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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics



Tonight the city council will vote on whether or not to adopt the organized hauling plan that has been developed over a process that, it's fair to say, has been going on at least since last summer.

The out-of-town hauler group, which is probably more concerned about what might happen on their turf in Roseville, sent another big mailing to residents to drum up opposition.  However, with the city actually having specifics of a plan to share with people, I've noticed a much higher proportion of e-mails and phone messages in favor of the organization plan than was the case in the past.

Still, people are skeptical -- they've learned not to trust haulers, and so they sometimes don't believe the numbers the city has obtained through this process.  One person who wrote assumed that the city postcard's rates must be talking about cost per week, not cost per month for weekly service.  He could not believe that he would see a 60% savings.  It's ironic that peoples' distrust of haulers' rate quotes, based on bad experiences, has led many to trust a group of haulers (defending their profits) over their city government (trying to save them millions over the next few years).

Meanwhile, today's mail brought me a copy of Little Canada's city newsletter -- something we often get, due to being in the 55117 ZIP code.  It mentions that they received the results of a scientific survey of their residents about satisfaction with various city services.  Among the very highest-rated: their organized refuse & recycling program, which 96% of Little Canada residents rate as "excellent" or "good."  I've heard that White Bear Lake found similar results in their own similar survey in the past year.

Many people are afraid of change, and I suspect that they have a particular cynicism about trash because of experiences dealing with many haulers.  But if Maplewood passes this plan, I expect that it will reach the same level of popularity as organized systems have in our neighbor cities -- and when the contract expires, no serious candidate for city office will campaign on a platform of going back to an open system (just as candidates opposing organized trash this year were not willing to voice any complaints about organized recycling).  After people see the benefits, it's going to be tough to run on a promise of doubling everyone's rates in order for them to enjoy "choice" and the privilege of having half a dozen or more trucks drive down their street on trash day in place of one.

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What I'm cynical about is politicians like yourself and The Maplewood City Council who believe that they know what is better for residents of Maplewood then the residents themselves do. The majority of residents of Maplewood did NOT want organized collection.

I noticed that whenever possible you use derogatory descriptions when talking about the Waste Haulers and their rubbish trucks. Could it be that you have an agenda?

You talk about saving residents money Mr. Newphew. If you are so concerned about saving the people of Maplewood money on their trash bills why don't you do something about the 37.75% residential and 70% commercial taxes and charges that the Waste Haulers must collect from Maplewood customers on the behalf of the State of Minnesota and Ramsey County. Can you name one other service or product that is taxed or charged at that rate by the state or county?

What about the waste haulers you may be putting out of business? What about the employees that will be laid off? What about the loss of tax revenue for the State of Minnesota and the loss of revenue for Ramsey County? How come I never heard you talk about any of these things.

I see after submitting my comment that it will only be published if approved by you... What are you afraid of Mr. Newphew?? that someone might have an opinion that isn't the same as yours. Typical Politician.

Mr. Nephew I would like to take the logic you use regarding Trash Collection and Waste Haulers in Woodbury and apply it to employment at City & State levels. I can find someone who lives closer then the current city and state employees do. Who take the bus instead of polluting the air with car emissions. I can also find someone who is educated, willing to work hard and do it at half of the salary you are earning. It only makes sense that you be fired and hire new people for your position, Wouldn't you agree? Oh by the way you won't be receiving any unemployment benefits. There was no compensation for the business that waste haulers had taken from them at the hands of the City of Maplewood only to be given to a waste hauler the city felt was deserving.

The bad news is that you lost your run for re-election, because clearly you couldn't do what you were elected to do and that is to represent the residents of Maplewood and the residents clearly were against a one hauler system. The good news is that other city council members that failed to represent residents of Maplewood will also lose their jobs in the same manner you lost yours.

Dear "Happy to See You Go," your reasoning leaves much to be desired.

Haulers are private businesses that do work under contract. So why compare them to employees? A better comparison would be other firms that do work for the state and local government under contract -- for instance, construction companies, financial or design consultants, attorneys. And yes, if the city has used such a firm and finds that another firm will do work of equal quality for a lesser cost, the city should save taxpayer money and use the one that costs less. If we can get the same service from equally qualified vendors at half the price, let's do! In fact, cities do this all the time. One of the last votes I took on the city council was to change independent auditors, not because the ones we had had done anything but a fine job over the last five years, but because we went out for bids and found another firm of comparable qualifications offering a lower cost for the same work.

The haulers' "compensation" argument amounts to saying that our old auditor, the one that didn't get the contract, should be paid for the work they won't be doing because they didn't compete successfully. I have yet to hear why trash hauling is so unique and special an industry that it deserves such treatment, unlike any other. I find it especially ironic given that so many haulers owe a great deal of their business, if not its very existence, to other government regulations -- such as the ban on open trash burning decades ago and the mandatory collection statute, by which the government generally requires individuals to buy their services.

The idea that the city chose "a waste hauler the city felt was deserving" is preposterous. The city chose the waste hauler that made the best proposal -- the one that delivered all the required services at the lowest cost to residents. It wasn't about "feelings." All of the haulers were invited and encouraged to offer their proposals to do the work, and invited to participate in the public meetings of the Working Group where we developed the specifications for the proposals. The door was open for haulers to suggest alternative arrangements -- for example, by dividing the city among the existing haulers, which could have achieved many of the city's goals (although not likely with as much savings as the plan we adopted). Haulers flat-out told the city that they were not interested in that. They were confident that, as they had for twenty years every time another city talked about this, they would bully the city into backing down and leaving the status quo with their cushy profits, dubious billing practices, and flagrant ongoing violations of our trash ordinance (all of which I documented in this blog as we studied the issue). Most of Maplewood's haulers (and all of the non-Maplewood haulers who poured money into the election in an effort to buy the vote on this issue) went all in on the belief that the city was bluffing on its willingness to organize, and they lost.

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