Saturday, October 1st, 2016

Garbage propaganda show

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slide from WEAL/Waukesha County presentation

The Waukesha County Environmental Action League (WEAL) probably burned a hemp effigy of me last night after their little propaganda show got cancelled.

A planned Board of Public Works presentation on the pay-as-youthrow method of trash collection was postponed at the last minute Thursday evening after Waukesha County representatives decided it wasn’t balanced enough.The presentation was created by Waukesha County Solid Waste Supervisor Karen Fiedler and Waukesha County Environmental Action League representative Charlene Lemoine in February 2011, but was postponed for more than a year as a result of scheduling conflicts. Lemoine said she added some updated figures to the slides and got ready to present Thursday night.

However, Thursday afternoon, local blogger and Freeman columnist James Wigderson emailed a copy of the presentation to County Executive Dan Vrakas and “asked whether telling the city of Waukesha to impose a garbage fee was a good use of county resources,” according to his blog.

Vrakas’ Chief of Staff Shawn Lundie said Parks and Land Use Director Dale Shaver viewed the presentation and Shaver ultimately decided to pull the plug because he didn’t want to seem like the county was endorsing a garbage collection fee over leaving trash collection on the tax rolls.

After Thursday’s meeting, Lemoine was befuddled about the presentation’s sudden cancelation and questioned how anyone could view it as an endorsement of anything.

“We had a whole slide of potential obstacles and issues to overcome,” Lemoine said. “The Board of Public Works asked us to do this just to get the info out there and we weren’t saying they had to do it or needed to do it – it was just something they could consider.”

Only on Planet WEAL could the planned PowerPoint presentation (online here) not be seen as an endorsement of the idea. The “obstacles” Lemoine refers to are people who would object to paying fees for garbage disposal. The “issues to overcome” are how to build public support and how to overcome public opposition for the plan, which are also presented in the slideshow.

Nowhere in the presentation is the idea that garbage collection is a basic city service that should be paid for through taxes, and already are. It’s not as if a city resident can suddenly opt out of garbage collection, nor would city residents want garbage collection to be optional. And if the fees were somehow unpaid that would not stop garbage collection.

So if it’s service that a city has to provide, and a service that every resident is required to use, then leave it on the tax rolls where it belongs.

It makes no more sense to change garbage collection from a basic service to a fee-based system than it does to put police protection on a fee-based system.

Not to mention some of the headaches that pay-as-you-throw would cause. I can’t decide which of my neighbors is going to get my garbage cans every Tuesday. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled.

Another slide from WEAL/Waukesha County presentation

Local politicians like charging fees for garbage collection because it allows them to raise taxes without calling them taxes. Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima tried it last year by calling for a flat fee and the Common Council soundly rejected the idea. I had one alderman tell me they were surprised that anyone would try to bring it up again.

Lemoine doesn’t know if the show will go on.

Moving forward, she said she’s not sure if she and Fiedler will change the presentation because first they’ll need to see what exactly was objectionable.

“It’s very unfortunate that some blogger [me -jw] could make some interpretation that makes the county change their minds when the county itself has a website on pay-as-you-throw,” she said.

Which is probably the most obnoxious part of this story. It’s bad enough that WEAL is making a presentation to a committee of the Common Council, but they should not be receiving assistance from Waukesha County to do it. Waukesha County has no business participating in these propaganda shows.

It’s even more surprising when you consider how the county has been actively trying to save local taxpayers by offering police services through the sheriff’s department and emergency dispatch services.

Waukesha County government runs pretty lean. Turns out there may be more fat to cut.

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