Councilmember Carl DeMaio believes the city needs to focus on reducing waste at city hall before it begins charging residents for waste removal at their homes.
The statement comes in response to an April 7 report released by the San Diego County Grand Jury, a 19-person review panel that evaluates local government’s “procedures, methods, and systems” for better efficiency.
As a way to bolster the city’s depleted general fund, the report recommends overturning the 1919 People’s Ordinance, a law that prohibits charging residents for trash removal. Currently, only those living in multiple-family residences and owners of businesses pay for the service.
The grand jury also theorizes that fees for trash pick-up would create “incentives for citizens to recycle and reduce the amount of trash generated.”
According to the report, the city spends over $52 million a year for trash removal and toward recycling fees at Miramar Landfill.
DeMaio, however, thinks those numbers are garbage.
“They don’t even have a billing service to do this,” DeMaio told this correspondent in an April 7 phone interview. “That would cost another 3 to 5 million dollars.”
According to DeMaio, the $52 million is more like $65 million, after adding in the cost for containers, administration overhead, as well as enacting the billing system.
“The independent budget analyst said, ‘Oh, it’s only 10 bucks per month per San Diegan.’ That’s not accurate. Our estimate is about 15 to 20 dollars per month, based on the current cost structure.”
DeMaio says raising fees would burden an already financially encumbered populace and that pumping more money into a broken city government would be as good as tossing cash in the landfill.
“It would be the worst thing to do; it’s like giving alcohol to the alcoholic,” says DeMaio. “Until you remove the waste at city hall, any more money that’s given will be wasted. You have to fix the structural inefficiencies first.”
District Three councilmember Todd Gloria agrees the city should clean up its own act before charging residents to clean up theirs. “Fiscal reform should always be a priority, whether the city is considering new fees or not. We need to balance this year's budget in the next ten weeks, so changing the People’s Ordinance is not a solution for this budget cycle because it would need to go on next year's ballot. But this may be an option, should the council want to get serious about fixing our city's structural deficit, which will still need to be addressed after we pass the FY 2010 budget.”