Monday, June 02, 2008

Trashy Promises?...

It should hardly have been a surprise to anyone that Mayor Domenic Sarno would have been unsuccessful at removing the City's new trash fee. The Control Board remained adamant about the issue, despite a cast change by Gov. Deval Patrick. What surprised people more was the Mayor's personal aboutface on the issue. Sarno recently stated that the trash fee could not be removed now and would instead be moving toward a Pay as You Throw system.

The reaction from the public was not good. Letters and opinions describe a definite disgust by voters. Many felt duped having largely voted for Sarno on the grounds of the trash fee. People may have felt betrayed by Edward Flynn or felt that the studies the Control Board paid for were wasteful (at least a few were not), but they were not willing to hold that against Charlie Ryan. The trash fee, however, they would.

Since his landmark announcement, Sarno has issued a
press release, in response to questions raised by City Councilor Rosemarie Mazza-Moriarty. The questions covered a wide array of topics, but ultimately came to the point that if trash pickup is to have a fee, we might as well use that to encourage more recycling. The city will develop a system to distribute specially marked that can be purchased at stores and residents must dispose of their garbage in them. The $90 fee, rendered redundent, will be dropped.

The damage is already done, however. Sarno, barely five months into his mayoralty, has given his campaign a major handicap. Voter turnout will (theoretically) be higher, given the ward representation and taxpayers who voted for him will not be happy.

What is most foolish about this is that although it may not have been financially feasible, he could have done things differently. Pay as you Throw is good policy. It is green policy. As the city incinerates much of its garbage, cutting back on that is good for the environment. However, the better solution would have been to offer residents three sizes of barrels including the current ones. The smallest barrel would glean free pickup. If resents had extra garbage one week they could buy the bags and put them outside next to or on top of the barrel. If a household needs larger barrels, then they would pay a fee. They could also opt for a second barrel of any size and would pay an additional fee. That may yet happen. In the mean time, Hefty and Glad products will notice a decrease in business in Springfield as the new PAYT bags will replace them.

Hopefully, this will encourage more recycling, too. Although not limited to Springfield, it would be extremely helpful if the state could develop a program for recycling at businesses. Right now, businesses must pay for recycling services, so most just done. Millions of tons of paper and other materials are wasted as a result.
Sarno will need to use all the charm and finesse he can muster to get this new program off the ground and be sure that residents don't can him for it.

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