Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Public Policy Gone Bad

UPADTE: Willamette Week is reporting that $335,000 has been collected so far...

Jack Bog (who has blacklisted me for having the temerity to question his economics acumen) posts on some inside info about how goes the leaf removal fee.  There is no way to verify the accuracy of the information, but it is in a blog so it has to be correct.  Anyway, predictably the leaf fee program is costing more than it is bringing in. From Jack's blog:

Through December 31, the reader says, less than $50,000 was collected, whereas the city's revenue bureau was reporting costs of about $49,000 in administering the collections. Over in the transportation bureau, around another $35,000 of expense was reported for printing, copying, postage, even special delivery charges. That's $34,000 in the hole before counting what it cost to send the equipment out to do the work (which the reader estimates was about $600,000).

Hopefully this will be the death knell for the leaf fee, but if there is one rule about bad public policy it is that it tends to be near impossible to expurgate.  Which is why I still waste 10 minutes every time I have to put gas in the car.

Oh and I suppose I should come clean.  I was about to pay the fee - the sweeper came and collected the leaves in front of my house - but then I started contemplating the opt-out language: "I would have managed the street leaves in front of my property myself if I had earlier notification about the fee and the opt-out process." This is a very difficult philosophical question. Had I known well in advance would I have acted differently? Yes, probably: it would have been easy for me to bag it up and have my garbage hauler take it for much less money. But I also want this program to fail so there is a clear strategic reason for me to opt-out. Nonetheless, I convinced myself that I would have come up with an alternate plan, and so I opted out.

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