Talking Trash: Why I’m Voting Yes for Saint Paul

We are at our best when we work together across race, geography, and class to tackle the biggest problems we face, like affordable housing, climate change, great public schools–and yes, even trash collection. A no vote on Saint Paul’s trash referendum would signal to our elected officials that we think we can solve our biggest challenges with individual choices–each person doing what they want for themselves–rather than working together to do what’s best for the entire community. A yes vote, on the other hand, is a vote for bold, collective solutions to the challenges we face. That’s why I will #VoteYesForStPaul on November 5.

Collective solutions vs. individual choice

Once upon a time, the city of Saint Paul had organized trash collection. The city’s Public Works department managed the system, and garbage haulers were city employees.

Then came the era of privatization, when right-wing political leaders promoted the idea that public services—everything from schools and prisons to airports and utilities—should be put in the hands of private contractors. By 1980, the city of Saint Paul had terminated its own trash collection operation, leaving it to individual residents to contract with one of roughly 50 licensed haulers.

Fast-forward to 2016, and the downsides of privatized trash collection had become readily apparent: Multiple garbage trucks rumbling through our alleys each day of the week, neighbors paying different haulers significantly different prices, and a misplaced preference for individual actions over collective solutions to the challenges that face our entire community.

Former Mayor Coleman and the city council advanced a proposal for an organized trash collection system that resulted in less truck traffic, decreased noise and air pollution, a measurable reduction in the city’s carbon footprint, less wear and tear on city streets and alleys, and less illegal dumping in alleys, parks, and streets around Saint Paul.

Most of all, the return to organized trash collection was a return to collective action to address a challenge facing our entire community.

I have a vision for Saint Paul where we have ample affordable housing for everyone who needs it, great public schools for all our children, neighborhoods free from gun violence, and opportunities for everyone to thrive, whether we’re white, black, or brown. We can’t accomplish any of those things without collective action.

The best solutions to the biggest issues we face are collective solutions, where we all work together to do what’s best for our community as a whole. That’s why I will #VoteYesForStPaul. #VoteWithMe

Now let’s make it even better

The organized trash collection ordinance was a step in the right direction, but it’s true that the ordinance we’ve got isn’t working for everyone. Let’s tweak it so neighbors can share bins and we can accommodate zero-wasters, and let’s find a way to address the situation for people who have seen an inordinate increase in their rates.

We are the government, and when we organize to create the kind of change we want to see, we win. Let’s work together to push our city government to make the changes this ordinance needs.

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. And let’s not use our tax dollars to have a legal fight over this ordinance and the five-year contract the city has signed with trash haulers. Litigation is expensive.

Let’s use our time and resources to create the kind of Saint Paul we know is possible, rather than wasting them on problems we’ve already solved.

Will you vote with me?

One thought on “Talking Trash: Why I’m Voting Yes for Saint Paul

  1. I’m voting Yes! I appreciate the reasons you’ve put forth, Pastor Javen Swanson and share these views. Let’s make our trash system work better and smarter.


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