Saturday, March 21, 2009

Making Mountains out of Trash Hill Negotiations?

No one wins with this "Springfield News-Leader" article: "Springfield trash agreement made in private," it is a sad and fragmentary(?) story.

"It was a horribly handled process," said Hal Buchert, one of three Citizen's Solid Waste Committee members who volunteered for the put-or-pay subcommittee.

"They didn't want us involved in the negotiations. They knew where they wanted to go. They knew how they would go about doing it. They dressed it up with the task force."

I'm not trying to take the side of "The City" against "The Press," here (and Wes knows I love him) but, geesh, let's get real. I think there could be a more plausible reason for the sub-committee being shut out of the negotiations, a less sinister reason than the one implied(?) in the article, though, perhaps still damaging enough.

According to the News-Leader article:

"Buchert, Dan Hoy and Rusty Worley volunteered to serve on the put-or-pay subcommittee, which the full solid waste committee formed on April 2, 2008."

Here's what I am thinking, and have not confirmed: The News-Leader article is unclear about who requested the "full solid waste committee," to seek volunteers for a "put or pay subcommittee" that was "given the task of working with two major Springfield trash companies," and the News-Leader article first identifies this Solid Waste Committee subcommittee as "a citizen subcommittee." Is a Solid Waste Committee subcommittee a citizen subcommittee? Technically, I just don't know.

I suspect, but, again have not confirmed, someone employed by the City, in their desire to either get public input or be perceived as getting public input into the trash hauler negotiation process, recommended the Solid Waste Committee put together a citizen sub-committee on the trash hauling contract negotiations without realizing the legal ramifications but, I don't know who might have recommended it.

Instead of that or those City official(s) just owning up to the mistake of forming the sub-committee in the first place, the sub-committee was strung along and not allowed input and not likely given much information but, I think the point is: Any input provided by the committee would have jeopardized the negotiations because the negotiations would then become public information.

According to the News-Leader:

"Using Wright -- and not the subcommittee -- ensured that any talks would not run afoul of the Missouri Sunshine Law, Buchert said.

"The waste haulers wouldn't sit at the table if the press was going to be there and listen to all their business," he said."

Do the citizens of Springfield deserve deliberate and thoughtful decision making that doesn't front load negotiation processes like the trash hauler/City put or pay contract with stupid mistakes that have the potential of being perceived as secrecy on the part of our city government? Yes.

What should have been legally, private negotiations, which should not have been made public until a final agreement was reached in the first place, (and remember, such agreements are never truly final until the public's Council representatives approve them, AFTER the public has had an opportunity for public hearing) are now tainted with suspicion.

If the sub-committee was not mistakenly formed to begin with, there wouldn't even be an issue with whether that sub-committee was involved in the process or bypassed by the Springfield Public Works Department and a contract attorney.

I think it was a stupid mistake on the part of the (I'm assuming) City official(s) who decided to call for a put or pay sub-committee in the first place but, it was more than likely a well intentioned mistake, meant to involve the public in the process.

I suspect, in that particular aspect, a mountain has been made out of the trash hill negotiations.

On the issue of whether it is a good contract and the negotiations were in the best interest of Springfield citizens? That's fair game for discussion.

At the City Council meeting wherein the bill to approve the agreement was first read and the public hearing held, the News-Leader previously reported:

"Only one resident showed at a recent City Council meeting to question the city's proposed new deal with its trash haulers."

It was at that Council meeting the citizens had their first opportunity for input, and then, during the interim before the next Council meeting, scheduled for this Monday, the 23rd, the citizens could, as the last linked News-Leader story indicated, write emails and place phone calls to their Council representatives to let their voices be heard regarding the City's proposed trash hauler agreement. So, the facts are, there was a public hearing and there has been an additional two week's time for the public to personally contact their Council representatives regarding the issue.

I don't mean to sound hard-nosed about it but, the News-Leader did its part to try to make the public aware of questions they might have about the trash hauler agreement, that was the right thing for our daily local paper to do. I would suppose, at Monday night's Council meeting we'll hear from members of the City Council about whether they received public input in the form of emails and phone calls over the last couple of weeks, and, if you don't like the way you are being represented on the City Council, I would appeal to you to VOTE in the upcoming Council election.


1 comment:

tom said...

"Only one resident showed at a recent City Council meeting to question the city's proposed new deal with its trash haulers."

Since this issue involved a get rich quick scheme by the city the place could have been packed and it would NOT have made a difference