University City Considers Its Trash Options
There is a detailed story in this week’s West End Word about University City considering privatizing its trash services. As a University City resident (and a proud one) who works at a free-market think tank covering privatization issues, I am in a unique position to comment here. University City already funds its trash services by user fees instead of taxes, so that should minimize any changes that the residents see with privatization. That has not prevented some residents from vocally voicing their opposition. From the story:
“I am totally not in favor of privatizing if that is an option,” [Marva] Miller said. “We will not be able to ask the private company for help, they will only be obligated to do what is written in the contract. The constituents, especially the elderly, will be underserved. We need to be a revenue-generating city. We have a few assets and we need to maximize what we have and not outsource these people who have worked so hard.”
Where to begin? Of course we would be able to ask for help (whatever that means) from the private company, which would be no more or less obligated to “help” than are the current government employees. (Important note: I think the trash service employees in U. City have always been terrific.) Why the elderly would be “underserved” by a private company is beyond me. They will get their trash picked up, same as always. U. City does not need to be a “revenue generating” city. It needs either to perform or see to the provision of agreed-upon public services as efficiently as possible. That is all.
University City has dealt with its budget issues during the past few years by making tough decisions. City officials have enacted budget cuts and laid off employees, while some other suburbs in the mid–St. Louis County area have focused more on tax increases. University City’s leadership over the past couple of years deserves a great deal of credit for this. I hope the privatization idea gets the serious consideration it deserves.