Some Men's Trash More Treasured Than Other's

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 1:08 AM EDT

There's a garbage strike going on across the San Francisco Bay. Waste Management of Alameda County, serving the 7th largest county in the state with 1.5 million residents (that's more than all of Idaho), has locked out its 500 workers over contract disputes, and there's no end in sight. So for now 200 replacement workers are scrambling to keep up.

Here's the rub: Turns out that while pickups are proceeding in the county's wealthy neighborhoods, the less well-to-do areas are becoming giant trash heaps. Manicured enclaves like Castro Valley and Montclair in Oakland—where seven-figure homes are commonplace—and even most of Berkeley are just fine; pickups have stayed on schedule.

But trash is piling up in poor neighborhoods. West and East Oakland have been the most neglected (two of our editors live in East Oakland, myself included), with garbage cans overflowing and bags stacking deep and wide from block to block. This, despite the fact that the monthly fees we pay are exactly the same as those in Piedmont, Oakland's Bel Air.

All Waste Management, has to say to the discrepancy is that the irregularities are no fault of the company's and to "have patience." Yeah? Tell that to the raccoons hanging out outside our houses at night.

Luckily our city's patience has also worn thin. Today Oakland filed a lawsuit against Waste Management saying that the accumulated waste is "a clear and compelling safety and health and welfare issue," with potential health risks if garbage piles up in such dense urban areas.

That, yeah, but it's also an issue of dignity and echoes of the Superdome reverberate. All in all, it stinks.

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