Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the St. Paul Trash Lawsuit? 

  • To give the St. Paul citizens the right to a referendum vote on one of the trash ordinances, ORD 18-39. 
  • Encouraging voters to vote NO and reject ORD 18-39, as currently written, on the ballot for the citywide November 5, 2019 election.
  • To unlock the door to change – because St. Paul deserves a better trash program which is fair to everyone.  We should not have to just “wait out” the poorly negotiated contract, the voters of St. Paul deserve immediate changes to improve the trash collection in St. Paul.

Won’t My Taxes Go Up if I Vote No on the Trash Referendum?

  • Remember, for many people, your taxes already went up when the city instituted a coordinated trash collection program last fall. The city just calls it a fee, but for those who are paying significantly more than they did a year ago—or paying for a service they don’t use—it’s simply a tax in disguise.
  • The only real way to lower costs for trash service is by repealing ordinance 18-39, which should permit both parties the ability to get out of the current agreement between the city and the consortium of haulers.
  • Otherwise, the city will have no leverage to renegotiate this badly-flawed contract.
  • Even if a court deems that a “no vote” doesn’t make the contract unenforceable, a no vote will require the city to pay for trash services through property taxes.
  • According to information provided by the City of St. Paul’s Office of Financial Services, for most people that change will result in a reduction of the overall cost of trash services.
  • As noted in this chart, homeowners in 12 of the city’s 17 Planning Districts will pay no more than $223 in additional taxes because of this change, which is actually $20 less than the annual cost of the small cart/every other week option.
  • If a homeowner has small cart/every week, medium cart, or large cart service, their savings will range from $60 to $186 annually!
  • Some homeowners in more affluent neighborhoods may find their costs rise if the program shifts from direct billing to property taxes, but isn’t that what the city claims it wants? A progressive system in which those with greater resources are required to pay a little more than others with less disposable income?

What about Commercial Property Owners and those living in Large Apartment Buildings? Why should they have to pay for a service that they don’t use?

  • They shouldn’t. But why should homeowners who previously shared service or generate little-to-no waste have to pay for a something they don’t use, either? The system should be fair to everyone, which clearly it is not.
  • That’s why a NO VOTE is the only way to fix the problem. (A yes vote just keeps the same inequitable system in place.)

What does a “NO” vote mean?

  • Cart-sharing becomes possible for single-family homeowners, multi-family, condominiums, townhomes, AND those living on a fixed income.
  • Opt-out becomes possible for “zero wasters” and those who want to share with neighbors or use a dumpster. 
  • Reduce/Reuse/Recycle can be incentivized.
  • High-quality customer service.  Competition promotes customer-friendly practices and eliminates numerous billing problems with the new system.
  • Garbage collection will continue uninterrupted in the City of Saint Paul.
  • Residents should not find a new hauler or cancel their garbage service.
  • Residents should continue to place their city garbage cart out on their scheduled collection day.

What are neighboring cities paying for trash and recycling and how do prices compare to St. Paul’s current contract?

See the file here for a cost comparison of a small weekly cart pickup in St. Paul vs. Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Maplewood, and Bloomington.
St. Paul, we DESERVE a better trash program than what we got.  You can see it for yourself compared to our neighbors.  Vote NO in order to repeal the current Ordinance 18-39, we should all demand a better trash program today.

Any idea how much the City of St. Paul has spent researching, implementing, administering, and defending their new trash policy?

We don’t know exactly, but here is the background. Initially, the city formed a trash task force to negotiate with a Haulers Consortium to form a trash agreement. The task force ran from August 2016 to approximately June 2017. In addition to the staff salaries of several city workers, we know that they hired the Foth consulting firm to guide them in negotiations.

We know that the City Council passed a $4 Million bond issue to pay for approximately 74,000 trash carts.  On April 10, 2019 the Council passed a resolution transferring $2,893,389.00 from other departments to fund additional administrative staffing to handle resident’s trash billing and service complaints. 

After the city lost its case with Judge Leonardo Castro, on June 9, 2019 the city hired the law firm of Briggs and Morgan to appeal the decision for the city in the matter of Clark, et al. v. City of St. Paul, et al.  Later, attorney Mark Bradford of the law firm Bassford Remele replaced the law firm of Briggs and Morgan to represent the city before the MN Supreme Court.

What about the claims that the new trash system reduces garbage truck traffic, and is safer for children?

Overall for the entire city (not necessarily all blocks), yes, the new system does reduce daily garbage truck traffic for neighborhoods.  However:

  • the greater contributor to street degradation is the freeze/thaw cycle of our winter
  • the argument that the city’s organized trash plan is “safer for children” is a red herring to incite fear. How many kids were victims of being injured by garbage trucks?

What about Mayor Carter’s claim that if Ordinance 18-39 is rejected by voters, then: “…the city would have to pay haulers $27 million next year, funded by property taxes, requiring a 17 percent increase to the city tax levy in 2020?”


MN District Judge Leonardo Castro’s May 30, 2019 decision points to a different outcome. The judge’s memorandum explains how the referendum presents a “legislative event” beyond the City’s control. It thereby triggers the contract’s “Force Majeure” clause, relieving the City of its contractual obligations. In other words, if St. Paul voters reject ORD 18-39, it will nullify any duty by the City to guarantee payments, without penalties, to the private haulers.

We will wait to read the full written ruling of the MN Supreme Court which may speak to “what if” the city breaks the contract with the Hauler’s Consortium.

What happens if a YES vote wins in November?

  • Verify public support of Ord. 18-39, and the city’s new trash policy will remain in force, as is, until re-negotiated in about four years with the remaining companies still in the Haulers Consortium. 
  • For those who have refused to pay their trash bills (or can’t afford to do so) their billed cost + a penalty fee will be tacked onto their property taxes.
  • Each year the costs in the contract with haulers will be reviewed allowing them a possible trash rate increase beginning in January.  

Why is a PAC being used to request donations?

A political action campaign or committee (PAC) is legally required whenever money is sought for the purpose of influencing an issue that will be presented on an election ballot.  Since the goal of the referendum lawsuit was to allow St. Paul residents to vote on the City’s trash plan ordinance 18-39, any money that is donated to support this goal furthers a “political issue.”  This triggers compliance with PAC fundraising rules, similar to the campaign of any candidate who runs for office.

Who is collecting the money and what will donations to the PAC be used for?

All monies are being collected by volunteers on behalf of the St. Paul Lawsuit Political Action Committee (PAC).  Many of these people are the same volunteers who helped to gather the 6000 plus signatures in support of the petition for referendum of the City’s ordinance 18-39.  Given the City’s refusal to place the referendum on the next general election ballot, a lawsuit was required to secure the citizens’ right to a ballot vote (referendum).  The funds donated to the PAC will be used to offset the attorney fees and costs incurred to sue the City.  Monies are also being used to offset expenses for fundraising and public relations.

How much money is projected to be needed or raised for the lawsuit?

To date our attorney has billed the petitioners in the lawsuit for about $51,000.00. With the generous contributions of hundreds of citizens we’ve covered about half this.

Attorney Greg Joseph provided us with outstanding representation in our legal cause. We couldn’t have carried this effort thru the courts without him.

We have an agreement with attorney Joseph to allow us to apply our current assets to the Fall Referendum campaign. And, after the election, we’ll settle up with him.

Obviously, we need to raise money to continue to build our Fall war chest. Cash donations, donations from lawn signs, fundraisers, and monies from t-shirt sales will all help this effort.

Is my donation to the St. Paul Trash Lawsuit refundable or tax deductible?

In general, donations to challenge to a political issue like this are not tax deductible.  We cannot refund donations. We don’t have the ability to track  individual donations once we start spending them.   After the lawsuit is completed and the PAC is dissolved, any funds remaining will be disbursed according to the law applicable to PACs.

What can I do to help?

  • Continue to educate yourself about the issues surrounding St. Paul’s mandatory trash policy.
  • Contact your city council member, the mayor, and your state legislators voicing your opposition to the new City plan. Discuss what you’ve learned about the trash issue with St. Paul neighbors and friends. Urge them to VOTE NO! on the referendum question on November 5, 2019.
  • Join our volunteers to fund raise, or contribute any other skills to promote our citizens’ right to vote on this new trash plan.
  • Contribute online at
  • Distribute trash info flyers, business cards, and voter/absentee registration info
  • Hand out flyers and information at community events
  • Door knock and drop literature
  • Participate in phone banks where you will contact potential voters and urge them to VOTE NO
  • Reach out to neighbors on social media (Facebook, Nextdoor, etc)
  • Speak out at community events involving your church, block club, mom’s group, etc

As an entirely grassroots, volunteer campaign, we can’t do it without you!