By Mike Matejka
Both Bloomington and Normal are exploring if private trash collection is as an alternative to a tax-supported, municipal service. That’s a dead end. It would certainly reduce taxes if everyone subscribed to their own service but that might cost more in the long-run.
Both communities have comprehensive pick-up, not only of trash, but also recycle, yard waste and bulk waste. Finding a private firm that can do all is possible, but I think the cost would be a surprise. And the great benefit of having a community-based and tax-supported system is that one entity takes care of everything.
I used to walk my dog in the early morning along Lumber Street. For those who don’t know, Lumber is a short street, running along the railroad tracks north from West Oakland to Front Street. Every week or two, I would come across a pile of construction debris, dumped near the railroad tracks, that the city bulk waste crew would usually pick up. Some pick-up truck contractor or home owner who didn’t want to pay for a dumpster was probably the culprit. If we don’t have a comprehensive, municipal funded system, who’s going to pick up that debris? Trash and debris will end up in the countryside, along the railroad tracks or back alleys. That’s more than an eyesore, that’s pollution and a possible health threat.
A friend moved here from Decatur a few years ago. Her usual comment was on how clean Bloomington-Normal is. We are a clean community, because we have public servants whose full-time job is waste pick-up and hauling. I’m sure private haulers would be responsive to their customers, but only a municipal system is responsive to all of us.
Now we may have to pay higher taxes. Both communities face the challenge of bulk waste. For years landlords have abused the municipal system by evicting tenants and throwing their belongings to the curb. A steep charge should await those landlords.
A current American mythology is that private enterprise is always more efficient. If you follow one of our municipal crews, you’ll find they are as systematic and as thorough as any private company.
Finally, instead of studying and talking about trash, I think the Bloomington Council needs to come together and talk about downtown. With State Farm and Commerce Bank vacating, the alarm bells should be going off in Bloomington City Hall – now that’s a real problem that needs attention.
Mike Matejka is the Governmental Affairs director for the Great Plains Laborers District Council, covering 11,000 union Laborers in northern Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. He lives in Normal. He served on the Bloomington City Council for 18 years, is a past president of the McLean County Historical Society and Vice-President of the Illinois Labor History Society.
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