Lesson: Government Ineptness

By:  Diane Benjamin

All the emails below were received under the Freedom of Information Act.

Laugh or cry, it’s your choice.

Here’s the story:

A guy moved from one location in Bloomington to another.  At his old place he had a 95 gallon cart, but his new place had the smaller size.  He called the City twice to exchange the cheaper one for the larger size.  The guy claims the City tells him the charge will be $30 more a month, so he then contacts Alderwoman Karen Schmidt.  Note the first email is dated 3/3 at 3:28pm.

Note:  If the City was a private business and a customer WANTED to pay them more, what would happen?


Jim Karch (Public Works) responds at 3:43 pm, but he thinks he is talking to Alderwoman Stearns.  Notice how the header is cut off this email.  Karch tells Schmidt it is going to cost the guy $30 the get a larger size because that’s what the ordinance says.

Note:  City says the guy has to pay $30 for the privilege of paying more per month for a larger can.





Schmidt responds again at 3:44 pm.



Karch writes a short response at 3:45:


Schmidt tries for common sense again at 3:56.

Another note:  So far those involved are Schmidt, Karch, Rasmussen, Henson, Kutz.  FOUR City employees and an alderman just because a guy wants a bigger can.


At 9:09 am the next day Robert Henson chimes in.  The ordinance says the guy must be charged!  After all, a City employee is going to be forced to go to the guys house and swap cans.  Garbage is an Enterprise Fund, the City has no choice.


At 9:20 Karch agrees – the ordinance says he has to pay!


At 9:48 am, Schmidt tries again.  As the PEOPLE’s representative to the City, do you think she was a little too nice?


Now, the story jumps to 3/16.  The guy still hasn’t received a larger cart – 13 days later.  Schmidt turns to TWO more City employees – Beth Oakley and David Hales


Evidently David Hales had to meet with Karen Schmidt to resolve the issue.  Again the headers are cut off, so the final email doesn’t say who received it.


I wonder if Mr. Cotter is the citizen in question, or maybe he is yet another City employee.


A guy wanted a larger garbage cart and was willing to pay more per month for it.

The only reason he needed it was because he moved to a place that already had the smaller size.

It took SIX City employees and an alderman and at least 13 days to make that happen.  The citizen had to make at least 3 phone calls, he received even more.

I don’t know if the carts actually got swapped.  Maybe he is still waiting.

If you think this incident is an isolated event, think again.  This IS government.  This is why government shouldn’t be allowed to do jobs the private sector can do better.  Common sense is against the ordinance.

Remember the committee the City supposedly put together to handle citizen complaints?  Remember the Department heads felt intimidated by the alderman and the aldermen were suppose to go through a committee instead of contacting employees directly?  https://blnnews.com/2014/12/23/bloomington-minimized-aldermen/

Nobody else does either.


12 thoughts on “Lesson: Government Ineptness

  1. The guy clearly didn’t read the letter when the new carts were sent out. It plainly said that replacing a cart with a larger one would be a $30 charge. He probably misunderstood when he was reminded of that charge.

    (I agree that in the case of a cross-town move that fee should be waived or you should just be able to take your old can with you, and it looks like Hales agrees.)


  2. The point here is this: Government has no business being in the garbage business. Let any company who wants to do my garbage come to me and offer their service. Let ME negotiate the price for everything, including the size of the garbage can. For those who say the price will be higher, its only because you aren’t a good negotiator. Government sure isn’t.


    1. I’ve lived in a city where we had to deal with private sector trash collection, and it is a complete disaster. Sure, it works for bulk construction waste and apartment buildings, but for homeowners it’s nothing but hassle and frustration. I suppose if you’re an elderly person who only puts out one small bag of trash a week, you’d be fine, but heaven forbid you go over your contracted number of bags a week.


  3. This situation is a mess for sure. The City Council members voted the ordinance into law less than 3 years ago and should know its content. When Alderman Schmidt was contacted she should have gone directly to the City Manager for resolution rather than “intimidating” the staff. She also should have brought the issue back to the City Council to amend the ordinance. In defense of the Public Works Department, they are doing their best to abide by all of the demands the City Council has placed on them. Setting up the Solid Waste as an Enterprise Fund was intended to make that department autonomous. The Council, Mayor and City Manager are responsible here for not carefully reviewing an ordinance before voting it into law. Additionally, there is little or no thought put into the long term effect their decisions have.


    1. “When Alderman Schmidt was contacted she should have gone directly to the City Manager for resolution ….”

      lulz…like Hales can solve problems or find solutions. His contribution would be to farm out a study to out-of-towners.


    2. Actually, in the 3/16 email from Beth Oakley, she responded that Mr. Hales made an executive decision to not charge the citizen the $30.00 fee. My point is, Alderman Schmidt and the rest of the City Council approved the ordinance. The city employees were following the code as given. Any issue with a city ordinance should go back to the Council to be amended, not be overridden by ONE Alderman or the City Manager.


      1. Too much sense. It took 13 days to solve without going to the Council. How long would it take to switch a can if they did go to the Council?


  4. My wife ordered the 95 gallon cart when this program was first rolled out. It’s been a great source of stress in our marriage because we do not see eye to eye on trash at all. Anyway, we’ve been doing a lot of cleaning out of our garage and for the past two weeks we’ve managed to fill the 95 gallon cart. I’m sure it is quite heavy. I’m usually not around when the trash is picked up, but Tuesday I was. I don’t know how it is with the rest of the city, but in our part of town the carts are actually picked up by hand by two guys and dumped in the truck like they used to do it before this upgrade. What’s up with that? I thought the whole point of the carts was to avoid this with new trucks that would automatically pick up the carts. This is surely a work comp claim waiting to happen as heavy as my cart is.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s