A small but noteworthy part of Mayor Jerry Sanders’ proposed 2012 budget is to end city trash pickup on private streets, forcing those 14,200 customers to pay haulers to take away their garbage. That and other changes to trash collection will save $1.2 million, but the decision means much more.

San Diegans always have had a convoluted relationship with their trash and who pays to pick it up, as the Union-Tribune detailed over the weekend:

San Diego’s complicated history with trash has created a confusing collection system that mandates free trash service for residents while denying the benefit to nearly 42 percent of the city’s households. That group of have-nots — who must hire private companies to pick up their trash — is essentially subsidizing the 58 percent who get city trash collection because they pay the same taxes yet receive less service in return.

The system isn’t fair or equitable, but there doesn’t appear to be much anyone can do about it. Only a public vote can change the system and it’s unlikely that will ever occur because free trash pickup is sacrosanct to most city residents.

In their bid to end city trash collection on private streets, Mayor Jerry Sanders’ spokespeople have argued that trash is an equity issue: City residents should be treated the same no matter where they live.

If that’s their position, I’ve tried to push them to say it’s time to repeal the People’s Ordinance, the 1919 rule that prohibits the city from charging single-family homeowners for trash collection. The ordinance accounts for most of the inequities, but overturning it is a political third rail. So far, the Mayor’s Office hasn’t taken my bait.

We did a segment of our San Diego Explained series with NBC San Diego on San Diego trash collection. Take a look and you’ll see why we went to a pig farm.

Please contact Liam Dillon directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/dillonliam.

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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