April 09, 2007
The Chron talks trash

The Chron editorializes about the trash task force report and its recommendations.

Derided by Councilman Michael Berry as "less service, higher cost," the proposal actually would be a bargain. It would create a dedicated fund of as much as $19 million annually to upgrade solid waste services. This otherwise untouchable account would pay for more recycling facilities, cover a portion of heavy trash pickup and launch a composting program for yard waste.

Right now, all trash services are paid out of the city's general fund, which comes from taxes. Essential services such as police and fire-fighting drain that fund almost to the bottom: Long-term investments such as recycling are simply shut down.

Yet as property prices go up and landfills spread, Houston must find an alternative to hurling everything from leaf compost to plastics into vast pits. Investing in a large-scale recycling program -- with proper equipment and promotion -- will be cleaner, cheaper and help the city break even on its solid waste costs.

This fee is far less than other cities charge for basic trash pickup. Fort Worth, for instance, charges residents $12.75 for each 32 gallon cart of trash collected and $22.75 for each 96 gallon trash cart. Dallas charges residents a monthly flat fee of $19.36 for their trash pickup.

All this is pretty straightforward, and it's covered in the report (PDF) if you care to read it. The reaction from some quarters has been predictably reflexive, so in some sense it doesn't matter what the report says, and it certainly won't matter that the Chron endorses it, albeit with some tut-tutting over its presentation. But it's there if you want to actually understand what it's all about.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 09, 2007 to Local politics

In general, I'm in favor of usage fees over general taxes, so this idea bears investigating. But as the article mentions and Berry points out, the services are not currently free: part of our taxes are funding the service now. Unless there is a reduction in the city sales tax forthcoming, this is, indeed, a "higher cost."

Posted by: joewhite on April 9, 2007 9:09 AM