Dear Renters in Saint Paul,
If you live in Saint Paul, your rent might go up if a no vote prevails on Nov. 5, 2019.
The vote concerns trash. In October 2018, the city started handling the contracts for trash collection in Saint Paul. The city negotiates with a conglomerate of trash haulers and organizes the trash collection system. They then pass on the negotiated rate through a service fee to homeowners. Before October 2018, homeowners had to hire their own trash hauler. If you’ve noticed fewer garbage trucks going by your apartment since October 2018, this ordinance is why, as the City organizes collection such that single companies service parts of the city.
A group of residents was unhappy with the City selecting their trash hauler and got the issue on the ballot. If residents vote no, the ordinance will be overturned. There is a lot of uncertainty about exactly what will result from a no vote due to legal proceedings, but one possible result is the City having to pay $27.1 million in contract obligations and the City no longer organizing trash collection. The county auditor recently proposed a property tax increase should the no vote win, so that Saint Paul can pay these contract obligations. Such a property tax would be passed on to you through an increase in rent. Thus, your rent would increase not for a new city service or for our schools, but instead for the City to break a contract just so homeowners could hire their own trash hauler.
Furthermore, a no vote wouldn’t just affect your rent. If the City no longer organizes trash collection, that means more garbage trucks. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency estimated unorganized trash collection uses 437% more fuel than organized trash collection, so this would increase pollution. Overturning the ordinance also means more noise and more damage to roads from these trucks. An end to organized collection could result in an increase in illegal trash dumping and illegal trash burning, both of which have negative public health and environmental ramifications. The proper disposal of waste is an important service, especially for a city with over 300,000 residents. Organized trash collection gives us, as a city, the ability to address other environmental, health, and justice issues related to our waste disposal, such as where and how our waste is disposed after collection. Organized trash collection helps us reduce the environmental impact of collecting trash and better ensuring the trash is properly handled.
The vote on whether or not to uphold the organized trash collection ordinance will affect renters. A no vote may increase our rent. A no vote may mean more garbage trucks and the pollution, noise, and infrastructure damage from those trucks. A no vote may mean more improper disposal of trash.
Please, vote yes on the “Resident Coordinate Collection” ordinance question on your ballot on November 5, 2019.
Nicholas Goldsmith is a lecturer in CBS at the University of Minnesota.
This letter to the editor has been lightly edited for style and clarity.
Correction: A previous version of this letter misstated Nicholas Goldsmith's position at the University.