Saturday, October 18, 2008

County Council Continues Trash Talk; No Action On Important Issue

Trash talk replaced formal action on a controversial trash bill Tuesday night at the St. Louis County Council meeting.

Midway through, Council President Kathleen Burkett, D-Overland, called for delaying a vote on a bill to amend the county's waste code to penalize unauthorized waste haulers in the new trash districts. Such "hold" requests are usually granted without discussion.

Councilman John Campisi, R-south St. Louis County, objected to Burkett's motion. "I'd like to bring that bill up now," Campisi said. "There has got to be some closure on this." County Counselor Pat Redington interjected, "We're moving on." "There is no moving on!" replied Campisi. "I can bring up a bill if I want." Council member Barbara Fraser, D-University City, then weighed in, accusing Campisi of using the issue to gain political support.

Eventually a vote was called and Burkett's motion to hold the bill was upheld. The trash issue has generated heated debate since it was proposed two years ago. Trash districts went into full effect Oct. 1, with low-bidding haulers selected to serve them. That left haulers who were outbid angry and vowing to cross district lines to win back customers. The bill in question would fine or jail unauthorized haulers.

Later in the meeting, Fraser asked for a delay on a routine bill, this one dealing with storm sewers in Tilles Park. "I'd like to hold on the bill - as long as no one's going to challenge me on that," she said.

Campisi shot back: "As long as you don't politicize it!" The pair sparred again when Campisi introduced a resolution calling for the council to support a 6.5 percent pay raise for police officers and 14 percent for dispatchers. A crowd of 90 officers, dispatchers and supporterswere on hand.

Fraser objected, saying such a resolution was not appropriate. "It's not legal, and the illegality of it will only get us into trouble," she said.

She said the issue needed to be studied in light of the county's budget crisis. She then suggested that Campisi should have studied the trash bill before he voted in favor of an early incarnation of it in 2006.

"I am against the trash bill!" Campisi said, his voice rising." Well, you voted in favor of it," Fraser said. Campisi pointed his finger at Fraser, saying, "And you promised that you were going to vote against it and then you changed your vote!"

Councilman Mike O'Mara, D-Florissant, weighed in against Campisi. "I don't appreciate you making a political tool out of this issue to force a wedge between us and the police," he said.

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