Talking Talking Trash
History is written by the victors in war -- even the victors of garbage wars. The most recent edition of Talking Trash, the bimonthly newsletter of local garbage giant Norcal Waste Systems Inc., presents a history of San Francisco refuse that reads as if it were ripped from the pages of Pravda -- except that Pravda prints an occasional truth these days. Talking Trash alleges that in the '20s "the mayor formed a special committee that drew up a rate schedule and strongly recommended that the scavenger companies be consolidated into a single organization. Eventually, the result was two companies," Sunset Scavenger and Golden Gate Disposal.
The reality is a little more complicated than that, if not a little dirtier: A free market in refuse collection (with territories often defended by pistoleros) existed before the city charter of 1932 established 97 collection districts, and assigned monopoly collection rights to those districts to 36 established residential refuse haulers. Even so, garbage hostilities continued through the late '30s until Sunset and Golden Gate (called SPA back then) had bought out all the competition, according to Stewart E. Perry's 1978 book San Francisco Scavengers. Sunset and Golden Gate were then merged into Norcal in 1987, leaving the city with only one municipal hauler.
The costs of this monopoly are transparent to anyone who reads the rest of Talking Trash: "A renewed rate application was recently approved by the San Francisco Department of Public Works. Effective January 1, 1996, garbage fees will increase 1.88 percent."
From the Same Publication That Endorsed Richard Hongisto for Mayor
These passages from the San Francisco Bay Guardian's Dec. 6 endorsement of Willie Brown, quoted verbatim, give a whole new meaning to the phrase "cognitive dissonance."
"Our choice for mayor is Willie Brown -- by default."
"... Willie Brown [is] a career politician with one of the worst records of sleaze and corruption in the long and sordid history of San Francisco politics."
"[Brown has] raised the definition of conflict of interest to a whole new level, taking millions of dollars from private law clients who in many cases had business before the state legislature, and failing to disclose the nature of those conflicts or to recuse himself from key decisions involving his private clients."
"[H]e hasn't given us any satisfactory explanation of what he'll do with his law firm if he's elected mayor."
"[O]n issues involving his former clients, Brown can do no good for the city, only harm."
"[W]hen asked if he was honest, he said he couldn't answer that question at the time."
By George Cothran, Jack Shafer