Trash talkin’

It was a weighty question. Should the City of Detroit collect bulk trash (aka broken appliances and furniture, tree limbs, and other major refuse) every other month instead of monthly?

It took little time for 20 or so seniors gathered at a southwest Detroit neighborhood city hall to make up their minds. Absolutely not, they said.

The Department of Public Works (DPW) conducted 10 “focus groups” on the issue. The southwest group met on a recent weekday afternoon, which explains why all but one of the attendees were senior citizens.

Scaling back collection to every other month is one way the city, faced with a $263 million deficit, could save a few bucks (the city is still trying to figure out exactly how much). Too bad DPW failed to emphasize this point. Had it done so, the seniors may not have trashed the proposal.

Instead, department representative Alicia Kisner tried to sell the plan as a recycling effort. No doubt Kisner was doing what she was told. But her PowerPoint presentation eluded the seniors, not to mention News Hits.

As an alternative to collecting bulk trash every month, Kisner said the city could instead collect yard waste each week when it picks up household trash. Kisner explained that separating yard waste from household trash would cut down on the city’s disposal costs. This might have been an opportune time to mention the massive city deficit and the need to cut costs. But Kisner talked about “efficiency,” keeping Detroit in line with “industry standards” and maintaining its “world-class bulk collection service.” Hell, we didn’t even know we had one!

None of this moved the seniors, who quickly dismissed the suggestion, then told Kisner why it wouldn’t work. Most said their neighbors put bulk trash out early. If the city collects every other month, refuse will sit out — creating eyesores — for two months instead of one. They say most people don’t know when bulk trash collection day is and surely won’t follow a new timetable.

Seniors spent the remaining time (about an hour) complaining about related problems, including illegal dumping, polluted vacant lots and errant city workers.

“Why have I paid taxes the last 50 years to put up with this?” asked 77-year-old Monrovia Walton. Walton and others suggested that DPW and other city departments hold internal focus groups to figure out how municipal workers can better serve the public.

Kisner managed to steer the conversation back to bulk trash, asking those in favor of the proposal to raise their hands. Walton got some chuckles when she threatened to “shoot” anyone who voted for it. The focus group unanimously shot it down. The city will decide whether to adopt the bulk trash proposal next month.

Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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