OPINION: How can we move beyond the garbage collection problem forever?

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The terrible, but completely unnecessary, problem over the collection of garbage in the city of Jackson is not likely to end anytime soon. It appears that the mayor is determined to advance Richard’s Disposal, Inc. – and only Richard’s – as the recommended contractor for the job based upon its low bid and its ability to do the job. On the other hand, it appears that four council members are determined to turn thumbs down to Richard’s, for whatever reasons they may have. And neither side seems willing to change its position.

Meanwhile, it has been announced that Richard’s is filing suit against the city for the council’s refusal to honor its rightful bid. Nobody knows how the court would rule on such a charge. Nobody knows whether an appeal would be made following a ruling, nor how long an appeal would take. It is this writer’s belief that Jacksonians will suffer for some time before it is all resolved.

It is one thing to excoriate Council President Ashby Foote and his “band of brothers.” It is one thing to want to punish the mayor and all of the council by voting them out next year. The thing is that neither of these actions deals with what faces us today. 

We must simply keep our wits about us and do whatever is most likely to affect positive change in the near future. That may mean petitions to the mayor and our particular councilperson. It may come down to citizens filing a lawsuit for the predicament in which they have been placed. It may mean some other creative, but likely successful, tactic. Something has got to be done. Neither God nor any super hero is going to resolve it for us.

Even as we consider what can and needs to be done in the near future, one of the things that definitely can and ought to be done as a long-term solution is something that has been known for years. As a matter of fact, it is a practice that has been tried and true in the past.

In earlier days and in some areas today, municipalities have departments of public works that are staffed and funded to handle their streets, their water and sewage systems, and YES, their garbage collection. That idea and practice is not novel! Furthermore, such an arrangement can be less expensive and just as efficient as the practice of contracting such services to private operators.

The practice of seeking bids for garbage collection and other such services sprang from the desire of big businesses desiring to obtain money from the municipalities. It used to be derided as a “Republican idea.” It is easy to see why big businessmen would promote such an idea. By the same token, it is easy to see how corruption can spring from such a practice. We need to begin making the switch now.

We have heard from time to time that getting rid of fully-staffed and funded public works departments saves money. That is not an assertion that has much validity. It can save money only if the workers are overworked and the company provides little to no benefits to the workers. That is frequently what happens, while the contractors and executives of the contracting companies make unreasonable profits. 

The city of Jackson and other similar municipalities would do well to re-think and re-tool themselves with fully-functional departments of public works. Under such scenarios, the city would not find itself in such predicaments as it’s in today. Furthermore, it would always have a corps of skilled workers who would be more satisfied because they would not only have a reliable job but a livable wage and respectable benefits. They would also be available to deal with the streets, water, sewage, and garbage collection.

We realize that the development of a fully-functional public works department requires quite some time and effort. It, nevertheless, would payoff big time down the road. If the city began developing budgets aimed at such eventuality now, it could have the capacity to undertake the tasks in the near future. 

This is an idea to which we should return so we never have to suffer again from a terribly divided municipal government on an issue that is so simple and a basic. Citizens deserve and would appreciate this kind of reliable future in regards to street repairs and maintenance, clean water, effective sewage upkeep, and reliable garbage collection. 

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OPINION: How can we move beyond the garbage collection problem forever?

By Dr. Ivory Phillips
April 17, 2023