COLUMBIA — Voters on Tuesday put at least a temporary end to the debate over whether to use roll carts for trash collection in the city when they approved Proposition 1 by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent.
The final vote tally was 17,728 votes in favor of the roll cart ban and 15,214 against it. Under the city charter, the ban will restrict the City Council from moving forward in any way on roll carts for at least the next six months.
Chuck Headley, a member of the Solid Waste Advocacy Group that pushed for the ban, said he hoped the vote would make clear to the council what the community's opinion on roll carts is.
"If citizens have said that they want to leave it this way, then what are the reasons for not doing it this way?" Headley asked toward the end of an election night watch party at Shakespeare's South.
The battle over whether to switch to roll carts or stick with black garbage bags, which has been waged since 2011 when city staff first broached the idea of roll carts, came to a head in September when the Solid Waste Advocacy Group submitted an initiative petition with more than 3,500 signatures to the city clerk. The petition forced the City Council to either impose the ban or put the matter on the ballot. It decided in November to schedule the public vote.
The city staff last year offered a lengthy argument for roll carts in a presentation to the council, then held a spring series of "trash talks" forums in each ward. It cited three reasons for converting to a new system for trash collection: high workers' compensation rates, high worker turnover and low citywide recycling rates.
The Solid Waste Advocacy Group, which formed in 2012 in support of the black bag system, opposed roll carts at every forum.
"It seemed pretty clear to us that the city administration was gonna go for roll carts," Headley said, "and it also seemed clear that they weren't gonna ask us."
In January, the Committee for Roll Cart Choice organized to fight the ban. Both groups campaigned and made appearances at multiple election forums.
Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp hosted a party for the Committee for Roll Cart Choice, which he chaired, at his home on election night. About 35 people and six dogs attended. Trapp said the party doubled as a celebration of his dog, Fido's, birthday. Fido sported an "I voted" sticker on his forehead.
Trapp's gathering began to dwindle when it became clear that roll carts were not in Columbia's immediate future.
Alyce Turner, who has been on the Energy and Environment Commission "for a dozen years," said she believes Proposition 1 succeeded because people didn't understand the phrasing of the ballot measure. A "yes" vote favored a ban on roll carts, while a "no" vote favored continued discussion of the idea.
"We didn't have enough education on this issue. We needed more time," Turner said. "Ballot issues are a lot on the educational process, and if you have more time then you can inform voters what you're talking about."
Trapp said he doesn't think the wording of the measure was intentional. "All in all they put a lot of people out, power out. They had a really great campaign. They did a really good job. And they ran an honorable one of trying to get their message out," Trapp said.
Headley said about 30 people — most of whom had been active in the anti-roll cart campaign — attended the party at Shakespeare's South. At 9:45 p.m., the 15 left in the Dodge room clapped and cheered as results rolled in showing their measure winning. The last folks filed out around 10 p.m., when 32 of Columbia's 38 precincts had reported and victory was clear.
"Things like this, you're always glad when its over," Headley said, "and you're even happier when it's over and you win."
Jan Weaver, a pro-roll carts activist, told Trapp she might consider her own initiative petition to revisit the issue next year. Trapp said he'll ease back.
"In the absence of another initiative petition and another vote, I'm not going to propose any changes — at least not within the next few years," Trapp said.
"I think this will stand. I don't see any appetite in City Council or city staff to make changes. We'll see what happens."
Missourian reporters Brittany Crocker and Kelsi Anderson contributed to this story.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.