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Jan-09-2008 06:14printcomments

Salem City Council Passes Ordinance Threatening Future of Local Business

A vote for changes in the solid waste ordinance went forward even though a local business owner was assured it would wait.

got junk
1-800-GOT-JUNK? is a full-service junk removal company.

(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? removes old
household items, they do not haul
regular weekly garbage. Salem's
action will likely make this popular
eco-friendly local business history.

That was the beginning of the Salem garbage drama for the owners of 1-800-Got-Junk?. This service has been supplying residents with an option beyond the city disposal when they have solid waste that needs to be removed. This includes things like swing sets, jacuzzis, and large furniture. They recycle a large amount of material, but do not work with household garbage.

"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.

Councilman Bennett

City Councilman Chuck Bennett told Salem-News, "The only substantial change related to any business that might be in violation of our current law is that if the city doesn't move to enforce the law, the franchise holder can pursue a private action to enforce it."

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 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."

Councilman DeHart

Though the extension to January 28th was understood with the Gotlib's, Councilman Brent DeHart explained that the Council still expected them to be at the January 7th meeting.

"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."

Councilman Sullivan

Ken Gotlib added, "The city through this ordinance is abdicating its code enforcement role. This ordinance allows a private business to be the judge and jury and drag a perceived competitor through the courts for endless litigation."

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, 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:

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Dave January 10, 2008 8:06 am (Pacific time)

These councilmen should be embarassed by their actions. Is this america?

Jason January 9, 2008 1:06 pm (Pacific time)

Could you please add to the story to provide the particulars of the lase change what would help me understand what is going on?

Jason January 9, 2008 5:48 pm (Pacific time)

I have needed services for "hauling and recycling" services that the incumbent garbage company doesn't provide. Doesn't 1-800-Got-Junk and other similar companies provide the service of actually picking up/cleaning out garages, and basements, etc. Does this law limit just the "hauling" aspect? And, if so, does the garbage company haul recycling, such as metals, to the appropriate companies? When I needed service, the metal all had to go to a third company. It was not even closely-related to the garbage company to get the drop box or to remove it. Does this law affect these companies, as well?

Jason January 9, 2008 5:43 pm (Pacific time)

Actually, isn't it always the perogative of one company to bring legal action against another if it feels there are grounds? Does the proposed law make it a criminal matter, or does it codify something that I am missing?

John January 9, 2008 2:55 pm (Pacific time)

It’s ridiculous to expect company A to police company B, and give each the power to bring legal action against each other is laughable and idiotic. Is the voice and opinion of the people ever heard?

Jason January 9, 2008 1:07 pm (Pacific time)

Could you provide the text of the proposed change in the law to make it more clear what is going on, please?

Paste this in your address bar to see the minutes from the January 7th meeting:

Mike January 9, 2008 10:45 am (Pacific time)

I guess the city would rather have junk left on the side of the street. The local garbage companies charge massive fees for anything other then weekly service, even ONE extra bag of trash can cost $3.00 or more! And even the small dumpsters are in the hundreds! Councilors seem to be out of touch w/ their own city's need. Instead of worrying about kickbacks, and making MORE codes to knock down the little guy, they should thank "got junk" for helping keep the city clean. And as far as having haulers sue each competitor instead of the city enforcing their own codes is just plain STUPID!! I can't believe ANYONE in their right mind would think that is a good idea!!

Pekay January 9, 2008 10:42 am (Pacific time)

Just another example of Mayor Taylor and her "Gestapo" tactics. Parking enforcement (aka The Parking Nazi's), the council chamber members, and all the others in the pockets of bigger businesses. So, what do they open in Salem? Not a business like 1-800-Got-JUNK but another #$%^*( CORPORATE SLIME PIT - STARBUCKS!! How many coffee stops do we have to have to make it from South Commercial Street to Keizer??

Salem Resident January 9, 2008 9:02 am (Pacific time)

I just read in the paper today that two Salem restaruants are closing their doors, and Big Lots in South Salem in closing it's doors as well. So that means the unemployment rate in the Salem-area will be going up again. Shouldn't we be trying to keep people in business and not trying to force them out of business??Seems the city councils priority's are out of whack.

Anonymous January 9, 2008 8:53 am (Pacific time)

Watch who backs Mayor Taylor's re-election campaign. The service, which is a good option for most, is less expensive than having a dumpster delivered to your house to remove the items listed in the story, so no wonder why they want them out of town. Is this going on in ANY other major city in which they operate??

Neal Feldman January 9, 2008 6:54 am (Pacific time)

DeHart seems to have acted reasonably. Bennett I'm not so sure of but looking at Sullivan's response he comes across as a weasel. It clearly was stated that they would wait til January 28th, then they turn around and pull this BS. One can only wonder why... why the rush? No one on the council wants to answer. I wonder why that might be. Kickbacks anyone? Ah well...

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