Here we go again. The Athens-Clarke County Commission is poised to extend its regulatory tentacles into yet another area of my life where it is neither needed nor wanted (see articles in Flagpole and the Banner-Herald).
For those unfamiliar with our fair burg, we have a distinct division into “haves” and “have nots” here in the Classic City. Since city-county consolidation, residents of the former City of Athens live in what is called the “urban services” district, while those of us who reside in the formerly unincorporated area of the county live in what is euphemistically called the “general services” district. And ne’er the twain shall meet as, by and large, residents of the outlying areas continue to lack the basic services expected of a local government (water, sewer, trash pickup, etc.), about which I have commented ad nauseam.
Folks in the urban services district receive trash pickup from the Unified Government (for an additional fee, to be fair), folks in the general services district do not. The latter have to dispose of their trash themselves or pay a private hauler to do so. The Commission is considering a plan under which the general services district would be divided into several zones, with each zone being served by a single private hauler as determined by the Unified Government through the issuance of an “exclusive franchise” based on a bidding process.
Naturally, this proposal has prompted much discussion in the opinion pages of the Banner-Herald and on the Winterville Yahoo newsgroup (for those who do not know, Winterville is a separate municipality lying wholly within Athens-Clarke County – and yes that does entail some confusion from time to time). Even District 5 Commissioner David Lynn chimed in. Lynn is a bright guy with whom I agree on some issues (though our political philosophies differ greatly, we have found common ground on some civil libertarian issues), but I think he completely missed the boat on this one.
Ostensibly, the idea behind the franchise plan is to encourage citizens to recycle, thereby prolonging the life of the local landfill. These are laudable enough goals in and of themselves. To my mind, though, there are several areas of concern with this proposal:
1. “Exclusive franchise” rights would be awarded through a biding process. To whom would those bids be paid? The Unified Government, of course. Why should the Unified Government make a dime off of a service it does not provide?
2. Rates would be “standardized” (i.e. set) and billing administered by the Unified Government, meaning more bureaucracy and more employees (also, see No. 1 above).
3. What happens to those private haulers who do not get a franchise? They go out of business, that’s what. Remember how the Unified Government constantly tells us that it is “business friendly,” while at the same time continuously increasing the regulatory burden it places on business?
If the Unified Government wants to extend trash pickup service to the formerly unincorporated areas of the county, and by that I mean providing the general services district with the same service currently provided to the urban services district, that’s one thing. If, however, it merely wants to control that service in the peripheral areas of the county without actually providing it – thereby limiting my choices as a consumer and driving up the cost to me – I am opposed.
I'm getting real tired of my rights, my freedoms, and my bank account taking hits for what our betters tell me is the greater good, as those schemes invariably involve more government regulation and greater expense. And the problems that prompt these "solutions" never seem to get any better, do they?
Addendum: At a Commission meeting some years ago I commented on the disparity between the services provided to the in-towners compared to those received by we rural folks, specifically citing trash pickup (or rather the lack thereof) among others. My comments prompted someone inside the rail, a staffer as I recall, to note that citizens in the general services district really got a better deal on trash pickup than those in the urban services district. Given my nature, the next opportunity I had to say something I immediately proposed that, if that was really the case, the Unified Government get out of the trash pickup business altogether and let the in-towners fend for themselves just like we out-of-towners. Needless to say, all I got from inside the rail, from elected officials and staffers alike, was blank stares.
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