An open letter to White Rock council.
Eager to hear from the mayor and council members about plans for single-family garbage and recycling services, and hear questions from citizens of White Rock, I attended the community forum on June 30 (Residents brace for impending change, July 3).
The invitation reads: “Experience firsthand the city’s current practices and provide input on various options.” I expected the mayor and all members of council to be at the forum, state their position and entertain questions.
I arrived at the community centre only to find that the “forum” consisted of tables staffed by city workers who were there to ‘show and tell’, not to address the potential privatization of garbage and recycling services nor to discuss or receive input “on various options”.
For example, one table was set up to show how to use the small, green plastic containers sent to single-family households. We and many others have been putting food scraps into compost for such a long time and have created containers and systems to deal with them, so this small container seemed redundant to me. The demonstrator did not know the cost of sending them to 4,000 households.
Some council members made an appearance. I asked Coun. Bill Lawrence about the privatization of single-family garbage, and he assured me “it was a done deal.”
I asked the mayor, and he said no decision will be made until the response to tenders come in. I suggested that putting out tenders indicated a strong desire to privatize. He allowed how going private was a question of cost. I said “cost” is a slippery word and that the introduction of private collection means companies, which have to make a profit, will pay employees less and/or the cost to the public will increase dramatically.
He responded by bashing the union, saying, “They wash their cars during down time.” I took this to be an off-the-cuff pandering to people who like to think that city employees are pampered and lazy.
Sadly, White Rock is going backward. Hypocrisy reared its head at the recent sub-committee meeting, where assurances were made that single-family garbage and recycling would not be privatized. We now know that prior in-camera meetings had already set the stage to go ahead with single-family privatization.
Also, I suggested to the mayor that having more companies using more trucks would surely mean more pollution and much more noise. He didn’t disagree, but said: “It wouldn’t amount to much.” We are currently paying an increasing environmental price for this it-wouldn’t-amount-to-much sensibility.
The reactionary moves by council fly in the face of responsible, citizen-responsive, public needs. New Westminster recently returned to city collection of waste after having tried privatization and finding it a failure.
The way to address the more environmentally conscious tipping fees and other requirements of Metro Vancouver is to show progressive leadership, not dump the garbage on the backs of the citizens of White Rock.
John Reed, White Rock
Editor’s note: White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin, who was cc’d on the above submission, responded, denying he had bashed the union, saying he was referring to crews washing “work vehicles” when they finish early. Coun. Bill Lawrence said his “it was a done deal” comment “referred to the fact that there is a necessity to fundamentally change the way garbage was to be sorted and processed due to… the new regulations on separating out the organics.”