LEE’S SUMMIT, September 7, 2011 – Last Thursday, September 1, 2011, after the City Council meeting, as local kids played in the water jets outside city hall, I was granted to opportunity to speak with Councilpersons Whitley, Gray, and Hofmann about the Single Hauler issue. I was impressed by the openness and willingness to hear an opinion by all three.
Councilwoman Hofmann explained how so many people in Lee’s Summit pay different amounts for the same service. Her belief is that “we must get control of that” to be fair to our citizens.
Councilman Whitley expressed a concern that he believes “in pay for consumption, why should people with one bag of trash pay the same as someone with six or seven?” Again that is a valid point as an individual, but just like with Councilwoman Hofmann, why should City Hall get in the way of the Free Enterprise system.
Councilman Gray asked me a very pointed and fair question; “what do you see wrong with the RFP?” I thought for a moment and told all three that my issues have nothing directly to do with the RFP and are more directed to the Ordinance that is likely to come out of it. Each of them pointed out that it was not necessarily going to an Ordinance, and that City Council had requested a legal opinion regarding whether or not the City could go to a vote, and whether the city would actually be required to have a vote under the Hancock Amendment to the Missouri Constitution.
It is a difficult thing to determine as you can see from the above 5 questions some say that it likely applies, others say that it likely won’t apply and in the end “likely” is not definitive. Councilman Johnson has brought up the issue of the Hancock Amendment a few times at Council meetings, as well as discussing the opportunity to bring this to a vote in April of 2012 thus avoiding any issues with Hancock or with the establishment of a very unpopular ordinance mandating that we purchase from a single hauler.
Councilman Gray pressed me on the issue of why I was against this effort. I explained it in the following manner:
First, the original objective was to increase recycling in Lee’s Summit. Yet no effort has been made to make the Citizens of Lee’s Summit aware that our landfill is nearing capacity and that if they don’t want the cost of disposing Solid Waste to go up, it is important that we start recycling. Further, the improvements we’ve had (from 6% to over 11% home participation in recycling) come from Town & Country’s efforts to improve their own bottom line. The city has done nothing to truly get the word out that recycling is not only environmentally respectful, but financially effective to everyone.
Second, the current RFP has only penalties for failure to provide service, and nothing to reward the hauler for bringing us closer to the national average where 35% homes participate in recycling. So, this sets up a [How close can I get to the non-compliance and still stay out of trouble] mentality. Confucian philosophy adopted in China clearly warns that if only punishment exists, the people will seek to find how far they can go without getting into trouble. As someone that does a lot of business with Chinese companies, I can tell you that is exactly how they run their factories, how they drive cars, and how they follow the rules. Let me give you the funniest example I can. I was in a restaurant in Songjiang China (near Shanghair) and on the wall was a big sign “No Smoking”. Directly underneath that sign was a group of businessman smoking. I asked, through my translator, the manager why the sign was on the wall, and he said “because the law says I have to have the sign visibly placed throughout the facility.” He walked away. He met the rule, not the intent of the rule. The same is what we’re encouraging with the RFP as it is written.
Third, the RFP does not include one single comment about measuring the success of the recycling effort, nor the extension of the life of the Lee’s Summit Landfill. In fact, it does the opposite by requiring the Hauler to use the Lee’s Summit Landfill. At this point the various haulers use different landfills to dump their solid waste: So, the volume going to the Lee’s Summit Landfill will increase thus shortening the life of it.
Fourth and final point is that I don’t appreciate, and I don’t think anyone in Lee’s Summit does either, when government tells me who to spend my money with. It limits my ability to transact business with whom I wish. It limits my ability to seek expedient remedy to any issues. It involves the City to monitor the process and effect punishment.
I truly respect Councilpersons Whitley, Gray and Hofmann for listening to my opinion and I hope that if the RFP comes back with potential savings, that City Council will listen to the people of Lee’s Summit and put this to a vote.
One closing comment: Will City Hall start an immediate outreach program to make people aware of the need to recycle?
The Lee’s Summit Conservative