Opponents of St. Paul’s new organized trash collection system returned to election headquarters Tuesday to deliver a petition with more than 6,400 signatures demanding an end to the garbage service.
It came three weeks after opponents brought in their first petition, which seeks the repeal of part of the plan. They hope the second petition will lead to a referendum in which voters could toss the collection service entirely. Or, said organizer Alisa Lein, the City Council could make it all go away.
“If the city just throws the whole thing out, then we could just go back to the free market,” she said of how St. Paul handled trash throughout much of its history. “Then there is no need for a referendum.”
On Wednesday, the council is expected to jettison one of two ordinances that deal with the new system that started Oct. 1. But that won’t have any effect on the citywide garbage service — or residents’ complaints about higher prices and being prohibited from sharing a cart with neighbors.
If more than 5,000 of the 6,457 signatures collected are deemed valid by elections officials, the City Council will determine if it meets legal criteria to be put to a ballot. The last petition opponents delivered had more than 5,800 signatures, but about 800 were deemed invalid. An official at the Ramsey County elections office said he expects the work of checking signatures would be done around Halloween.
Adding a 6,458th signature at the elections office was Catherine Ryan, a Highland Park resident who had come in to vote early. Ryan said the new system costs her about $22 more every three months.
“I want to vote on this; where do I sign?” Ryan said. “I don’t like it.”
Short of the City Council waving the white flag on a system it voted to approve last year, opponents want a citywide vote on the plan they say raises costs and limits flexibility for residents who have picked their own haulers and negotiated their own rates for generations.
The City Council reached agreement last November with a consortium of 15 haulers to standardize rates, pickup days and neighborhood assignments. The contract limits neighborhoods to a single garbage pickup day with a single hauler, a move city leaders say will cut pollution and wear and tear on city streets and alleys.
Opponents have been collecting signatures ever since.
“That is a huge weight lifted off my shoulders,” Lein said as she handed over stacks of signatures. “Now, we wait.”