Talking Trash: Flow Control Ordinance Gets Delayed, and City Puts Out Trash Pick-Up Bid

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Like I said earlier this week, when city attorneys had city council members behind closed doors this week, one of their topics of conversation was the National Solid Wastes Management Association's federal antitrust lawsuit against the city over flow control -- you know, that ordinance steering all solid waste collected in the city limits to city-owned facilities, chief among them the McCommas Bluff Landfill in far southeastern Dallas. Now we know what they discussed: The city and the NSWMA, who were to meet next week in U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor's courtroom for a preliminary injunction hearing, have decided to hit the "pause" button.

The city was supposed to file its response today in advance of a hearing scheduled for Thursday afternoon. O'Connor was going to rule sooner than later on NSWMA's motion for a temporary injunction, since the ordinance is scheduled to go into effect January 2. But on the other side you'll find docs filed in federal court this morning in which both sides agree to delay, well, everything. The hearing's now set for the morning of January 12. Meanwhile: "The City of Dallas has agreed to defer enforcement of the Flow Control Ordinance at issue in this lawsuit beginning January 2, 2012, and continuing for at least 30 days following the preliminary injunction hearing."

And on a very related subject: I can't get anyone at City Hall to explain an RFP posted on the city's inscrutable bids website concerning ... well, this: "The scope of this specification is to establish a contract with the City of Dallas (City) for curbside collection, hauling and disposal of brush and bulk debris and hauling of refuse from the Bachman Transfer Station to McCommas Bluff Landfill." As you'll see in the docs on the other side, the bid request is for several different services. Are we about to privatize bulk trash pick-up? Where's Wylie H.?

Update: Tom Brown, Texas chairman of the NSWMA, says in a prepared statement that "the postponement of the hearing by mutual agreement of all parties will provide us with additional time to present our client's many concerns about the legality of the City of Dallas flow control ordinance to the court as well as the negative impact flow control will have on the environment." Solid Waste Continuance#2a Specifications 1

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If I read this correctly, flow control is merely an attempt to give an insider a lucrative contract.  

Suhm et al., claimed that increased tipping fees from flow control will result in a boon to the city's economy.  If the normal trash pickup contracts are worded the same way as this one, there is no financial benefit to the city from tipping fees:

in the Terms on first page:  "...., dumping fees shall be included in all bid pricing,...".  No one bidding on this contract is going to absorb specified fees as a break-even or loss line item.  They will estimate dumping fees (high) and mark them up 40% - 200% (depending on the integrity of the business).  In essence, the city will be paying the contractor to pay dump fees.


Again, the parties' legal counsel say it all.  The City has a bunch C student back benchers from a crony law firm, the waste companies have the best legal talent money can buy.  Throw in a lot of bad facts--bad for the city--treble damages for anti-trust violations, and all of a sudden this doesn't look very profitable, forget intelligent.

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