Portland Leaf Tax 2.0
We got not one but two letters in the mail from Portland's unique mayor the other day. The one, co-signed by Sustainable Susan, informed us that yes, we will start composting our food slop; yes, we will love it; and yes, sometime soon we will receive our shiny new Portland Composts! kitchen pail.
We do so love it when government invades our daily life. It feels so... European. Eastern European. In a year or two, we'll probably get a bathroom pail, and eventually a bedroom pail.
Oh, and did they mention? They're cutting the frequency of our actual garbage pickup in half. Did you hear what they said? We will compost our food slop. We will love it.
The other letter was just as maddening, but far more interesting. It was telling us all about the second annual round of the city's leaf pickup tax -- probably illegal under the city charter and state law, but hey, that's the way City Hall rolls any more. This year, if you live in a neighborhood that gets its leaves picked up and you don't want to pay the tax, you'll have to check two boxes on a tear-off card and snail-mail it back to the city transportation bureau (currently under FBI investigation):
If you don't want to pay, the letter says, you have to enter into an "agreement" with the city that you'll take care of your own leaves, or declare that you don't have any. Of course, the bright lights in the city attorney's office don't make you actually sign the supposed agreement, and so good luck enforcing it. But then again, the whole "fee" thing is probably unenforceable, and yet the Portland sheep apparently pay up anyway, so what the heck. Let's have an agreement that isn't signed.
They're still hounding only the person whose name is on the water bill, even though the last time we checked, the leaf "fee" was supposedly being charged to every resident of the property "served." Hard to see how one person's agreement should bind, or benefit, anyone else.
But given the many millions of dollars that the city spends on public relations flacks, we're gratified to see that one of them has not only come up with a logo, but also finally figured out to dress the whole leaf pickup enterprise as a bright, shiny, happy service that Portlanders love, and are more than happy to pay for. And this year, you'll get "more for your money"! Including -- oh, the joy! -- a more intuitive website!
This thing needs a jingle. We remember when every service or product had a catchy little tune to go with it. Maybe our readers could write one -- the Leaf Tax Jingle. Sing it to the tune of the theme from "The Addams Family," maybe, or "Bonanza."
Probably the funniest part of this year's program is the sudden change of heart about raking leaves off the sidewalk and into the street on the eve of the scheduled pickup day. For decades now, the neighbors have been told "Don't rake leaves into the street!" Now the tune is "Go ahead and rake leaves into the street, and in fact, go ahead and rake any old leaves into the street, even from your back yard!"
Oh, the fun people are going to have with that one. The poor transportation workers who do the sweeping are about to have a couple of unforgettable months.
To add to the merriment, there are going to be "spot checks" for those who say they're picking up their own leaves. Exactly when the "spot checks" are going to be done -- during the city sweeping, before, after -- isn't disclosed. Just know that City Hall is watching, and if they catch you, you'll have to pay and pay! Sort of like driving downtown.
Speaking of not telling, and paying, for all its glory the letter doesn't even mention anywhere how much the fee will be. Ya gotta guess, Grandma -- maybe $20, maybe $50, maybe your whole Social Security check.
Here's our advice: Pick one house on the block that's going to pay the tax. Everybody else on the block, opt out and rake your leaves in front of that one house. Take the money you save and put it toward a bigger garbage can.