Bethlehem Residents Support Single Hauler Trash Service If They Will “Realize a Cost Reduction and Improved Service”

I got hold of a copy of the Bethlehem quality of life survey, which I’ve posted down at the bottom. Here is the section pertaining to the hot hot trash collection issue.

Even if you put all the Don’t Know people in the Not Supportive column – and probably it’s more like 50/50 – it only gets you to 36% in opposition to a single trash hauler. Even if you assume that the 9% who are now Somewhat Supportive become Not Supportive when they hear the details of the actual bid on offer, it only gets you to 45% in opposition.

45% is much too large an estimate of the size of the opposition, but even that would not be a large enough opposition coalition to justify members of Council voting against the single trash hauler proposal. Provided the details of the plan satisfy the conditions put to residents – cost reduction and improved service – then the position with the largest number of supporters should win out.

If you want to complain about their methodology, here is Chris Borick’s explanation:

Here are the complete results. Anything interesting jump out? I would’ve thought more people would list tax and budget issues among the most important, but they’re way down on the list. All of people’s top choices for “most important issue” involve wanting more or better public services.

City of Bethlehem Citizen Survey

“Lincoln” and Liquor License Reform

Everybody’s saying what insights they think should be drawn from Lincoln for current policy debates, so I’ll join in and talk about liquor licensing and alcohol reform.

In both cases, you have a market that lots of people would like to change, but where any meaningful change will impose huge losses on powerful incumbents.

Abolitionists who wanted to ban chattel slavery were faced with a powerful argument that this would mean wiping out about a quarter of the nation’s private property wealth, and destroying the economy of the South.

People who want to end PA’s County Quota System and let any restaurant or bar sell alcohol are faced with a similarly powerful argument that this would mean wiping out the value of incumbent bar and restaurant owners’ licenses, which they’ve paid tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for.

In this kind of situation, the political strategy calls for side payments to compensate incumbents for their loss.

And Lincoln did try this. Early in the Civil War, Lincoln tried to end slavery in the border states by paying compensation to slaveowners. Predictably, nobody went along with it, just like tavern license owners in PA have rejected all attempts to make a deal that would compensate them for opening up six-pack sales to beer distributors and supermarkets.

The lesson for PA politicians to learn from Lincoln is that Lincoln didn’t stop trying to end slavery just because slaveowners rejected his offer to compensate them.

Instead of giving up, Lincoln built a political coalition to rout them anyway. The 13th amendment got passed and the slaveowners got nothing.

That’s the way it ought to go down with these big market reforms. Too often politicians let stakeholder opposition scare them into inaction, and get trapped thinking that compromise with stakeholders is the only viable solution. But compromise is only a useful tactic to achieve your desired ends, it shouldn’t be a goal in itself.

If compromise and side-payments get liquor license reform passed, that’s great, but if people don’t want to take the side-payments then you need to wipe them out, not give up.

Where the $110 in Savings Comes From in John Callahan’s Trash Plan

Bethlehem city officials tell Nicole Radzievich how they came up with $110 in savings for an average household:

To get the single-hauler  price, one of the methods the city used was the one-third rule. They figured that the landfilling cost is about a third of the price. After researching what other haulers pay, they assumed $55 a ton. Then, using national averages, they assumed the city’s residents would put out about 28,000 tons of trash and another 1,000 tons would be generated from the city’s own property.

Now, the math magic:

  1. $55 a ton X 29,000 tons = $1,595,000 for the landfilling cost.
  2. They multiplied that number by three (because landfilling is a third of the cost) and came up with $4,785,000.
  3. They divided that by the 24,000 households (buildings bigger than four units are considered commercial and not part of Callahan’s proposal) and came up with an average solid waste bill of about $200 ($199.37).
  4. With the city’s $60 recycling fee, that bill goes up to $260.
  5. The city would tack on an additional “administrative fee,” though they haven’t said what that would be yet.

Marshall said the calculation is not an exact science and tried to be conservative in the amount of savings would be passed on to the public. So, he’s projecting a $300 annual bill.

So, the final calculation is: $410 (average price paid now) – $300 single-hauler estimate = $110 in savings.

As Nicole points out, the city can only talk about the average right now (instead of the median) since they don’t know what all individual haulers charge. But Callahan’s saying they can get it down to $300 for trash, $60 for recycling.

Statistics Fail Blogging

LOL of the morning goes to Bernie O’Hare who thinks that Eric Evans’ “feel for his constituency” is more accurate than an actual poll. Kind of like how we weren’t supposed to trust Nate Silver because Joe Scarborough’s gut said the 2012 race was a toss-up.