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Illegal dumping ordinance, the right solution?

Letter to the Editor

HAYWARD, Calif. -- Illegal dumping is a problem that negatively impacts the Hayward community, draining City resources to clear the debris. Volunteers and City staff, who battle constantly to contain the issue, are frustrated and angry. Staff believes they know the culprits.

On Tuesday, October 23, 2012, staff introduced an ordinance that requires private property owners to either clear refuse dumped in the public right-of-way near their home, or business, or be fined several hundred dollars and billed for removal. If it passes at the next Council meeting, homeowners will be responsible for either bearing the costs of clearing away old cars, furniture and other debris abandoned near their property or paying the fine. The ordinance gives City employees the power to decide whom to fine, without evidence. If something is dumped near your home, you may be fined while the person across the street is not. Getting angry will not help.

When questioned about the fairness of penalizing victims of someone else’s illegal activity, staff assured Council that they “know” who is guilty and who is innocent. I am troubled by the excessive discretion and concerned that abuse could occur intentionally or unintentionally. Existing laws allow the accused to see the evidence and defend himself/herself. The new ordinance requires no evidence; the accused must pay a substantial, non-refundable fee for the privilege of protesting the fine and costs.

In my opinion, the excessive cost of disposing of an old mattress or couch is the real cause of illegal dumping. It costs more than $140 to take anything to the dump or transfer station. People evicted for non-payment of rent can seldom afford such an expense. Many Hayward landlords are elderly people living on social security and rental income from an extra unit or two. The only people to speak against the ordinance, besides myself and Councilman Greg Jones, were an elderly couple and a lady who carries an oxygen tank. They have been the victims of illegal dumping in front of their homes. They are physically unable to remove what was left and could not possibly be the culprits.

Instead of persecuting property owners, many of whom are law-abiding citizens and, therefore, unlikely to engage in such anti-social and illegal behavior, the City of Hayward should provide an affordable solution for residents who need to dispose of junk.

If you care, please contact Mayor Sweeney and the members of Hayward City Council. They will listen, if you speak up. Better still, attend the next Council meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at City Hall, 777 B Street, Hayward, and voice your concerns during Public Comments at the start of the meeting. If the only input they receive is from staff, they are likely do as staff requests.

Al Parso
Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association, Hayward

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