The agenda item that consumed most of council’s open session time on Thursday was the future of garbage and kitchen scraps pick up. What to do and how to proceed when survey results can be interpreted in a number of ways?

Another key though short discussion (for now!) was the idea which I put on the table to extend the Secondary Suite Incentive Program to cover building garden suites. I gave ‘notice of motion’ to add Garden Suites to this program. Stay tuned for the February 16 Governance and Priorities Committee.   

In the last term, Council decided to survey residents to ask about garbage and kitchen scraps pick up. Citizens were give three options and maintaining the status quo (once a week garbage pick up from the backyard) was not one of them. The results are in. 48% (2073) voted for bi-weekly curbside collection of garbage and kitchen scraps, 35.3% (1523) for bi-weekly backyard collection of garbage and kitchen scraps and 13.3% (574) voted for alternate weeks kitchen scraps/garbage, backyard collection. City staff recommended – based on Council’s promise to citizens – that we go with the most popular option.

But up next was John Burrows, president of CUPE 50, representing the workers who would lose jobs/hours if we go with the most popular option. He interpreted the survey results differently. More people, he argued (1523 + 574) voted to keep backyard collection. Additionally, if you look at all the comments (which he had done) even some of those who voted for the biweekly collection or who chose no option but commented said they’d like to keep backyard collection. What to do?

City staff said that the survey results also indicated that the most important factor for citizens was cost. And thus, most chose the cheapest option. Balance this against the workers who will be displaced at the lower end of the ‘spareboard’ as those currently involved in garbage pick up lose regular hours and move back to the top of the spareboard based on seniority.

Council decided (8-1) to keep its promise to citizens and go with the option they chose. I voted in favour of this. We will still need to vote on this at the Council meeting this Thursday Feb 9. We also directed staff to look into the possibility of taking over Blue Box pickup from the CRD when that contract expires in 2014. Finally, we asked to know more about the impact on the CUPE workers before making a final decision. I will wait to make my final decision until all the information is in.

This is one of those challenging situations where the City is both the employer, responsible to its employees, and the service provider, responsible to its customers. This is one of those situations where – in my mind – the good of the many must be considered over the good for the few. These are hard and important choices.