I was recently sent the following by a family friend from my hometown (I’ll call her June for sake of privacy):
I’ve recently been annexed in to the city of Marysville. Apparently it became official in 2006. This year, the city has begun it’s compulsory garbage pick up for all of it’s citizens living in the Sunnyside, Soper Hill, Whiskey Ridge area. Prior to this, garbage service was provided by Waste Management and was elective. I’ve lived here on [redacted] for 38 years. I’ve not needed, wanted or used the Waste Management services and have found ways of taking care of my own garbage via recycling, composting and the very little I have that needs to be disposed goes to the garbage dump with my son as he goes to do his own garbage run. When I received my first bill for services I’ve not ever used, sometime around March, I began to look into it thinking they’d made a mistake. That’s when I became enlightened that it was a compulsory service. I’ve spoken with my City Council members (3 of them) the Utilities director and the City Planning Commissioner. No one sees a reason to release me or allow me to be exempted. Apparently, I’m not the first person to point out that people not needing, wanting or using the service should not have to pay. They say, “That’s just the way it is”. Of course, I think the matter is simple. I’m self employed and work in the service industry. I provide service to those needing or wanting and using them. I get paid for rendering the service. I don’t get paid if the service doesn’t get rendered. Can you offer any insight, direction or ideas, that will help me speak in a way to be taken seriously?
George Washington once said, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force.”
Just imagine for a moment that you’re sitting on the couch watching old DVR’d episodes of America’s Got Talent when you hear a knock on the door. You open the door and find 3 well-dressed gentlemen with pleasant grins on their faces. Almost immediately they begin their sales pitch about their impeccable tree-trimming service. It really did seem like a good service, and they mentioned the many travesties that have occurred in the neighborhood lately because of dead tree branches that were falling and injuring “the children.” They were selling their services for a trivial cost of $19.86 per month, in which they would come out and cut down any branches that needed trimming every Thursday. “This really seems like it might be a good service for some” you think, “but I only have a few bushes on my property that might need trimming about twice a year.” You politely say “No, thank you” and close the door, only to hear the same knock on the door.
Upon opening it once again, those 3 men are still standing there, but with a slightly different countenance. “I don’t think you understand” one man says. “You WILL be buying our services. I don’t intend to scare you, but if you try not to purchase our services, we will come anyway, steal the money you owe us (plus 5%) and if it happens often enough, we’ll steal $150 the first time we come, $300 the second time we come, and then steal $1000 and kidnap you for 90 days if we have to come a third time. Then we’ll see if you straighten up and do as you’re told, so to make things simpler on you and us, just pay the $15.92 per month.”
“Oh, and one more thing,” he says, “Don’t even consider defending yourself when we force our way into your home to take your money or when we try to capture you, we’ve got them on our side.” He motions with a slight head nod to the street where rough and dangerous-looking men stand with guns at their side.
What are you to do?
In this analogy, you could call the police. In the real life situation presented, however, those rough and dangerous-looking men with guns that are on the salesmen’s side ARE the police.
Have I dragged on this analogy long enough? I think you get the picture. All the numbers that I used in that analogy are the exact numbers that come from the Marysville Municipal Code (MMC). In MMC 7.08.030, it states that trash collection is indeed compulsory for every “occupied premise.”
(The word compulsory sure does sound better than forced with the threat of violence, doesn’t it?)
MMC 7.08.110 shows that residents will be required to pay $19.86 per month (that’s just for the smallest bin). If they don’t pay this money, they will be “punished” according to MMC 4.02.040(3)(g). I won’t bore you with all the specifics of that, but you can look it up here. It is basically a three strikes you’re out rule. The first strike is a $150 fine, the second strike is a $300 fine, and the third strike makes you guilty of a misdemeanor which they then can fine you $1000 and imprison you for 90 days – all because you didn’t want to buy what they were trying to sell.
There are a few options to take here:
1. Pay the money: Like the low-life that keeps mugging you in the same back alley every month for a few bucks, you start to get used to it and it doesn’t bother you anymore. You know that he won’t hurt you as long as you just give him the money up front. This is by far the easiest option, but as Edmund Burke is widely acknowledged as saying: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
2. Run for office: This is my plan of action in several years, but requires a commitment and sacrifice that most are not willing to endure, and understandably so. Maybe if I run in the city of Marysville I can attach “Vote for Brian!” to this option.
3. Find loop holes: There are several exemptions listed in the MMC. 7.08.030 and 7.08.035. They may not apply, but it may be worth a shot.
4. Assemble and petition: “Congress shall make no law… prohibiting… the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” -First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. June mentioned that there were several others that had spoken to city council about not wanting to be forced into paying for unnecessary services. It is easier for a council to turn away individuals than it is to turn away a group of people. The bigger the better. There are plenty of people that find compulsory trash service ridiculous even if they themselves wish to use the service – get them on board too. Pick a day that the city council meets and show up with as many people as you can. Remind them that you vote. If they try the “That’s just the way it is”
BS statement, I would suggest saying something to the tune of “I know. Do your job and change it.”
5. Practice civil disobedience: This is the part where all the professing Christians look around and think “Did he just say the D-word?” Yes, I said it. I think it would be a good thing to D-I-S-O-B-E-Y. The bad rap about civil disobedience comes from this crazy notion that law=justice=righteousness=goodness. Civil disobedience is simply continuing to do the right thing, despite a bad law telling you to do otherwise. In this case, civil disobedience is easy to do, but difficult to deal with the consequences. The act of civil disobedience is as easy as not paying the bill. The difficult part comes when those consequences come into play:-First, assuming your trash bill is incorporated with your water bill, you water will be shut off. -Second, you’ll get several fines. -Third, you’ll be sent to a collection agency. -Fourth, you’ll be fined again – for more money. -Fifth, you’ll be arrested and sent to prison.
Now, do I really think you’ll be sent to prison? Probably not. But when embarking on the civil disobedience train, it’s best to be prepared for anything. The good thing about civil disobedience – and really the whole point of it – is to bring public awareness to an unjust law. The Marysville Globe, The Everett Herald, and maybe even the Seattle Times would most likely enjoy publishing an article about a woman being sent to prison for refusing to pay for trash collection that she didn’t want or need. That creates public awareness which creates change. But count the cost and choose your battles.
In my opinion, and only my opinion, I would say start out with #4. It is probably the most effective way while still remaining inside the confines of the law (for good or bad). If that doesn’t work, I’m a big fan of #5. That being said, I am not a lawyer (yet) and I did not sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night. A real lawyer might be a good idea if #5 is an option for you.
“Of course, I think the matter is simple. I’m self employed and work in the service industry. I provide service to those needing or wanting and using them. I get paid for rendering the service. I don’t get paid if the service doesn’t get rendered.”
Yes, June. You are spot-on. This makes way too much sense. Unfortunately this same scenario is happening on the national stage.
You want trash services? Buy it. You don’t want trash services? Don’t buy it.
Nope. Our all-knowing governmental protector knows what we need and knows how to force us to buy it.
Everybody all together now:
“And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free…”