ST PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota's Supreme Court has sided with a group that believes residents should be able to decide who picks up their garbage.
Chief Justice Lorie Gildea announced the court's decision Thursday morning after an accelerated review requested by the city. The written opinion on the decision will follow at a later date.
"Trash wars" took center stage at the Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday, as St. Paul residents packed the courtroom and watched on an overflow monitor. Attorneys argued whether city leaders can deny the people a vote on how their trash is collected.
St. Paul residents used to choose which trash company they wanted to use and negotiate their own rates. But the city decided to take away that choice last October and switch to organized pickup with flat rates. While some appreciated the reduction in traffic from fewer garbage trucks, others were angry their rates went up and that they no longer had their say.
"Those costs are double of what they were. That's an unreasonable and ridiculous burden on taxpayers. And we need to end it," said Greg Copeland after the Supreme Court oral arguments ended.
Citizens gathered enough signatures to put the question on the ballot in November. But the St. Paul city council rejected the petition, because they argue that they've signed a contract with the trash companies for the new system, and they can't break that contract.
Plus they say they received positive input from citizens during the process.
"That's what prompted the city to go to organized collection in the first place," said St. Paul city attorney Lyndsey Olson.
"The citizen's rights to referendum are just being steamrolled by the city," said Patricia Hartmann, who helped organize the petition effort.
Supporters of the referendum left the oral arguments energized by the justices' tough question's for the city's lawyer.
"There is no language in any of those statutes that you cited that said the citizens shall have no right to petition for a referendum," said Justice Barry Anderson at one point.