More Trash Talking For St. Joseph



No sooner than our new mayor and city council were elected, the St. Joseph trash issue has, once again, raised its head. A newly-elected councilman made headlines in the past two weeks, stating that our city looks trashy and that we need a city-operated trash franchise to fix it. He’s championing a change to the city charter that could leave us, as citizens and voters, completely out of the decision.

Unless we, as voters, insist that the matter be voted upon, your monthly trash bill could be highjacked by the city without your consent. I think we already know what would happen to the quality of your trash service if competition between the private services didn’t exist. And I think we know what the cost will be. Just look at your sewer bill. The very idea that the city council would decide upon a franchised trash service without our consent is an absolute outrage and an abuse of the council’s privilege.

Instituting a city-operated trash service by changing the city charter is a direct assault upon your right to have a say in the matter. It’s a way to get it done without asking.

In my opinion, the primary culprit is likely Waste Management, an international waste disposal company headquartered in Houston TX with nearly 400 collection operations in the U.S. and other countries. They are the company that now owns Deffenbaugh. With a well-known track record of buying up small waste collection services and lobbying large businesses and city governments for city franchises, they are the probable source of the whispering voice in the backchannel on this issue. So, citizens, be aware of that.

But let’s talk some common sense here: Did anyone stop to think that franchised trash service and a litter problem are not necessarily related? Unless all the litter in St. Joseph is blowing out of trash trucks, let’s remove them from the litter issue. They’re the guys who are trying to remove the trash.

For you, dear reader, the issue should be 1. Cost and 2. Quality of service. In other words, trash is trash. It’s the stuff we want to get rid of. Most of us want the best price for not having to deal with it.

Cost is an easy and simple mathematical issue. Right now, there are two people involved with your money: you and the owner of your local trash service. The aforementioned city councilman wants to insert a third party into that equation—the city itself. If you put an additional collector between you and your current service, it is an unassailable fact that your cost is going to go up significantly. That will occur either with your collection fee and/or subsidized by taxes. It doesn’t matter how it happens. It will all come out of your pocket. That is an absolute. Why? Because it COSTS X AMOUNT to pick up your trash and sooner or later, someone has to pay the piper. I think you know who those “someones” will be.

Here’s the dictionary’s definition of socialism:

“An economic system in which goods and services are provided through a central system of cooperative and/or government ownership rather than through competition and a free market system.” What the dictionary doesn’t tell you is that the system doesn’t work, and it eventually takes everything out of your pocket.

Litter and the appearance of our city is the other issue. I think everyone agrees that St. Joseph looks trashy and ought to clean up its act. How a franchised city trash service can do that is beyond me. It’s an argument with things I don’t understand. Several decades of life have taught me that when I start to get confused, somebody is making a conscious effort to confuse me.

There is a solution to the litter problem and it doesn’t involve raising your trash bill. The city should put teeth and backbone into its existing statutes. Slapping a $25 fine on a property owner will be nothing more to him than an annoyance. Change the fine so that it hurts. $100 first offense, $500 second offense and $1000 dollars and jail time on the third offense, followed by 30 hours of community service—specifically walking the streets with a scarlet letter on their shirt, picking up the litter. To those of you who think this sounds reactionary, overly-dramatic or harsh, I would point out to you that you won’t be doing it long; they’ll get the message: We are serious about cleaning up this town.

Maybe no one else is willing to say it, but there are people in the world who simply won’t clean up after themselves. Let me be very clear:  If you have six rooms full of garbage, more than four cell phones and a 60 inch flatscreen TV in the living room, I’m talking about you.   If you can’t pay the fine, we can go straight to the jail time and a full year of community service.  Does that hurt?  Good.  My parents used to say “This is going to hurt me worse than it hurts you.”  As an immature person, I never understood that, but I always made a slight behavioral adjustment.  I didn’t change my behavior out of moral righteousness; I did it to avoid the pain.  This is the way people behave when they haven’t grown up.

The important result of this idea is that, after a few examples are made, folks everywhere in St. Joseph will hear the real message: We are serious about cleaning up this town.

If you are reading this and disagreeing, let me ask you something: Would it not be worth trying an idea like this, before we quadruple our trash bills?


Here’s a quick summary:

Regarding the idea of franchising our city’s trash service: The voting citizens of this city need to put their collective foot down and assert their right to be involved in the decision.

Regarding litter: Hit them where it hurts.

Trash is trash. It all looks pretty much the same, wherever you see it. So the only things an independent trash company has to offer you are price—and service.

36 thoughts on “More Trash Talking For St. Joseph

  1. Loved your commentary and my vote is to keep MY trash service and not give city service that will get overly priced up like our sewer bills are!


  2. REMEMBER….Years ago….WE THE PEOPLE said NO to city trash collection…..Most of US have our own “little guy” picking up our trash …..Personally I am THRILLED TO DEATH” with my guys…….CITY COUNCIL….LEAVE IT BE…….FINE THE HELLO OUT OF VIOLATORS BUT LEAVE “US” ALONE…..


  3. I like your idea of larger fines, jail time, and community service. I would add an annual award for each homeowner, or renter if applicable, who paid for trash service in the previous 12 months. Awards could include a FREE month of sewer service or FREE tickets to Trails West! or other city-backed activities.


  4. You are missing two major points of discussion regarding a city wide trash service and recycling: 1. multiple trash trucks means multiple pickups by multiple trash companies on multiple days throughout the week thus trash day is every day of the week . 2. Multiple trash trucks wear out our streets sooner. Among the top items citizens wanted the city to address were a cleaner city and better streets. Do you have any idea what the cost of hiring additional trash code enforcers would be? You get what you pay for. Pay me now or pay me later. It’s time for the citizens of St. Joseph to join the 21 st century.


    1. Thank you for commenting. I would respond that there are MANY “heavier” vehicles on our residential streets, so trash trucks would not be the only concern there. You mentioned the top concerns, and crime was far and away the top concern. Maybe we could all work on THAT issue. I wonder if it would affect the cleanliness of our city? Perhaps not eradicate the problem, but maybe have an effect? I appreciate your comments. DB


  5. I understand your position, but I respectfully disagree. Without any “teeth” to enforce mandatory trash service, the only way to guarantee that every occupied household has service is to tie it to another necessary utility like water or sewer. Trash operators won’t share their customer address lists so the city can check. People who have never lived anywhere else think this is the only way to run city services. Sometimes decisions have to be made by ELECTED officials and not voted on by residents for the good of the city. You voted for the officials, so you did have your say. Franchised trash service will likely include rules about the type of bins used so people will not be able to put loose bags or piles of boxes out on the curb, which is where a good part of the blown around trash is coming from. I have Waste Management as my provider and the service is excellent for the same $15-$20 per month that most everyone is paying, so this argument about the “little guys” is irrelevant. If you are paying less than $15 per month, I think you have to ask yourself how that company can make enough profit to stay in business.


  6. Even though many cities use franchised trash service successfully, I’m skeptical that our city would be able to do it right. In my opinion, the bigger problem is trash that is the litter dropped/thrown by those too lazy to take it to dispose of it properly. Like many people, I’m tired of picking up other people’s trash.


  7. Saint Joseph’s trash problem is not a trash collection problem (in my opinion). I agree that our city does not need a City wide franchise for trash collection…we do have service through WM as our little guy sold their company, but that was their right as a business owner. WM has done a good job and we have no complaints w/our service. I STRONGLY AGREE with the idea of fines to those that trash their property which lowers the value of our home. How about cutting your grass more than once a month, putting away all the crap off your front porch, putting your children’s MANY MANY toys away and last, but not least, clean up the dog waste from your dogs…your neighbors are tired of smelling it. Also, why are property owners allowed to let their property become so dilapidated the they are safety hazards and a true eye sore!!! Check that out
    Mr. Councilman…PLEASE!!


    1. Fine already happen, they just don’t get paid. I have seen the city’s outstanding balance on fines. It is quite impressive. The issue, there is no accountability for trash service. There is not many ways to fix that issue.


  8. We already have a system in place that works for us with out some municipalities making more laws to fine and convict and imprison people; what suit thought of this idiocy. They need to throw them on a rail and walk them until they get their head straight about other people’s money or the city limits and drop them, their suit, and head abruptly to the pavement on the other side of the line, with the daydreams still dancing like sugar plums in their heads.


    1. If it worked, the issue would not continually keep arising. I went to one city talk and it was the primary complaint by all citizens there for an hour and a half.


  9. Has anyone driven through the Mitchell Woods lately? There are many properties available for development. But, our lack of pride is displayed in the mountains of litter and trash. I am embarrassed. Can’t imagine new companies would want to build and develop there.


  10. How many local workers will be put out of work? How much money will the city lose that is spent in town by these workers? How much money will be sent out of town to pay for this service? Will customers get service of equal quality with the new provider? (Call the provider for a special favor occasionally?)


    1. Good points, Ron. It shows the advantage of a local provider with whom you’re familiar. He’s competing with other haulers to keep your business, and that’s a great position for both him and you.


    2. Franchising works by giving sections to specific trash haulers and having the billing system go through the city, so they can enforce individuals to meet code and have a trash service. The contracted company would be required to subcontract to a set portion of smaller companies. Giving oversight over those small companies ensuring they meet code. I am not sure what you talk about quality of trash service. You literally put out your trash can out and they take it in the morning. It is not a lengthy complicated transactions which deviates from company to company.


      1. I appreciate your comments, even though you think my article was “horrible.” I do not think we need a franchised system to resolve a problem that involves INDIVIDUALS who refuse to be responsible. Clearly you’re as concerned about it as me. You’ve attacked me for “lack of research” when what I was really trying to do was convince folks to take action. If my numbers aren’t correct, or if you’re trying to help me avoid traveling ground that has already been traveled, that’s great and I appreciate it. I don’t mind making errors when trying to fix a problem; making mistakes is the story of my life! But I usually make my goals. So let’s work together on this.


      2. Additionally, Steve Hofferber tells me that judges routinely waive at least part of the fine. We need to stop doing that.


  11. Part of the problem is enforcement. A friend of mine rode around with SJ code enforcer and asked him why certain properties weren’t ticketed. He said, “Why bother. They can’t pay.” With that sort of enforcement nothing will improve.


  12. Which city councilman is bringing this subject to the fore front? Did not hear all this concern when they were trying to get elected so as to not rock the boat . Maybe?? I personally am very happy with my local provider ( ABC ) and am not interested in changing. Trash on the streets is a problem of the people…not our trash collectors! JMHO!


    1. Museum Hill, Cathedral, Midtown, downtown, and other communities brought the issue to all of these NEW council members when they were running. It was one of the primary reason we elected them.


    2. I too am not for a city operated trash pick up, Michael. I am very happy with my trash service also and Saint Joseph trash is a people generated problem caused by disconcern and laziness of her citizens!


  13. This was a horrible article; which I would tell him common sense would be doing your research prior to writing an article. Why is this issue brought up again? The answer is simple, we recycled the old city council because they would not tackle the issue. Ask any of the officials, when they met with community leaders – this was a primary concern. A self inflicted wound. The city looks like trash; which prevents new businesses and good residents from moving to St Joe. After the army (social program), my wife and I were planning to retire here, but the trash issue was one of the primary factors have us departing. Who wants to move a business or live in an area that looks trashy. Many sections of the city would be classified health hazards anywhere else. I do not like toilets, couches, and tires illegally dumped on my property. If said individual did his research he will realize there is zero accountability system for residence or trash haulers to ensure code is being met. Yes, there is a sanitation code for St Joseph requiring everyone to have trash service and for trash hauling vehicles to have an appropriate shell. I understand the charter has a small clause in it; heavily influenced by ABC Disposal. The city’s top priority is the health of its citizens; it is why we have these health codes. Your solution in the article was fines. How many outstanding fines does St Joseph have each year? You should probably do a little research into it. You will be unpleasantly surprised and realize, through common sense, raising fines will not work. Think if the city had an accountability system for trash which put a system in place requiring individuals to have a trash hauler. It would increase the trash haulers revenue dramatically because it will increase their customer base. It will reduce illegal dumping because it removes the incentive for illegal dumping (common sense). It will also allow the haulers to be more efficient by concentrating their clients. It seems to me you never seen a city outside of St Joseph before and observed their waste system. The best solution, is to conduct test trials of a new system in order to observe its feasibility and efficiency. It it doesn’t work, try another system. The current system is broken. If individuals can’t pay for fines, they are usually require to conduct volunteer hours. I would enforce these volunteer hours to clean some of the most worst alley ways in our city. Food for thought, but keep doing the same thing you have been doing for thirty years hoping to get a different outcome; because that isn’t the definition of insanity.


    1. That actually IS the definition of insanity. I’m putting out ideas. Looks like they’re getting shot down. Again, let’s explore ways around the problems you’ve listed. I’ve no problem with being wrong. I want to resolve the problem. Again, thanks for your comments.


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