At its regular meeting on April 5, 2017, the Las Vegas City Council voted 5-2 to hand Republic Services a new 14-year, billion dollar, NO BID contract to pick up the city’s trash after a bold and, it appears, remarkably untrue statement by Republican Councilman Bob Beers.
In a video clip aired on Sunday by KLAS-TV8’s Politics Now program about the contract brouhaha, Beers is seen stating emphatically to the people in the audience at the meeting…
And so the guys with the shirts that say ‘Don’t take away my right to choose,’ you don’t have a right to choose this under the law.”
But that’s simply not true – unless Councilman Beers has found something in the law that no one else has yet discovered.
As I pointed out in a column (“What the Las Vegas Garbage Contract has in Common with King Tut’s Tomb”) on March 14 – a full three weeks before the council vote and was sent to all seven council members – Section 598A.030 of Nevada’s Revised Statutes (NRS) outlawing “Unfair Trade Practices” clearly declares that…
“The free, open and competitive production and sale of commodities and services is necessary to the economic well-being of the citizens of the State of Nevada. The acts of persons which result in the restraint of trade and commerce act to destroy free and open competition in our market system and, thereby, result in increased costs and the deterioration in quality of commodities and services to the citizens of the State of Nevada (and) result in economic hardships in the form of increased consumer prices and increased taxes upon many citizens of the State of Nevada least able to bear such increased costs.”
Ah, but is it true, as Channel 8 reported Councilman Beers claimed, that “the law” doesn’t allow for open bidding when a city is fulfilling its “civic municipal responsibility”?
Again, as I pointed out in that March 14 column, state law (NRS 268.081) declares that cities “may” provide trash collection services through a monopoly contract “on an exclusive basis”
May, not shall.
But more importantly, the law does NOT say such a monopoly contract MUST be awarded to Republic Services without allowing other businesses to compete for the business. There’s simply nothing in NRS that states Republic Services is entitled to this contract on a never-ending basis until The Rapture.
Yes, the city “may” award such a NO BID contract. But it’s not required to. And while it can, it doesn’t mean it should. In the spirit of our unfair trade practices law, the city council should have opened this contract to competitive bidding even if, technically, they weren’t required to.
And to be fair, when Councilman Beers told the public – including those citizens who showed up for the meeting and the 7,000+ who signed petitions calling for the contract to be put out for bid – that THEY had no right to choose under the law which company was awarded the franchise monopoly, he was technically correct.
Our form of government continues to be a representative republic.
So while the citizens themselves didn’t have a right to choose whether or not to put the contract up for competitive bidding, the elected council members, including Mr. Beers, DID have the right to choose whether or not to issue an RFP (request for proposals) on the contract.
Indeed, two other elected council members – Democrats Lois Tarkanian and Ricki Barlow – voted AGAINST the NO-BID contract, citing their desire, on behalf of Las Vegas’ citizens and small businesses, that the contract be opened to competition.
So while true that the citizens of Las Vegas wearing “Don’t take away my right to choose” t-shirts and signing “Give Me Choice” petitions didn’t have a vote to open this contract to competition, under the law Councilman Beers DID have that right as an elected member of the council.
He simply chose not to.
On the other hand, the citizens of Councilman Beers’ district DO have the right to choose who will continue to represent them on the City Council in the general election to be held on June 13, 2017 – when Mr. Beers will face opponent Steve Seroka in the Ward 2 race.
And while Mr. Beers didn’t think citizens deserved a choice in who got the contract to pick up their garbage, Mr. Seroka has stated in no uncertain terms that he opposed the no-bid contract for Republic. So the voters of Ward 2 will ultimately, under law, get to voice their choice on this issue after all.
The fat lady hasn’t quite finished singing yet.
P.S. The following letter-to-the-editor by Greg Bourgeois was published in today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal…
“Well, it’s confirmed: The majority of Las Vegas City Council members are in the pocket of Republic Services.
“Instead of looking out for residential customers, businesses and the smaller trash/recycling companies, our esteemed City Council rejected competitive bidding for the lucrative Las Vegas trash market. Kudos to Lois Tarkanian and Ricki Barlow for voting ‘no.’
“It’s disgusting and outrageous when elected politicos put campaign contributions above the best interests of their constituents.”