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Alderman Complains That Volume-Based Trash Fee is 'Tax On Mexicans'

By Ted Cox | October 19, 2015 4:43pm
 Ald. George Cardenas says, not entirely jokingly, that a trash-collection fee by volume would constitute
Ald. George Cardenas says, not entirely jokingly, that a trash-collection fee by volume would constitute "a tax on Mexicans."
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — A Latino alderman is rejecting an idea to charge for garbage pickup by volume as "a tax on Mexicans."

Ald. George Cardenas (12th) made the playful comment to City Hall reporters Monday, but the issues behind it are as loaded as a garbage cart on pickup day.

"Our families are big families, so that's a tax on Mexicans," Cardenas said, clearly joking about the idea to charge by volume.

Cardenas might have been joking, but statistics don't lie. Data drawn from the 2000 U.S. census showed that in Chicago Hispanic households averaged four residents, with whites at 2.5, African-Americans at 2.9 and Asian-Americans at 3.0.

Yet the notion of charging a flat fee of $9.50, or by the number of garbage carts at an address, or by volume, has energized the City Council this budget season even more than Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposed $544 million hike in property taxes.

First, the Emanuel administration cut free trash pickup for about 1,800 multi-unit residential buildings. Then the mayor floated the idea of charging all residences for trash pickup, but aldermen urged him to keep it under $11 a month.

In his 2016 budget address, Emanuel suggested a $9.50-a-month fee for trash pickup, to be added to the residence's water bill. He defended the fee as a "last resort," saying anything that cut into a record $544 million hike in property taxes was preferable to an even larger increase.

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), chairman of the Transportation Committee, has suggested an increase fee on ride-sharing firms like Uber and Lyft to make up the money that might have come from a trash fee. Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd) has also looked into how many houses have more than one trash cart, and the Department of Streets and Sanitation has said it's conducting an audit, but that results probably won't be available for months.

Budget Director Alexandra Holt said Monday the $9.50 monthly fee would raise $62 million, or about a quarter of what the city spends on garbage pickup. She said talks were ongoing on whether the fee would be capped at $9.50, or whether some other methodology would be used.

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