HAMILTON: Few People Know Garbage Like I Know Garbage & I’m Not Just Talking Trash!

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By: Ken Hamilton


It’s great that the citizens are rallying around something of civic significance and, believe me, I am against a tax-hike disguised as a garbage fee too.

But where have these same citizens been all of these years? Citizens who could have helped to have staved off their government’s excessive spending . . . and what are they proposing in detail to reduce the total expenditures of the city?

In 2014, there was room for many more seats at the American Legion’s Cadille Post in Niagara Falls’ City Market when the garbage tote idea was first proposed.

For the most part, the 40 or so seats that were in place were filled with resident-stakeholders who gathered to discuss with City Administrator Donna Owens their disgust with the city’s new trash and recycling plan.  It was clear in the angst of their opinions and the acidic words that they used that they were against it.

Owens, deserved or undeserved, took the brunt of it as she sat in the front of the room. Her head hung low.  She was glassy-eyed – brow-beaten – and I felt an intense sorrow for her.  I actually liked her as a person, but I just sat silently, dutifully tapping out notes on my laptop.

Here’s what Owens said while a barrage of criticism was hurled at her, “well, it was one of your residents who wanted it.”

But few people heard her low and whispered words in the Legion Hall that evening and, as she finished, raised her eyes, looked at me, and then quickly looked away.

Owens was right; I am largely responsible for a more encompassing recycle plan in the city and was the strongest advocate for it through my Niagara Gazette columns.

I was a naval operations specialist; responsible for knowing and understanding the movement of both close and distant hostile, unknown and friendly threats to the ship, and how to position the ship to either encounter or avoid them, and the knowledge and understanding of the military and engineering abilities of the ship to do so.  And I also ask a lot of questions.

My first job after leaving active duty in the Navy was as a clerk/typist responsible for tracking the efficiency of the fleet of the then-city owned garbage trucks; one of which my father drove.  Years later, after leaving the job, Mayor Jacob Palillo and City Administrator Thomas Lizardo became rather close allies.

It was then that Palillo told me, as could be expected in a poor city, that Niagara Falls had the highest per-capita of trash and garbage of any other city our size.  Furthermore, and after Palillo left, I would nonetheless speak at council meetings against then-Mayor James Galie’s plan to divest and outsource garbage collection.  I later learned that Galie wanted to cut costs to the city by outsourcing both the problems of pickup and pickup-personnel taking what was considered significant sick times due to injuries.

With such an active background in the area of trash, I was at first excited when Owens was hired by Mayor Paul Dyster as being one of the “best of the best.” Her resume stated that she managed trash pick-up in a municipal department of a mega-city, but I wasn’t seeing any fruits of that knowledge flowing from her office.

What I was seeing were the city-issued, blue trash bins dotting the white mounds of snow in front of the owner-occupied homes on garbage day and the absence of too many of those same bins in front of the rented homes and apartments (as well as the public housing projects). It was then I began my campaign.

Imagine that; a conservative with the duality to be concerned about the environment!  Even rarer, it seems, are the citizens of a city being concerned about the antics of their government prior to their actions biting them in the wallets that are still in their back pockets.

But where do we go from here? Our citizens should coalesce around their points of interests based upon the committees already outlined in the city charter, become the resident expert on those subjects and force the council to do their jobs.  But the last thing that we can do is to continue to be the villagers who gather with torches and pitchforks after the monster has left the castle.

And that’s no garbage.

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