Friday, March 5, 2010

This has nothing to do with garbage or alleys, but it's all about changing the way I do things

The Dallas Morning News has a story about residents of the Peninsula area who are upset about the fact that, unless they fix their alleys and fence lines, the City will start picking up their garbage at curbside instead of the alleys. If you read the story, you may be wondering why the change and why is the whole neighborhood upset, two pertinent questions left unanswered by the Morning News account.

The reason for the change is because the city is switching everyone (including my neighborhood, Yeah!!!) who was on manual pickup to either automated (side loading) or semi-automated (rear loading) pickup. That means everyone gets one of those gray city-distributed carts for regular garbage pickup and, if you care about the future health of our planet, a blue cart for recycling. No more plastic bags left out for collection or thrown in carts purchased at the nearby Home Depot. This saves money by eliminating the person required to run alongside the garbage trucks to throw the bags or dump the store-bought carts into the garbage collection trucks. But, as you can see from the picture here, more room than is found in Peninsula alleys is required to conduct this service. The Morning News story fails to mention the switch from manual to automated or semi-automated pickup.

Why is the whole neighborhood upset with the change? As far as I can figure out, it isn't. The Morning News story says "about 20 residents" of the Peninsula neighborhood appeared at a meeting to complain about the change. The neighborhood has somewhere between 300 and 400 residents. To me, that translates to between 93 and 95 percent of the neighborhood either being in favor of the change or not caring that much to register a protest. That's a pretty sizable majority who don't appear to be that upset.

Last week, the stories were about complaints from a neighborhood in Northeast Dallas near Northwest Highway and Plano Road where only 100 out of a neighborhood of some 800 residents showed up to complain. Again, a vocal minority that attracted a lot of media attention but one that didn't appear to be reflective of the entire neighborhood.

But what is it this small minority is really upset about? I am convinced it has nothing to do with the condition of their alleys or where their garbage will be picked up. It has to do with change. And one thing a lot of people will resist is change. If these same people were being switched from having their garbage picked up in city-distributed carts at curbside to bags in their alleys, they would be complaining about that as well, crying out that varmints will tear open the bags, littering the neighborhood with garbage and driving down their home values.

I have lived all over the world and Dallas is unique in the fact that it is the only place I've ever lived with a plethora of rear entry garages or alleys between homes. I remember as a kid playing stickball or volleyball or badminton in backyards in Florida, Indiana, California, Louisiana, Spain, England, Italy, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Canada, New York et al and the object we were playing with soaring or floating over our fence into the yard in back of ours. Our property always abutted the property in back of ours.

It should be noted that those who developed much of the housing here -- and not the city -- installed the series of alleys that separate Dallas-area properties. Yet, when the alleys go bad -- when they become overgrown with brush or they are deemed too narrow for the automated or semi-automated garbage trucks, people feel like it's the city's responsibility to fix those alleys. It isn't. It's up to those affected residents. In fact, the City Sanitation Services officials have told the residents of the Peninsula neighborhood, "You fix your alleys and move your fences a little but more into your property, and we can probably move you back to alley service."

So what's the big deal? Like I said: It's not about where garbage is picked up; it's about change.

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