City Hall wouldn’t pick up trash, so residents deliver it to City Hall

What happened in St. Paul on Sunday is a metaphor for the state of government in Minnesota. Because it can’t get out of its own way, it doesn’t work.

The problem was a pile of filth near 10th and Wacouta streets that nearby residents have been trying to get the authorities to clean up since they kicked out homeless people who had been living at the site near Interstate 94.

They might as well have saved their energy.

The site is owned by MnDOT, the Pioneer Press says. So the city of St. Paul wouldn’t send in the Parks and Recreation Department to remove the junk.

“We’ve been trying since December to get this cleaned up,” Robert Humphrey, a spokesman with the St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspections.

MnDOT apparently said it would solicit bids. Bids? Just clean it up.

Finally, the residents got tired of waiting for government to do its job, so they did it themselves.

Erich Mische, the former chief of staff to mayor, then senator, Norm Coleman, documented the clean-up on his Facebook page.

“It took 60 bucks… 2 1/2 hours… three adults.. and two children to do what the City of Saint Paul and the State of Minnesota could not and would not do for over four months.. pick up garbage!” Mische wrote.

The group also found an open drain hole that could easily have trapped a young child. They covered it.

There was just one problem: What to do with the collected trash?

The Pioneer Press’ Julio Ojeda-Zapata found out. Mische dropped it at City Hall.

“If City Hall won’t come to the garbage, we’ll bring the garbage to City Hall,” Mische told Ojeda-Zapata.

  • Jack

    Got to love bureaucracy. If it was private property, the owner would have been ticketed long ago.

  • Rob

    A truly abysmal bureaucratic tale. I live in St. Paul, and IMHO, there’s a lot to be proud of here. But I drive by 10th and Wacouta several times a week, continually wondering WTF? as to why the city allowed the garbage to keep sitting there.

    Maybe the dumping of the trash at City Hall’s doorstep will prompt the city and state administrations to do the right thing sooner from now on, and ask forgiveness later. Or not.

    • Carolie

      I’ve seen that area as well, but as I drive by I am reminded that we have to do better for the homeless, but at least it seems they are being allowed to camp there for now. Surprised the city hasn’t forced them out. So I was wrong, they were forced out, hope they found another roof.

      • Rob

        No argument there. All I saw was the garbage right near the road; hadn’t realized it was a homeless camp until I saw the PiPress article.

        • Carolie

          there were a couple of tarps tied to trees, etc. looked like a camp site for quite awhile

  • MrE85

    A true conservative would have waited for the Invisible Hand of the Free Market to pick up the trash.

    • kevins

      Ouch…(love the sarcasm this early on a Monday AM!)

    • For. The. Win!

    • Will

      Why is that funny? Do politics have anything to do with this? Those on the right are all about personal responsibility, clean up your own neighborhood. I’d like to see people who accept public dollars and are able-bodied adults not working full time put on a vest and pick up trash on public property for a few hours a week.

      • DJ Wambeke

        My thoughts exactly. There really need be nothing political about this story, as both conservatives and liberals should be able to agree on trash pickup being a good thing for a community. But if one really wants to turn it into a political football I would think that it would actually be a point for the “conservative” side, as it clearly shows how slow and incompetent government bureaucracy can be sometimes.

      • m&m

        the author made a point of political affiliation

        • Hush you, those are alternative facts that are readily apparent by actually reading the article.

          >>Why is that funny?<<

          It's pretty funny that you are outraged by MrE85's obvious snark.

    • Kassie

      To be fair, we wouldn’t be in this mess if the government wouldn’t have intervened and kicked the homeless people out in the first place. It would still be a homeless camp. That’s what a true conservative would prefer I imagine.

      • jon

        If we are really looking for what the conservatives would have preferred, my bet is on no government owned land in the first place, and no socialist roads either!

        Land and the road should have been sold to a private developer who would have had the homeless removed (at the government’s expense) they’d be issued a tax break, and then allowed to turn the nearby roads into toll roads to collect usage fees.

        Trash that was left behind still wouldn’t be cleaned up unless that project could demonstrate a reasonable ROI.

    • Mike Worcester

      I’m thinking that it was the waiting for the competitive bids that kept the Invisible Hand….well….invisible…

  • blindeke

    They should deliver it to the Mn-DOT building! That’s who owns the land. State agencies have an obligation to the cities whose land they claimed back in the 50s and 60s.

    • Chasmosaur

      This. Somewhere along the line, the City became the primary bad guy. If the land was private property, they would have cleaned it and billed the owner. (I guess the bureaucratic snafu here is that the City can’t bill a State service.) But it’s not their land, it’s MnDOT’s land.

      • Rob

        The commonsense solution at city hall would have been to hire a few people to do the clean-up right away, and then send MNDOT the bill. Even if MNDOT refused to pay, the cost to St.Paul taxpayers would have been laughably de minimis – and worth every penny. And the PR optics would have been right on.

  • Gary F

    Mische is a good guy that loves his city, I know him personally. I can see the city, county or state finding some reason fine him, just because.

  • Jim in RF

    “What happened in St. Paul on Sunday is a metaphor for the state of government in Minnesota. Because it can’t get out of its own way, it doesn’t work.” Now that’s a pretty broad brush, Bob. As a resident of western WI who works in MN, I’d say that MN should be pretty proud of how government works. You fix roads, help people who need help, and balance the books. We don’t.
    Following Mische’s tweets about this, it was pretty clear he was anxious to get a lot of airtime for himself, which cheapens it.

    • Rob

      Mische may have mixed motives, but that’s fine by me. IMHO, Garbagegate is a totally foreseeable, self-inflicted wound that St. Paul and MNDOT could easily have avoided. I’d have gone Mische one better and dumped the bags during business hours.

  • Andrew Switzer

    I feel bad for the underpaid City Hall janitor who has to clean this up.

  • lindblomeagles

    In fairness to the City of Saint Paul, jurisdictions try to stay out of each other’s way because nobody wants to be responsible for an accident — accidents cost elected officials their position, taxpayers their money in lawsuit settlements, and government workers headaches from angry callers. In fairness to MN DOT, they can’t be seen currying favor for one rubbish hauler over others (or for one community over others). Again, people get stupid about politics when government tries to take initiative and leadership. In fairness to both, the City of Saint Paul and MN DOT, the two entities are repairing roads, preparing parks for visitors during tourist season, and are hiring as many extra seasonal maintenance staff as they can to take care of “the garbage” and the tourists. Saint Paul, in particular, has been advertising Parks’ positions since the beginning of February. The real story here are the homeless people themselves. Some of them could have cleaned up the area by order of the police when the police told them to move. Moreover, the homeless problem in Saint Paul maybe increasing given the number of sightings throughout the city and the debris left behind at 10th and Wacouta.
    Where did those folks go? Because if these homeless individuals didn’t receive shelter, they are simply moving the trash from Wacouta to some place else.

  • Telstar11

    This looks to me like a political stunt on the part of Mr. Mische. They have been asking for it to be cleaned up since December? in the middle of the winter? Stuff would have been frozen to the ground or covered in ice/snow. It’s April 3rd….the Pioneer Press article says that the DOT told the city they would clean it up “as early at April 5th”, but that “wasn’t soon enough for residents”, who cleaned it up April 2nd instead? Come on.

    And…saying that “Because it can’t get out of its own way, it (government) doesn’t work.” is disingenuous and wrong IMO.

    • I’ve driven by there for months. No snow. Lots of junk that easily could have been cleaned up. That’s a gateway to downtown there . It was an embarrassment.

    • Paul

      Were you awake for our winter? It down poured 12/25

      • Telstar11

        So…you wanted city employees to pick up trash in the rain on 12/25? Ok. What were you doing on 12/25?

        I get your broader point….we didn’t have a lot of snow….but I don’t know we’re you live, but there were few days this winter when I would have been able to clean up debris from or rake my yard without having to leave a bunch of stuff that was frozen to the ground or dealing with a wet mess.

        Even allowing that maybe someone could have done something sooner, it doesn’t change that there appears to have been a political and/or anti government motivation here. Why else film it and plaster it all over the media?….while targeting the wrong agency and complaining about the hazardous waste site not being open on a Sunday?

        • Not sure how many people commenting here actually saw the junkpile at this location. It wasn’t a litter clean-up job. I can guarantee there was nothing like it near anybody’s house here. It was pretty much a mountain.

          • Telstar11

            I’ve been by there several times. Yes it was an eye soar. Yes it needed to be cleaned up. I am also glad when people do a civic good deed and clean up their city. I just don’t like the way this was handled. What ever happened to doing something good for your community without making hay over it?

            In my experience people who work for the city are by and large conscientious and hard working that want the best for their town. They’re often in a damned in you do, damned if you don’t situation and rarely get credit for what they do, which often includes going above and beyond…and no, I don’t work for the city and never have…I do love this town, though, and the people who work for it do a better job than most IMO.

  • m&m

    if the city had no authority to clean up, how did they get the authority to remove the camp?
    Were the said neighbors complaining about the homeless & the city took action?
    Perhaps there is something there….”complainers”

  • Inspiring to see how people picked sides on “should people clean up trash” debate based on their political party. Good job, People! You’re making a real difference out there.