Time to End Bethlehem’s Failed Market for Garbage

The single most effective way for the city of Bethlehem to put more money in residents’ pockets is to contract with a single trash hauler.

I laid out the case here, showing that the current free market system is a total rip-off, and fails to deliver the quality or cost savings that its proponents hold up. I also showed how Palmer Township has offered us a good example of how local governments should be arriving at a decision on garbage collection and related issues:

1. Aiming at getting the best value for residents
2. Comparing the merits of different approaches
3. Doing what the evidence says delivers the best value for the lowest cost
4. Putting up with inevitable complaining from some residents during the transition

The debate in Bethlehem has been nothing like this. Some city council members like David DiGiacinto and Eric Evans don’t really care which arrangement will get residents the best value, and just want to do whatever will make the complainers shut up:

Both DiGiacinto and council President Eric Evans noted the city’s unique trash collection system draws lots of impassioned resident input.

“It’s been an issue that’s been visited several times over the past decade,” Evans said, adding opinions remain varied but always evoke emotion.

City collection might be more efficient and easier to enforce but people enjoy selecting a hauler and price that fits their budget, Evans said.

It’s true that this debate brings out the crazy, but that’s not important. The only questions that matter are the impact questions. What is the impact on residents’ disposable income? What is the impact on service levels? What is the impact on street cleanliness? What is the impact on road congestion? What is the impact on the environment?

On every single one of those questions, Palmer’s politicians found that a single automated hauler is the better option, and so they did the right thing and saved their residents some money while winning them better services.

There is literally nothing going for the current approach besides the fact that not changing it won’t make David DiGiacinto’s phone ring with complaints from the multi-hauler dead-enders.

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