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MN Supreme Court hears arguments for St. Paul trash collection lawsuit

Residents have sued the city over a centralized trash collection system.

The Minnesota Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday from both sides of St. Paul’s trash collection controversy.

Problems first arose when the City of St. Paul opted to move to an organized trash collection system in October. Before doing so, the city’s residents contracted private collectors individually.

Not everyone was very happy with the change. A group of residents, calling themselves St. Paul Trash, petitioned the city council to put a referendum on November’s ballot to decide how the city should go about trash collection.

St. Paul Trash argues private collection is better for recycling and composting. The residents also stress personal choice.

The council rejected the petition in November, despite it having the required number of signatures. St. Paul Trash then filed a lawsuit against the city. A Ramsey County District Court judge agreed with the group, ruling in May that the council did not have the proper authority to block the petition.

The city challenged the ruling, and the Minnesota Supreme Court took up the case. At a hearing Tuesday, Mark Bradford, an attorney representing the City of St. Paul, argued the city does have the right to enter into a binding contract without resident approval, and that residents aren’t guaranteed the right to challenge that contract after it’s been entered into.

“The decision making authority to change to one system or another is an authority that lies with the city council and the city council only,” Bradford said.

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Justices questioned how the city would handle a reversal of the contract and how resident’s right to vote on issues comes into play.

Greg Joseph, attorney representing St. Paul Trash, argued that residents do need to have a say in the decision.

The St. Paul City Council will also hold a special meeting Friday to discuss the issue. 

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