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Perkins flubs new approach on garbage

Despite calling himself a modernizing, different kind of chief executive, Shreveport rookie politician Democrat Adrian Perkins flubbed his first big chance to demonstrate that.

Only weeks after taking office, Perkins announced his support for a garbage collection tax. Currently, the city provides the service free for payers of sewerage and water fees, amounts which have seen a large increase over the past several years to fund federal government-ordered updating and improvement. Almost all cities charge separately for basic trash pickup.

That operation has seen a decline in the last few years, first with a significant portion of it sidelined with Bossier City’s decision to decouple from Shreveport in this effort in favor of private provision. More recently, the city has had greater difficulty in keeping the scaled-down enterprise fully staffed because of relatively low wages, with the embarrassment that the departing workers fled to Bossier City’s provider. Worse, with Bossier City changing its providers to one that doesn’t use Shreveport’s landfill, that means a hit of over $1 million annually to city revenues.

Thus, Perkins declared a fee of $18 monthly should alleviate this difficulty, if not allow rebuild reserves. But he didn’t seem interested in pursuing what Bossier City did, outsourcing, despite that fact that history has shown typically privatization saves money, if not improves service as well.

Perkins, as did many observers, during the mayoral campaign lamented mediocre economic growth in Shreveport as the city continues to lose population. Reinvigorating it calls for putting development first, which should focus on letting people keep more of what they earn to plow back into the economy because they can do so more efficiently than can government, and then jobs and people will follow. Yet automatically defaulting to continuing an expensive city service in the same manner as always forgoes a chance to accomplish this. Saving government jobs before all else misses the point.

Likely, contracting to the private sector would not have saved the entire $8 million or so in trash pickup costs — although the Perkins plan would raise an estimated $14 million, begging the question of why he shouldn’t price it closer to $12 a month. However, doing that almost certainly would cost less than $18 per month, and maybe only half of that.

If Perkins wants to turn around Shreveport’s economic fortunes, he needs to take a serious look at privatization, which has worked well in Bossier City. Should he not, the new City Council needs to push him in that direction.

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