Norton, O’Connell differ on garbage districts

October 4, 2018
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After voicing nuanced differences on a variety of issues Tuesday, it took garbage for Rochester’s mayoral candidates to draw a clear line in their policy views.

The final question at Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce’s candidate forum centered on the lingering proposal to create districts to keep numerous trash haulers from crisscrossing the city.

For Charlie O’Connell, the proposal goes too far.

“For the city to limit the market and say we are going to divvy up the city … we are creating artificial barriers and constraints for the marketplace,” he said, noting government plays a part in making sure disposal is done properly but must draw a line at limiting business.

“That’s not what, in my opinion, the city government should be doing,” he said.

Kim Norton said she doesn’t see the proposal as limiting business but said it offers benefits.

“I am very interested in this, and it’s for environmental sustainability reasons,” she said, noting she’s a member of the city’s Energy Commission, which has been discussing the idea of garbage districting for years.

She said the proposed change would allow existing haulers to maintain their market shares in the city by assigning them districts that match the current number of customers they now serve. The result, she said, would reduce truck traffic throughout the city by not having multiple trucks serving the same streets.

“It’s not going to that big of a change for Rochester, because our garbage services have been narrowing and narrowing and narrowing over the years, so that we’re down to a couple,” she said.

Mayo Civic Center

The candidates also found some differences in a new idea that has emerged in the city.

Norton brought up the concept of having Mayo Civic Center partner with a single hotel, which could commit needed rooms to help attract specific conventions and events to the city.

“I do think as we move forward some of those discussions have to happen,” she said, noting a variety of options should be considered to benefit Civic Center operations.

Stopping short of backing the proposal of formalizing an agreement between the center and specific hotels, Norton said it’s worth discussing.

O’Connell said he’d oppose such a move as changes are being considered for Mayo Civic Center operations.

“When you look at the Civic Center as a whole, that is a community venue, so why would be want to limit it to hotels or identify premier hotels?” he said, adding that a communitywide goal should be sought.

Sick leave

While both candidates made it clear they would oppose a city-mandated $15 an hour minimum wage, they weren’t as aligned when it came to requiring employers to provide sick leave.

“I do not believe it is the role of city government to be placing constraints on businesses,” O’Connell said, echoing his stance on the minimum wage issue.

Norton, however, called the issue “a tough one,” noting the mayor’s opinion would only come into play if the council approved such a policy.

“What you are asking is whether I would veto a city council decision,” she said, adding: “I would be very uncomfortable, frankly, vetoing a bill that had a 7-0 vote, no matter what it was.”

She pointed out she believes such employee benefits are important but didn’t say it should be mandated by the city. As a result, she said a split council vote would deserve discussion.

O’Connell countered, maintaining his opposition on the issue and noting a veto on a unanimous vote would be fruitless since it would likely be overridden by the council, as he reiterated opposition to the city dictating a business’ benefits policy.

Other forums

Norton and O’Connell are scheduled to meet again in several forums heading into the Nov. 6 election.

The events include a Med City Beat forum at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Little Thistle Brewing, 2031 14th St. NW; an In the City for Good forum at 7:45 p.m. Oct. 11 at 125 Live, 125 Elton Hills Drive NW; and a League of Women Voters forum at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Rochester Public Library, 101 Second St. SE.

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