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African-American Aldermen Question Potential Garbage Collection Fee

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Some African-American aldermen have raised concerns about a proposal to start collecting fees for residential garbage collection in Chicago, as many suburbs have done for years.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), who chairs the City Council's Black Caucus, said he wants to hear more about a possible residential trash collection fee before making up his mind.

"The pros obviously are the money; the concept of the money coming into the budget, which could be significant. The negatives have included people that aren't going to want to pay, primarily," he said.


Sawyer said he fears fees on garbage collection could drive some people to dump trash in alleys, or other residents' receptacles, but that doesn't mean he opposes fees.

"I want to hear more about it, so I can understand it better. How would it be rolled out? Will seniors get an exemption? How it's going to affect our labor crews, which are important to me. There's a lot of things," he said. "So I'm not for it or against it right now. I want to hear more about it."

Large multi-unit residential buildings in Chicago already have to pay for private garbage collection. The city provides free trash collection for approximately 600,000 single-family homes, and smaller apartment buildings with up to four units.

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) said he doesn't need to hear any more about a proposed residential garbage collection fee. He said it's just a bad idea, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel is considering it as he works to balance the city's budget, and eliminate a deficit of more than $750 million.

Sawyer said, with such a large hole in the budget, he expects a lot of ideas for new revenue to get approved.

"The garbage concept, even if it goes through, is only going to fill a certain level of that," he said.

CBS 2's Dorothy Tucker reports 846,000 tons of trash are collected every year from homeowners across the city at a cost of some $244 million.

Alderman Howard Brookins represents a South Side community full of single homes where garbage cans line the alleys. The proposed collection fee could be $240 a year.

"I would prefer we just raise the property taxes whatever we would have been collecting off this garbage tax," Brookins says.

Chicagoan Janice Gray believes her nearly $4,000 a year property taxes should cover the cost of garbage pickup.

"What happens if we don't pay the fee?" Gray asks. "Does our garbage pile up?"

Chicagoans may shun fees, but it's a common practice in nearby suburbs and around the country. Oak Park residents pay nearly $300 a year, Evanston more than $200 Milwaukee nearly $200 and Los Angeles homeowners fork over $500 for their trash.

According to a government watchdog, it's the best way to tackle the city's $600 million to $1 billion deficit.

"The fact of the matter is the city doesn't have the money to maintain the services it currently provides

According to the Civic Federation, it's the best way to tackle the city's 600 million to one billion dollar deficit

"The fact of the matter is the city of Chicago doesn't have the money to maintain the services it currently provides," said Laurence Msall.

Emanuel is hosting three town hall meetings this week to discuss the city's budget with Chicagoans, and get the public's input on how to balance the budget. For more information on the town hall meetings, click here.

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