Stew's Views /

Feb. 15, 2011


Why should I have to pay for fire insurance on my home, and also pay the share of my city taxes that go to run the fire deparment? I've never had a fire in my home, or called the fire department, not even for a treed cat, or to fill a swimming pool. I don't even much like my cat, come to think of it.

Same deal with the police department. I never solicit their services. It's more likely I would request they not get involved in my business.

And I sure as heck don't want to have any use for the county coroner's office. Don't call me and I won't call you.

It seems that local government operates just like the cable TV and satellite operators. They insist I pay for all local services whether I want them or not, the same way I have to buy a whole package of channels, even though I delete all the school, shopping and Jesus channels -- and several more -- so they won't even flicker by for a second.

Local government will tell us that all those services are needed for public safety and the overall good of the community. The cable company will explain to us the "economies of scale" of giving everyone a broad selection of channels to choose from, or, to be honest, cable can blame it on the content providers which insist on bundling their weak offerings with one or two that are in demand. Take it or leave it! That's capitalism, Baby!

So, how about this proposal for Owensboro, and possibly rural Daviess County, to have a mandatory curbside recycling program?

You can't watch 15 minutes of TV without seeing a reference for Green This or Eco-Friendly That. Recycling is the future, we've been told for years. And today, a large chunk of the population believes recyling is now -- right now.


In the past five years, the amount of recycleable materials hauled voluntarily by Owensboro residents to its drop-off centers has increased by a third. Last year, that was 453 tons of newspaper, cardboard, plastic, steel and aluminum that didn't have to buried sufficiently to meet costly federal guidelines.


But curbside recyling has lagged. Now in its second year, an Owensboro start-up called GORecyling has found only 260 homes and businesses interested in paying $10 or more a month for such a service. That's not many. But what if the cost was just $2 or $3 a month?

Responding to Mayor Ron Payne's recent request for more information, City Manager Bill Parrish and Steve Janson, general manager of Resource Recycling in Owensboro, reported back that if there's a political will, there's a practical way.

Several communities Owensboro admires for their growth and opportunities have taken the plunge. Louisville, Lexington, Evansville and Bowling Green each have curbside programs, according to a Feb. 7 report in the Messenger-Inquirer.

In Bowling Green and Warren County, households each pay $2.15 per month, whether the residents want to use the service or not. About 60 percent of households participate. The rest, I presume, are too lazy to put recyclables in a separate container, or believe that filling a landfill is an investment in the future.

To me, $2.15 a month doesn't seem unreasonable. Most families could save that much in a week just by buying soft drinks in 2-liter jugs instead of single-serving bottles and cans.

Janson said his company would make it easy. Residents can put all their recylables in one container and his people (including 15 new employees) will do the sorting during weekly pick-ups.

Physically and fiscally, it can be done. But Janson knows the real obstacle is local leadership, or the possible lack thereof.

"We've been jerked around by politicians who don't want to make the fee mandatory. But that's what we need," he told the Owensboro City Commission.

Opponents will insist only those who want the service should pay for it.

Fine. Fair enough.  But I'll just pay my fire district taxes right after I call the fire department. And I'll wait to buy car insurance until you and I have a little run-in on the street. And if I ever need the coroner's service, I won't care where they send the bill.

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