We should probably be surprised businesses were allowed to choose in the first place.Credit: p.Gordon / Foter / CC BYLos Angeles City Council has voted to seize the local private business/large apartment trash hauling industry, take control of it, and sell off exclusive contracts to those it deems appropriate. The word "seize" is not used, of course, but instead it’s all being sold as a recycling and landfill-use reduction plan. It takes the Los Angeles Times nine paragraphs to get past the environmental back-patting to explain what’s actually going on:

Currently, landlords for businesses and apartments choose between competing businesses to haul their trash. Under the new "exclusive franchise" system, Los Angeles will be divided up into 11 zones. Haulers will bid for city contracts giving them the exclusive right to collect garbage in each zone.

The new system is hitched to environmental standards: To be eligible to win each zone, haulers would have to provide separate bins for recycling and use "clean fuel" vehicles, among other ecologically friendly requirements.

The plan is backed by environmentalists and labor groups, who say the system is the best way to help Los Angeles meet its goal of diverting 90% of its trash from landfills. Activists say the system will also mean fewer trucks crisscrossing city streets and safer conditions for workers in a dangerous industry.

The city is turning a private competitive service into a monopoly. The Times does note that the proposal puts unions and environmentalists against business and private property:

Business groups say the new system will put small haulers out of business and ultimately drive up rates.

"The environmental benefits are subterfuge for an effort to organize an industry that the unions couldn't organize themselves," Central City Assn. of Los Angeles president and CEO Carol Schatz told The Times last week.

Indeed, labor unions were chanting "Si se puede" ("Yes, it can be done") outside the council meeting after the vote passed. Those union folks really, truly care a lot about the environment, eh?

Only one council member voted against the new regulation, Bernard C. Parks. He was also the only council member to vote against the city’s pointless plastic bag ban. Reason TV and Kennedy interviewed him in 2012. He was concerned this new trash plan would harm small businesses. A head of a local commerce association predicts the new monopolies could drive more than 100 small haulers out of business and suggested the city could require environmental and recycling policies among private haulers without resorting to exclusive contracts.

Speaking of small businesses being harmed in Los Angeles, the city is still shutting down medical marijuana dispensaries that don’t fall under the city’s protection racket put in place by a local ballot initiative. The Los Angeles Daily News notes the city is also extracting fines from and charging landlords who rent to unauthorized pot dispensaries, even though the city is still causing confusion by sending out tax certificates to applicants that don’t qualify to do business in the city. These certificates are then being shown to landlords as evidence that the dispensary is legal, even if it’s not.

(Hat tip to Cato’s Walter Olson)