Much as we hate to say it, county’s trash plan legal

Burke Wasson

Burke Wasson


Like much of south county, we’re opposed to St. Louis County’s plans to assign trash haulers to unincorporated areas through the guise of “new minimum standards” and “trash districts.”

But, as much as we hate to say it, we also believe those plans are legal.

Rep. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, should be thanked for listening to his constituency’s repeatedly brazen disdain for the notion that county government should control services like trash pickup that people now choose for themselves. If these residents wanted local government to control the most basic services in their lives, they would incorporate.

But in the well-founded rush to oppose the county’s trash-district plans, some very good people are jumping to some very bad conclusions.

Lembke and others are studying options to legally challenge the county’s trash-district proposal. Citing the state Constitution, Lembke asserts that it “clearly states that a law cannot be passed that impedes the ability or obligation of entering into contract.”

While we applaud Lembke’s efforts to stop a plan that is progressive in theory yet oppressive in practice, we also have a reasonable concern that his view of the plan as “unconstitutional” is, in our opinion, trash.

If it were unconstitutional for local government to hire trash haulers for residents, how could countless municipalities in the state do the same thing? Should the city of Green Park worry about the legality of its contract with American Eagle? What about Crestwood’s pact with Veolia? The answer to these queries as well as to the question of “Are the county’s trash-district plans illegal?” is an obvious “no.”

That is why we encourage opponents of the trash districts to make your feelings known to the County Council instead of a well-intentioned but ill-informed group of legal challengers. We’re willing to bet that most attorneys in the area would see the “unconstitutional” view of the trash districts as void of a legal precedent.

That said, while we can understand the county’s desire to increase recycling — which you would have to be either slobbish or ignorant to oppose — we reject any enterprise that will knowingly put companies out of business, which county officials admitted in saying that larger trash haulers would be more capable of offering cheaper bids.

For that reason, we applaud County Councilman John Campisi for preparing a bill to overturn the trash plan and for, as he so candidly put it, opposing “the whole damn thing.”