An Equal Service For All

It is unacceptable that trash collection is worse in poor neighborhoods
An Equal Service For All

Trash collection in Los Angeles seems to be a matter of social class. The public service is more efficient in complying with the residents’ demands in our city’s richest neighborhoods than in less advantaged areas, even though all residents contribute with their taxes to the service. This is an unacceptable and discriminatory situation that must be corrected without delay.

The response rate to requests for clean-up service in Los Angeles’ poorest areas is much lower than in than more affluent neighborhoods, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times. As it is, trash collection is already a problem, as it is estimated that since 2010 sanitation crews failed to respond to more than 20% of the city residents’ requests. More than one-third of requests originated in several poor neighborhoods were ignored, even as sanitation workers responded to 99% of requests in other parts of the city. There is a consistent pattern here: Low-income neighborhoods are ignored the most.

Explanations for this situation abound. Public Works Board President Kevin James believes it is an economic issue. The city provides $9 million yearly for special trash collection requests, while he thinks the city would need as many as $25.

At the same time, some blame glitches in a new computer software for tracking collection requests service – implying that the lack of response might have been overstated -, as well as the 2012 switch of responsibility for cleaning up dumped trash from The Bureau of Street Services to The Bureau of Sanitation.

What’s undeniable is that trash piles up, along with the requests of many residents. Part of the responsibility lies in people who, in some areas, use streets, sidewalks and lots as landfills. In some cases, one single piece of old furniture sitting on the street for a while is enough for other people to turn the area surrounding it into a dumping ground.

The situation improved slightly after the arrival of Mayor Garcetti and his commitment to improve public service. We need to clearly identify which is the problem in order to close the gap in trash collection and the difference in response between neighborhoods. All taxpayers and residents deserve the same treatment.