second petition aimed at scuttling the city’s new system in a few weeks.  St. Paul residents may roll over when it comes to double-digit property tax levy hikes every year. But don’t mess with their garbage!