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How Las Vegas Can Clear the Foul Odor of Crony Government

Mayor Goodman Puts Her Finger on the Air Freshener the City Needs

If Shakespeare were alive today he might declare that something is more rotten in the city of Las Vegas than the state of Denmark – especially since we’re talking about garbage.

Republic Services has had the exclusive monopoly franchise for trash pickup in Las Vegas for the last 32 years – since before Lady Gaga was even born.  And now it wants a 15-year extension – five years before its current contract expires – with no competitive bids being allowed.

Yeah, that, um, stinks.

According to a February 12, 2017, article titled “Republic Services: Nobody else can handle Las Vegas’ trash,” Nicole Raz in the Las Vegas Review-Journal writes…

“Waste-management company Republic Services of Southern Nevada says no other local haulers are capable of managing residential and trash and recycling pickup in the city of Las Vegas.”

But the article itself disputes Republic’s claim.

Raz notes that Western Elite, a locally-owned-and-operated waste hauling company, argues that “if the city would just give the company the chance to compete, it could provide the same service and the same prices without a long-term franchise agreement.”

So why should the city take Republic’s word for it and rubber-stamp a new 15-year monopoly agreement simply because Republic, which clearly has a self-interest in the matter, claims “no others” can do the job when that claim is demonstrably not true?

It shouldn’t.

The fact is, as GridWaste.com reveals, “there are over 20,000 waste companies in the U.S.”

Indeed there are 234 permitted waste haulers in Los Angeles alone.  And according to a December article in the Los Angeles Times, the city just awarded seven “trash-hauling contracts worth $3.5 billion as part of a new citywide waste collection program.”

If L.A. can open the trash-hauling market to seven competitors, why is Las Vegas restricting its options to just one?  Makes no sense.

With so many competitors out there how can Republic claim with such metaphysical certitude that it’s the only company capable of servicing Las Vegas – especially when Republic isn’t even the largest waste hauling company in the country?

Indeed, Las Vegas golf fans saw a blizzard of ads for the largest trash hauling company last week while watching the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Waste Management has been in business since 1968 and serves more than 20 million customers in the United States and Canada – including in cities much larger than Las Vegas, such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland, and Denver.

Oh, and our in-state neighbor to the north – Reno, Nevada.

So I called Waste Management this morning and asked the representative I spoke with if the company would possibly be interested in competing for the Las Vegas’ contract if it was opened to competitive bidding.

Her response: “Absolutely.”

In the RJ article, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said she’s “always in favor of competition” and hopes the city can “find a way to give others who are struggling to get a foothold here a way to participate.”

I couldn’t agree more.  And the way to do that is to put the proposed contract extension out for bid – what in government is called an RFP (request for proposals).

That’s the ONLY way to clear the air and find out for sure if Republic is, in fact, the best deal out there.

But according to the RJ, “Several Las Vegas City Council members have expressed cold to lukewarm attitudes toward the idea of putting a solid waste contract out for bid.”

Why?  What are they afraid of?  Indeed, what does the city have to lose by simply exploring the possibility of opening the market to a little competition – just like how the taxi industry has been opened to competition from Uber?

Time certainly isn’t a factor, since the current contract isn’t even up for another five years.

And “buy local” isn’t a factor since Republic isn’t a local company (they’re based in Phoenix).

The fact that Republic Services has never had to compete for the millions upon millions of dollars coming from Las Vegas residents is the very definition of “crony government.”

It stinks like rotten eggs.

The Las Vegas City Council can put an end to this.

And it should.