You know that $1-a-bag surcharge the city was thinking of slapping on over-productive generators of residential garbage? Well, it's not going to happen. At least not so long as Shelley Carroll is riding herd on city council's works committee. "The good news is, the status quo is working pretty well," the councillor for Ward 33 (Don Valley East) says of a municipal waste management program that has most folks dropping fewer than 2.5 sacks of refuse at the curb every other week.
"And the percentage of people who stay within the limit is getting higher and higher," Carroll enthuses.
This is why she expects that at its meeting later this month council will follow her committee's lead and ignore a staff report that not only recommends a new collection limit of four garbage bags (down from six) every two weeks, but also proposes charging a loonie for every bag over the limit.
The way the bureaucrats see it, a "bag tag program" requiring residents to buy $1 tags for attachment to their extra trash bags could be phased in over the next year and be running full bore with between 16 and 20 new staff by 2007.
"It seems like hiring a lot of staff to implement a user fee program for the few anomalies," says Carroll. She predicts that the number of garbage bags put out every two weeks will drop below the current citywide average of 2.1 per household once North York joins the green bin organic waste diversion program next month.
But budget chief David Soknacki maintains council will only be delaying the inevitable if it defers a decision on the buck-a-bag plan.
"It can be buried for a while at the end of this month," Soknacki says. "But the reality is that it's going to come back again and again until council implements the bag tag or something that does the same thing." He reckons that day could come as early as next spring, when council has to make its final decision on the city's 2006 operating budget.
It's no secret that waste management costs have more than doubled in the past five years. And things could get really hairy if Michigan ever does decide to close its border to the daily convoy of trucks hauling our litter.
"If you look beyond Steeles Avenue, Etobicoke Creek and the Rouge River, you'll find out that in the great wide world out there bag tag schemes are in place," Soknacki says. "They do work, they're financially sustainable and they accomplish environmental goals."
The budget chief can't quite comprehend council's reluctance to implement a staff-recommended program that "has so many virtues." However, he does note that there's a municipal election next year, and charging more for public services isn't much of a vote-getter.
"People raise the point that they're paying property taxes and, by golly, go pick up the garbage with my property taxes," says the councillor for Ward 43 (Scarborough East). "The response to that is: We will. We'll pick up the garbage and recycle it and compost it. But if you provide substantially more [non-recyclables] than the average, then you will have to pay.
"I think it's a good carrot-and-stick approach," Soknacki adds. "I also think it's good public policy."
MFP: it's back
Justice Denise Bellamy might have to hire extra staff to help deliver her final report on the MFP computer leasing scandal. Word is the tome - expected to shed authoritative light on how a $43-million information technology contract ended up costing city taxpayers more than $100 million - comes in at a hefty 1,900 pages.
It's so long and involved that journalists who want to give it a really good going over before the judge goes public with her findings Monday afternoon, September 12, will have to endure five hours locked up with the document in a committee room at the East York Civic Centre.
Or they can come in some time after 7:30 am and read the "executive summary" to find out what Bellamy has to say about the roles played by former MFP salesman Dash Domi, former budget chief Tom Jakobek, former city treasurer Wanda Liczyk and former City Hall lobbyist Jeff Lyons in the sorry affair that started in July 1999.
Some observers suggest the report will be anticlimactic and will not recommend the laying of criminal charges, considering that all the aforementioned characters are not longer part of the political scene.
Domi, who earned a $1.2-million commission for snagging the city's business for MFP, was most recently working for a local moving company and has had trouble paying both his lawyers and his property taxes.
Jakobek, who's been accused of taking a $25,000 bribe from Domi, has disappeared from the political radar. Liczyk, who fixed it so a former lover got lucrative IT contracts with the city, was last year shown the door by Toronto Hydro.
And Lyons, who peddled his influence with the administration of former mayor Mel Lastman to all sides in the leasing debacle, no longer makes a habit of visiting 100 Queen West. Rumour has it he's writing his memoirs. He'll have to wait and see if Bellamy has any new material for him.