(Photo: Austin Snedden/Valley Ag Voice) 

Cattlemans corner Austin SneddenBy Austin Snedden, Ranching Contributor, Valley Ag Voice 

Illegal dumping has become extremely widespread. Drive anywhere in Kern County and you will find dump sites of trash, tires, furniture, and appliances. And I don’t mean stuff thrown out of a motorist’s window — this is stuff loaded, transported, and specifically dumped. This is not a top-tier issue when it comes to public safety or our economy, but it is a legitimate eyesore and community pride issue that can be addressed. There are simple steps that the County and municipalities could take to alleviate some of this issue. Yes, we will always have selfish dirtbags that have no problem making their problem someone else’s, but providing an open door, no barrier avenue for them to dump would eliminate the lion’s share.  

I am complaining and addressing a primarily aesthetic issue, not usually my passion, but as property taxes consistently increase to address this issue, and simultaneously landfill and transfer sites continue to nickel and dime people doing the right thing, it makes your skin crawl as a taxpayer and property owner when you pass these third world looking dump sites. The bad guy in this situation is the person doing the illegal dumping, I am not blaming the Board of Supervisors, however, they appear to be blaming us. 

There is the potential for a $1,000 fine for littering, I have never seen anyone get fined for littering, nor have I heard of anyone getting fined for littering. However, I have seen people get fined at the gate of the landfill for not having their load covered. Additionally, I have seen people get fined under the pseudonym of a fee for bringing drywall, lumber, tires, etc. Moreover, I have seen people get fined in the form of a property tax increase to address illegal dumping. It is simple — when you are a money-hungry government agency, you go after the ones who will pay, it just so happens they are the ones that are not the problem and often are the ones whose property is the victim of these dumpers. 

At some point, we need to review our policies in place to see if the desired result is being accomplished. Although the issue of selfish people dumping is not our biggest problem, it is a snapshot of government failures. If you pour more resources toward a problem and it gets worse, you are essentially double taxing your constituents. Not only are the productive citizens paying for the additional resources that were dumped, but they are also paying in the form of experiencing the increased problem. The trap politicians fall into is the false narrative that all problems are solved by taking in more money and spending more money, in the meantime creative problem-solving becomes a side note.  

There are bigger, more complex issues where the tax and spend more strategy has clearly failed, such as homelessness and education, but this one is simple. One of the solutions to illegal dumping is to tax less. For every tire that a landfill charges for, there is one being dumped on a roadside, farm field, or ranch. For every measly fine that the landfill charges for an uncovered load, there is a load being dumped in the country by someone who didn’t want to get nickel and dimed.

What is the cost to the County of sorting a tire at the dump compared to sending a prevailing wage employee in a vehicle out to pick one up on the roadside? Yes, the blame is on the morons illegally dumping, but when dealing with people whose ethical compass is a little wimpy, policy must be in place that makes the right path the easiest path. Make dumps and transfer sites free for everything below commercial-size loads. Max out hours and availability of all landfills and transfer sites within reason (my site is open 4.5 days a week).

The sorting is getting ridiculous. If you want to sort it, fine, but mandates mean we get it unsorted out in the country when they choose to avoid the sorting mandates at the dump. It won’t be a complete fix because disrespectful people will always exist, but it is the worst it has ever been, and a no-barrier avenue will alleviate the issue. We have tried the tax, fine, fee, and spending to no avail, let’s try removing the disincentives and see what happens.     

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