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Jan-09-2008 06:14TweetFollow @OregonNews
Salem City Council Passes Ordinance Threatening Future of Local BusinessBonnie King Salem-News.com
A vote for changes in the solid waste ordinance went forward even though a local business owner was assured it would wait.
(SALEM, Ore.) - The day before Thanksgiving, Ken Gotlib of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? got a call. He was told by a Salem city official that there was a proposed solid waste ordinance change, and that he should be aware of it. They told him they would send him the information, and he could call with any questions.
Ninety pages came across his computer, Gotlib said, and when he called for clarification, the city official who said he would be available had left for a 10-day vacation.
"1-800-Got-Junk? is a service. Just like you have a choice between Verizon or AT&T, we should also have a choice of how we want our items disposed of," Gotlib said.
"The main point is the city is not allowing a wanted and needed service like 1-800-GOT-JUNK? for Salem, while no one else has or will provide this type of service. The city has created a trial lawyer's dream of vague language in an ordinance with enormous conflict of interests."
With the City of Salem spending millions every year on code enforcement, one of the proposed changes circumvents the department completely, giving haulers the responsibility of turning each other in.
If a hauler perceives an infringement, they go straight to court where fines are up to $2,000 per occurrence- or jail. Apparently the idea is to get rid of the middle man, so therefore problems will be cleaned up more quickly.
But isn't this rather like asking McDonald's to ride herd on Burger King? Ken Gotlib says Yes. "This is exactly analogous to the city giving up its duty to do health inspections of restaurants, and then giving that authority to McDonalds, who is now the health inspector for all the Burger Kings in town."
This brings into question the objectivity of the hauler, a reasonable stance.
A private action. City of Salem Code Enforcement need not be alerted, nor respond. Is this what is in the best interest of the citizens of Salem?
Another change in the ordinance makes it illegal to advertise to haul junk without a franchise with the City of Salem, directly affecting 1-800-Got-Junk? and entrepreneurs with handy-man skills and services.
Garbage collection franchises are exclusive monopolies. Each garbage company has a 5 or 7 year exclusive agreement for a garbage collection in exclusive geographic territories in Salem. They operate in separate districts not competing with one another.
Garbage collection companies that stop at every house, every week, surely would have different requirements than other hauling businesses. Apparently not.
1-800-GOT-JUNK? contends that they are not subject to this ordinance because they are a clean-up and clean-out service that picks up mostly items for donation or recycling.
"Any garbage that we may pickup is incidental to our primary purpose," Gotlib said. "We do not do weekly garbage collection or want to."
About two weeks after that first notification phone call, Salem's City Council convened. On December 3rd, Jason Brandt from the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce spoke to the city council on behalf of an ill Ken Gotlib.
Then, December 14th, Mr. & Mrs. Gotlib met with the City Attorney and Manager of General Services in person at city hall via wheelchair, and due to his poor health (undergoing chemotherapy) it was recommended that they extend until January 28th.
Of several questions posed to Councilman Bennett and the other councilors, he replied, "The only two accurate statements in the discussion you sent us was the recommendation from staff and the fact that we overrode it and moved the ordinance forward toward passage. As for the health issues facing the businessman you mention, several weeks were added to the original public hearing schedule to accommodate his situation. He failed to take advantage of that opportunity."
As far as we can tell, the original hearing date was December 3rd, the subject was postponed until January 7th, the Gotlib's were given an extension to January 28th, and the additional weeks were revoked without warning. A quick visit to the city of Salem's Website clearly states that the matter should be moved to January 28th. A snapshot below this story from cityofsalem.net shows a clear reference at the bottom for January 28th.
"My wife and I were both told and agreed we had until January 28th to complete the process, given the holidays, my health issues and our need to hire a lawyer. It was recommended to city council last night, which the city council chose to overrule and rush to a vote contrary to staff recommendations," Gotlib said.
"City council ignored the assurances given to us and voted last night without giving us any ability to respond."
"The council was clearly disappointed that we granted an extension for Ken to provide testimony on January 7th, and he failed to appear, send a representative, or submit written testimony in lieu of a personal appearance."
Still, Councilman DeHart didn't think there was good reason to vote on the proposed changes at that time.
"I felt there was NO rush to push the ordinance through, and was disappointed in the decision. So you know, I issued the ONLY objection to closing the hearing, and stated the reason that "we have not heard both sides of the story yet."
He also told Salem-News that he read the 90-page staff report, "Clearly I read the entire staff report, and all the changes, deletions, and additions to the ordinance. It was I that brought up questions about definitions that were not clear, and outdated language that should be changed," he said.
"I do not know how much the other councilors read, but I can tell you I did, and my questions during the hearing prove it."
The vote on the solid waste ordinance changes passed with no recommendations.
"We are a “Mom and Pop” business who has spent their life savings building this business," added Gotlib. "We are committed to the environment, encourage and increase recycling, we give back to community through donations, reduce illegal dumping, and give our employees a positive work experience with a living wage. All that may be gone."
"If we can't do something about this, I don't see 1-800-Got-Junk? in Salem after 60 or 90 days. It's sad that Salem will lose this service for such a ridiculous reason," Gotlib said.
"Nothing in the ordinance puts anyone out of business," Councilman Bennett said. "The same rights, opportunities, limitations, etc. that exist in current city refuse collection laws continue in effect. The only reason the business you mentioned or any other business would go out of business is because they are in violation of the law. It's that simple."
Salem-News sent an email query to the Salem City Council for comment Tuesday afternoon. Chuck Bennett and Brent DeHart responded by the time of publication.
City Councilor TJ Sullivan also took the time to respond to Salem-News.com, stating "If you only talked to folks inside one industry then you are getting only half of the story. For me to explain how & why I voted the way I did would require me to explain the other side and given the pace at which I type leaves me less inclined to answer the question. I'd encourage you to get the other side of the story from Mary Kanz and then I think you'll have the answers why 8 of us voted the way we did."
Here is a copy of the city council minutes regarding this issue from January 7, 2008:
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