Council expands recycling citywide

The Houston Chronicle reported yesterday that Mayor Annise Parker unveiled a new plan to bring curbside recycling to every Houstonian by year’s end. Specifically, a roll-able 96 gallon green bin will be delivered to all the houses within the city limits, for absolute ease in recycling. Today, the Houston City Council voted unanimously (with the Mayor absent) to spend more than $5 Million to accomplish this ambitious task. The Council held a long –and often rambling– debate on the merits of recycling and the quixotic one-bin-for-all program.

Roughly 30% of houses in Houston are either without any form of recycling or merely have the bulky green bins one must carry by hand. As some may recall, I blasted the Mayor’s short-sighted proposals to “expand” the recycling program last year, which unreasonably focused on upgrading those with the handheld bins to the rolling bins, rather than providing every Houstonian at least some baseline of coverage. Unsurprisingly, the priorities on recycling went to richer and Whiter neighborhoods. District C, arguably the most affluent district, already had virtually full coverage. Some of the comparably poorer districts, including District D and District I, had much more spotty coverage.

One of those portions of District D is most of Midtown, which is still without any semblance of recycling service. When I worked in Midtown, as recently as last year, I would have to give any aluminum cans I had accrued throughout the day a 30 minute ride back to Meyerland if they stood any chance of being recycled.

Indeed, Councilmember Dwight Boykins (D-District D), who represents the area, has been particularly vocal about this matter. “The beauty of this thing is that everybody will be able to participate in the recycle process,” Boykins recently told the Chronicle on the subject.

Obviously, I am elated to hear this much needed adjustment to the city’s sustainability program has occurred.  As much as we hate to admit it, people will rarely go out of their way to do things such as recycle when their exists a much-easier alternative. Blame it on laziness or business or something else entirely, that’s just how it works in society. Accordingly, recycling rates only tend to rise when recycling containers are as ubiquitous as garbage cans. It’s simply naive to think differently.

However, the one-bin-for-all decision is still somewhere in the future, and I look forward to how the City Council deliberates that matter. Councilmembers C.O. Bradford (D-At Large 4), Michael Kubosh (R-At Large 3), Mike Laster (D-District J) and Dave Martin (R-District E) were particularly vociferous in their remarks today. I honestly am still undecided on that issue, with even left-wing environmental groups being skeptical. I can’t wait to hear what some of these councilmembers have to say at the pertinent time.

What do you think?

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Council update, 4/16

The Houston City Council had a rather busy meeting today, unanimously passing two major ordinances. Additionally, conversations were sparked on two other major issues. Specifically, the previously-noted hoarding ordinance passed, as well as a provision to expand subsidies for downtown living. Meanwhile, the discussion over both One Bin for All (recycling programs) and the Wage Theft ordinance’s implications continued.

First up, the Council unanimously passed the hoarding ordinance. Jayme Fraser at the Houston Chronicle has a somewhat fuller story on the topic. Among the provisions in the ordinance are fines (up to $550/day) for rampant hoarders who disturb the peace of their neighbors and clarifications on when the police could step in without a warrant. Councilmembers such as Richard Nguyen have previously voiced concern on the prospect of criminalizing a mental illness. However, following a reassurance from the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County, these fears were largely placated.

Next, the Council unanimously approved additional subsidies for living downtown. Mike Morris, also at the Houston Chronicle, first reported this on Twitter. Morris wrote a lengthier analysis in the paper on this issue last month; the issue at play, essentially, is that the City will continue offering subsidies of up to $15,000 per unit to the downtown developers.

Click here to read about the Recycling and Wage Theft developments!

What have I missed at City Hall?

I wrote at length about the brouhaha over Firefighter pensions yesterday, and it was certainly an important issue, but was definitely not the only thing that went on at City Hall. As many will probably already know, a local committee held a contentious hearing on the entrance of ridesharing software/transportation companies Lyft and Uber into the marketplace. Additionally, a protest was held immediately outside the building in opposition to the planned “One bin for All” recycling program. Finally, late last night, the Houston Chronicle put out a damning report on the state of the City’s finances, specifically regarding the long-term pension obligations the city faces.

First things first, the Uber issue. Dug Begley, one of the more talented writers at the Houston Chronicle, has the full story on this hearing, including many of the reactions and initial implications. At its core, the issue revolves around whether or not to change the many regulations facing the transportation industry. Countless taxi drivers flooded the public session of the pertinent committee hearing to voice their opposition. I wrote a fairly lengthy piece a few weeks ago on this subject, basically opposed to changing the rules for Uber. My position has only calcified in recent days as Uber has openly thumbed its nose at the City and ignored the rules set in place. Begley’s piece even notes that Uber has already been busted charging fees to customers, something they unequivocally promised not to do until the regulatory controversy was worked out.

Click here to read what else I have missed!

One question, Mayor…

…just what will you do with another two years?

TheEconomist

The Houston Chronicle poses this question after examining the initial celebratory nature of Mayor Annise Parker’s re-election. Mike Morris at the Chronicle sat down with Parker and discussed the serious issues that Parker plans to bring up for the remainder of her time as Mayor. What is most surprising, however, is just how quickly she wishes for many of these agenda items to be discussed and voted on by the City Council.

Click here to see what issues and when!

Recyling Program expands

The Houston Chronicle reports that the recycling program is expanding, and will be rolled out to 70,000 new residences by Thanksgiving. This is not especially new news. In fact, the City Council set this new program in motion last June, when I had some choice words for the program. Of course, I still do today.

Yesterday’s Chronicle article states “The expansion will bring service to a total 210,000 households – more than half of the residences in the department’s service area.” This isn’t exactly true, it is not how many people are serviced by any type of recycling but rather the single-stream recycling bin. As my June analysis indicated, this recent expansion put large emphasis on upgrading the recycling methods of communities already serviced by bins. The $2.5 Million, at bottom line, only increases the percentage of homes serviced by some type of recycling by 9% (from 54% to 63%). Thousands upon thousands of residences and offices, such as Texpatriate’s in Midtown, would still be without any type of curbside recycling.

Click here to read more!

Recycling expansion?

I maintain a little personal office in Midtown, that is located in an old house. As far as the city should be concerned, it’s a residence, and the house directly next to it actually is a residence. Despite being a stone’s throw away from City Hall itself, it is not serviced by any sort of recycling program. This presents an odd quandary for me, as I have a habit of drinking a lot of canned or bottled Dr Pepper during the workday. Often times, my two options are to throw them away, or take them with me in my car so I may recycle at home.

There is something just a little bit absurd about giving aluminum cans a half-hour ride just so they are properly disposed. Accordingly, I was glad to hear the Chron report that the City Council will be voting tomorrow on a significant expansion of the recycling program.

According to that article, only 54% of Houston is served by any sort of recycling program, much less the “single-stream” carts. The most recent budget aims to immediately increase that number to 63%.

However, a closer examination of this proposal sees that, rather than providing some minimum standard for those neighborhoods still without any recycling service, the proposal would invest a serious component of the money into giving single-stream service to neighborhoods already provided for with tubs.  What this means is that, right now, 28% of homes have recycling carts, 26% have recycling tubs and 46% have nothing. Under the current proposal, the percentage serviced with carts (single-stream) would rise to 55%, whereas the percentage serviced by the smaller tubs would fall drastically to only 8%. But a full 37% would still be without recycling.

This might be getting a little too numerical to follow along with, but it seems to me that, if the single-stream carts were given priority for those without any recycling service, like my office in Midtown, the total recycling number could rise to 81%, instead of 63%.

The Solid Waste Department has yet to release the names of the neighborhoods which would be newly serviced in the event of this ordinance’s passage.