Emanuel’s plan to charge for trash removal spotlights Chicago’s class divide

by Dave McKinney – Reuters

Chicago is just one of three major American cities that currently hauls away garbage for the bulk of its residents for free, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel is about to take away that perk – and finding that the rich and poor have very different views of trash collection in this city.

Among big U.S. cities, only Chicago, Boston and New York City do not charge residents at least some fee tied to garbage disposal, according to a 2014 study by the Citizens Budget Commission, a New York City-based civic watchdog. Chicago also is the second-least-efficient garbage collector, with only New York paying more to collect a ton of garbage, the group found.

The new $9.50 per month flat fee Emanuel wants to charge the 613,000 households that would have to pay for garbage collection is expected to raise more than $60 million. The mayor has proposed cutting that monthly fee in half for about 40,000 seniors with household income of $55,000 or less.

Gunnar Branson, a 50-year-old real estate executive who lives just a block from Emanuel’s wood-frame home on Chicago’s North Side, flinches at paying a new garbage fee but recognizes its urgency and is resigned to its imposition. “I hate that, but I hate the fact that I have to pay for groceries too, and I have to pay for gas,” he said. “Obviously, we want everything for free.”

Chicago is a rarity among major cities for using three-person crews on garbage trucks, an arrangement New York City abandoned in the 1980s. One study said Chicago could save $19.4 million by moving to two-person crews.

Despite the new efficiency in routes, a city budget spokeswoman said Chicago this year expects to spend $244 million on garbage collection, a rise of 16 percent in the past four years.

But privatization is considered unlikely because of labor union opposition and the lingering bad taste left by the 2009 decision to lease the city’s parking meters to a private company. Parking rates have quadrupled since then.  read more….