The Trash Fee Chronicles
Is there an issue that has proven more useful to Springfield politicians in recent years than the dread trash fee?
To recap: in 2006, the Finance Control Board instituted a $90 annual fee for curbside trash pick-up, in an effort to plug up serious budget shortfalls in the city—and, in the process, unleashing a serious backlash from city residents. State Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera was the first pol to spring to action, filing a lawsuit contesting the validity of the fee; in the end, the suit delayed the implementation of the fee for a year, but did not kill it outright. Last year, Coakley-Rivera threatened to kill a financial relief package for the city unless it included a provision that the fee be phased out by fiscal 2012. The provision passed, although city officials, including from the Law Department, have expressed uncertainy about its legal validity.
Next up, Domenic Sarno, in his 2007 bid for mayor, ran against incumbent Mayor Charlie Ryan (under whose administration the fee was created) as the anti-trash-fee candidate. Not long after winning office, Sarno changed his position, declaring that, in fact, the city needed the revenue provided by the fee.
Now, is City Council President (and presumed 2011 mayoral candidate) Jose Tosado taking a page from Sarno’s book? Earlier this week, Tosado took up the anti-fee mantle, announcing plans to bring a vote before the Council to rescind the fee (which was reduced to $80 in fiscal 2010, and will drop to $75 this year).
Like Sarno, Tosado’s position on the fee has changed, albeit in the opposite direction: he had initially voted in favor of the fee as a member of the Control Board (a position he held as president of the Council at the time). In a recent email to Pikula, which was distributed to the local media, Tosado wrote, “I did my homework then and [then] did the right thing. It was an unpopular vote but the City needed the new source of revenue to maintain basic services and to establish an economic recovery path.
“Today, while still facing economic challenges we are in a much better position. The Mayor recently announced a projected 44 million dollar reserve fund by June of 2011 and there continues to be a trend in surplus revenue. It’s time to do the right thing again and rescind this fee to give our citizens a needed break and restore their confidence in local government.”