“Despite complaints that they were stifling free enterprise, council members said the company deserved the extension because it offers twice-a-week pickup at among the lowest rates in the West.” — -Review-Journal news story, July 13, 1999
Thanks to agreeable elected officials in the cities of North Las Vegas, Henderson and, as of today, Clark County, Republic Services will no longer offer the twice-weekly trash pickup that the company’s predecessor used to justify decades-long extensions of its franchise agreements. According to Review-Journal reporter Lawrence Mower‘s story, Clark County commissioners today agreed on a 4-2 vote to allow the company to pick up trash only once per week. (Commissioners Chris Giunchigliani and Lawrence Weekly voted against the change.)
Twice-weekly pickup was also a feature of Republic’s contract extension with Clark County, although that deal hinged more on the cleanup of the Sunrise landfill, a project that was recently finished. The deal was controversial at the time, with repeated allegations of conflicts of interest.
Republic proposed ending twice-weekly trash pickup back in 2007, but met with resistance from local governments. That led to “pilot programs,” some of which simply never ended. (Who predicted that? This guy!) Local elected officials — many of whom are recipients of Republic Services campaign donations — agreed to amend those extra-long franchise agreements in order to promote recycling. Under the revised plan, trash and recycling will be picked up once per week, with residents allowed to toss all recyclable materials into a single large container rather than the three bins used by many in the valley now. (Extra: I wrote about this issue extensively back in 2010.)
To Republic and its advocates, I pose a simple question, one to which I’ve never received a satisfactory answer in all my many years of asking: Why couldn’t we have had twice-weekly trash pickup and every-other-week recycling pickup (with the new large container)? Why do we have to change to a system where trash is picked up only once per week in order to expand recycling?
It’s an important question, too. Republic is a monopoly, and like all monopolies, it’s only been able to achieve total market dominance because of government fiat. I’m not allowed to contract with another trash company if I dislike Republic’s prices or policies. But I will have to live with them, since the elected officials in my city (Henderson) have voted to allow Republic to get out of its commitment.
My question also points up the lie that is the popular but mistaken idea that Clark County residents faced an either/or proposition, either give up twice-weekly trash pickup or expand recycling. We manifestly could have done both, using the current schedule.
What are residents (who are de facto Republic customers) to do now? Live with once-weekly trash pickup, for one. But they also could and should remember just who voted to amend these franchise agreements at election time. I know I will.