What the Las Vegas garbage contract has in common with King Tut’s tomb


As the City of Las Vegas continues considering awarding Republic Services a new 15-year NO BID monopoly franchise contract extension for residential and commercial trash collection, I came across this rather interesting declaration …

“The free, open and competitive production and sale of commodities and services is necessary to the economic well-being of the citizens of the State of Nevada. The acts of persons which result in the restraint of trade and commerce act to destroy free and open competition in our market system and, thereby, result in increased costs and the deterioration in quality of commodities and services to the citizens of the State of Nevada (and) result in economic hardships in the form of increased consumer prices and increased taxes upon many citizens of the State of Nevada least able to bear such increased costs.”

Must have come from some right-wing radical libertarian think tank like the Cato Institute or the Nevada Policy Research Institute, right?

Wrong.

It’s actually word-for-word from section 598A.030 of the Nevada Revised Statutes defining and outlawing “unfair trade practices” in order to “preserve and protect the free, open and competitive nature of our market system.”

This prohibition was added to state law in 1975, just two years after NRS 268.081 was adopted allowing cities in Nevada to engage in such unfair trade practices in certain circumstances …

“The governing body of an incorporated city may, to provide adequate, economical and efficient services to the inhabitants of the city and to promote the general welfare of those inhabitants, displace or limit competition in any of the following areas: (3.) Collection and disposal of garbage and other waste.”

NRS 268.083 goes on to stipulate that …

“The governing body of an incorporated city may: (1) Provide those services set forth in NRS 268.081 on an exclusive basis or, by ordinance, adopt a regulatory scheme for providing those services or controlling development on an exclusive basis within the boundaries of the city; or (2.) Grant an exclusive franchise to any person to provide those services within the boundaries of the city.

So, yes, unless the Nevada Legislature repeals this section of the law the City of Las Vegas enjoys the right to engage in the unfair trade practice of awarding an exclusive franchise to a sole source “for the collection and disposal of garbage and other waste.”

However …

1.) The law says the City of Las Vegas “MAY” award such an exclusive contract. It doesn’t say it “SHALL” do so.

2.) While the law grants the city the power to engage in such an unfair trade practice, it does NOT say it should grant such a sole-source contract without allowing competitive bids.

3.) These two statutes were enacted into law over 40 YEARS AGO – back when AT&T still had monopoly control of our entire national telephone system.

Things have certainly changed dramatically since then. Back in those days, trash collection and disposal was a very, very different animal with very, very different challenges and limitations. And this was well before the “green” movement and recycling took root.

*Maybe* it made sense to restrict garbage collection back in the old days. But it’s 2017.

Heck, even Ma Bell’s monopoly was broken up in 1982. That was 35 years ago! And look where we are today: Competition for phone service has dramatically reduced the cost while dramatically increasing consumer options.

In fact, some of you may actually be reading this column on a … PHONE!

The idea that trash collection in Las Vegas today should continue to be a closed market – not to mention a closed market that only one politically-connected company is allowed to be considered for – is as ancient as King Tut’s tomb.

At the very least, the city council should reject such an archaic restraint-of-trade practice and issue an RFP (request for proposals) so other service providers at least have an opportunity to make their case.

Competition is good. Competitive bidding is good government.