The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Politicians and Dumps


Not Such Strange Bedfellows

Conflicting Emotions and Motivations


Have you ever noticed that politicians and dumps are always in the news? Why is that?

In recent weeks, politicians and dumps in New Kent, Cumberland and now Chesterfield are making headlines.

Increasingly, politicians have assumed an awkward position of conflicting emotions and motivations regarding the issue of commercial dumps. The politicians need the dumps to deal with their own local trash problems. Commercial businesses motivated by profit want the job and are willing to spare localities the trouble of running operating a dump under increasingly strict federal, state and local rules.

Commercial dumps are not necessarily going to save consumers money, but they may if large enough and efficient enough. Sometimes commercial dumps wind up costing the consummer more but still they save the local government the bother. Maybe that alone is worth it.

Also, believe it or not, more and more local governments are looking to commercial dumps as “economic development” and a way to bring in revenues to the public coffers. The jobs may not be all that numerous or appealing but the financial motivations may be quite compelling to local politicians.

Proper waste management is very expensive and waste management is big business. In fact, dumps are no longer called “dumps.” They are called “landfills” and they are very carefully engineered and regulated to protect the environment… a big improvement over past practices. Because of this, landfills are subject to lots of rules and regulations and official governmental monitoring.

Thus, businesses involved with waste management must live with the idea that government is going to be looking over their shoulder all the time…and rightly so considering the potential environmental risk of improper waste disposal. Frequently, local government inspectors monitor commercial landfills on a daily basis.

No matter how you look at it, trash is all about the money! So in a nut shell, this is why politicians and dumps are making the news and why politicians and dumps are not such strange bedfellows after all.

But there is a potential problem when government and waste management people get too cozy and the politicians have conflicting emotions and motivations about how they deal with the commercial landfill operators.

Earlier this week the Richmond Times Dispatch reported that president of Shoosmith Brothers Inc, a business operating a commercial landfill in Chesterfield County, was a central player in the ill-fated attempt by the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce to pay back the $18,000 for the County Administrator Lane Ramsey’s charter jet trip back to Chesterfield to respond to a personal and legal crisis involving the then Chairman of the Board.

This raises some questions, especially since Tony Lucas, president of Shoosmith is not even a member of the Chamber of Commerce but does head a highly regulated Chesterfield County based commercial landfill.

To be clear, Mr. Lucas did not just give $18,000 to the County to make Mr. Ramsey’s embarrassing lapse of judgment go away. But Shoosmith’s president did essentially “front” the money so that the Chamber of Commerce could act fast and present a check for the $18,000 to the County. Shoosmith’s actual share of the total was much smaller, only a few hundred dollars. But fronting this much money is no small gesture.

To explain his leadership role in this matter Mr. Lucas was quoted as saying that ‘I don’t agree with the flight, but I sympathize with the position [Ramsey] was in.”

Sympathize with the position? What position exactly is he in sympathy with? Does he have a problem with public officials being accountable for their actions? Was this revelation of poor judgment unfair? What?

While it is now clear that politicians and dumps are not such strange bedfellows, this case is a vivid reminder that politicians should always remember that waste management is big business, motivated by profit and is subject to governmental regulation.

Perhaps politicians everywhere would be well reminded to make sure that that their economic motivations to become “bedfellows” with the dump...I mean landfill... operators do not compromise or override their regulatory responsibility to protect the public interest.

6 Comments:

  • At 3/22/2006 4:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dumps and local politicians, seems to me like a match made in heavan.

     
  • At 3/22/2006 5:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    When one is in a business subject to close governmental oversight, it never hurts to curry favor with high officials in government who oversee the oversight. Will, were you born yesterday?

     
  • At 3/22/2006 9:58 PM, Blogger Tom James (aka Brave Hart) said…

    I don't think Will was born yesterday. He was just raised to have a conscience and integrity.

    Unfortunately, those are becoming rare traits in todays society. As is knowledge of the bible and morals.

    I not perfect, no one is, just an observation.

     
  • At 3/23/2006 8:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If your want to see a total disaster of a "landfill" do a little research into the private/public partnership on a landfill in Paige County, Virginia. An absolute mess, that was promoted by local officials as a panecea to all problems, but in the end had cost the County millions of dollars.

    I'm not saying this is always case, but be aware.

     
  • At 3/23/2006 8:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    We have one of those commercial dumps here in Amelia. The Sups. thought it was a good way to generate some money instead of raising taxes. But don't think it ever produced as much money as they promised.

    Now that we got it, we got it forever. If thats the best the Sups. could think of for economic development,we sure don't need any more brilliant ideas from these so called "experts."

    One thing for sure, when conditions are right, the dump smells up the county for about five miles around.

     
  • At 3/28/2006 10:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Over here in New Kent, we are on the verge of getting dumped on also. Just like you say, it is being promoted as "economic development." But that don't make it any sweeter. It is still a big commercial dump and will generate about 170 trucks of trash a day mostly from outside our community and probably outside of Virginia. The rural communities always get dumped on.

     

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