In late October a Minnesota Appeals Court judge ruled in favor of the Hands Off Our Cans citizens group over the City of Bloomington on two significant issues. While essentially reasserting the right of citizens of a charter city to petition to amend that charter, the original issue remains unaddressed: can the city council arbitrarily move to constrain the market for trash collection without a vote of the citizens?
The Hands Off Our Cans citizens group fulfilled the requirements of a charter amendment and submitted the records to the city. The Bloomington City Clerk affirmed that it met the requirements defined in the charter. The Charter Committee voted unanimously to accept it. The council then voted against it arguing it was pre-empted by statute, was manifestly unconstitutional, and was an improper referendum.
Since then, the attorney for the citizen’s group pursued many court rulings addressing the positions taken by the Bloomington City Council. Each one moved closer to affirming the right and ability of citizens to put a charter amendment on the ballot in Bloomington. Specifically, the charter amendment would require a vote by the citizens of Bloomington for or against “organized trash collection.” A milestone was reached when the State Supreme Court found that the ability of citizens to make a charter amendment in the field of organized collection was not preempted by state statute
The most recent ruling by the Court of Appeals did two very important things. It found the proposed charter amendment to be constitutional. So now the proposed charter amendment is both constitutional and not preempted by statute. The courts have in essence found that the City of Bloomington erred on two counts.
This ruling also affirmed/exposed that the city's contract with the consortium of haulers ended on March 1, 2017 due to a clause the city included in the contract. There is no contract between Bloomington and its trash haulers, and there hasn't been one since March 1, 2017. The haulers can stop the collection of residential waste and recycling tomorrow. The haulers are actually free to solicit new customers. At the moment, everything appears to be in limbo.
Bloomington has 30 days (until the end of November) to petition the Supreme Court for review of the findings of the Appeals Court. In the interim, the citizens group is considering what steps it wants to take in light of the positive Appeals Court rulings.