Saying he would "settle for nothing less than real progress," Mayor Chris Beutler today announced that he is vetoing the recycling ordinance passed Monday on a 4 to 3 vote of the City Council. He said he would reintroduce the RecycleLincoln ordinance this fall or if necessary work with its supporters to put the issue on the ballot for the City election next spring. He also encouraged residents to contact City Council members to express their opinions on the issue.
"The Council majority is saying they left in place several of the components, but what they don't tell you is that they removed the most important provision - the cardboard and paper diversion," Beutler said. "You simply cannot take out the key portion and claim progress. The Council has essentially given us a car without an engine. It might look like a car, but it will get us nowhere.
"I refuse to sign my name to a plan that is recycling progress in name only and lacks the tools to truly make a difference," he said. "I cannot in good conscience tell the community that we are making strides when I fact we are stumbling badly. The facts so clearly contradict the assertion of progress."
Nearly 40 percent of what arrives at the landfill is readily recyclable, and cardboard and paper products represent the largest portion of that material. The ordinance as passed retains $500,000 for public education, but Beutler said research shows that education without the cardboard and paper diversion "barely moves the needle." He said the original RecycleLincoln proposal has the potential to nearly double the City's recycling rate.
"They would spend half a million dollars for miniscule gain," Beutler said. "What the Council has done is to take out almost all the benefits and retained all the cost. Lincoln residents deserve better."
Beutler said he was also disturbed by the Council process, which he said was "rushed and not transparent." The amendment by Council member Trent Fellers to remove the cardboard and paper diversion was made known to the Council only a few hours before the vote. Fellers and Council members Jon Camp, Cyndi Lamm and Roy Christensen then refused a request to delay action so the public could provide further input.
"A majority of the City Council voted to completely ignore three years of community involvement and research as well as the nearly 1,500 proponents of RecycleLincoln," Beutler said. "That action gutted a three-year effort that involved hundreds of Lincoln residents and had broad support from business, neighborhoods, the tech and start-up community and people who just want to do the right thing for Lincoln. I'm left with an alternative that is being billed as progress. It is not."
The Mayor again thanked Council members Leirion Gaylor Baird, Jane Raybould and Carl Eskridge for supporting RecycleLincoln and voting against the amended ordinance.
"Our approach would have made real progress, doubling the recycling rate by 2020," Beutler said. "It would have extended the life of the landfill, expanded the local economy and conserved valuable resources. The original RecycleLincoln plan is the right choice for Lincoln. That's why we can't give up. That's why I won't give up."