Garbage collection in Memphis: A game of chicken between the mayor and city council

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. ( – Local 24 News political analyst and commentator Otis Sanford shares his point of view on the battle over trash collection in Memphis.

It appears that we are witnessing a game of chicken between Memphis mayor Jim Strickland and the city council over a rate increase for city trash collection. And the question is – who will blink and swerve first?

My guess is it will be the council, which will hold its final meeting of the year next week. I believe council members – even those who are leaving office at year’s end – are unwilling to call Strickland’s bluff on the threat to lay off more than 200 city sanitation workers.

This is all happening because the Strickland administration significantly improved trash collection earlier this year, using about $15 million dollars from the city’s general fund. But the improved service cannot be sustained without an estimated 30% rate increase. The council failed to approve the rate hike last week, but there is a January 6th deadline. And the council will almost certainly revisit the issue at its December 17th meeting.

It must be noted that Strickland expanded trash collection while he was seeking reelection. And the council, also for political reasons, did not put a rate increase in this year’s budget. But now the bill is coming due. And I don’t believe council members or Strickland have the stomach to layoff that many sanitation workers particularly with this city’s history of mistreating those workers.

So, we’ll keeping watching as this game of chicken continues. And that’s my point of view.

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