While Ripon’s Common Council and staff have the authority to transition the city’s public residential garbage collection to a private company, they do not have the right to discuss that move when it appears nowhere on a meeting agenda.

   But that’s what happened last week Thursday evening when the city’s Public Works Committee strayed from a legitimately “noticed issue” about whether to continue to offer commercial garbage pickup into the topic of residential garbage pickup.

   While this may sound like a benign issue — who cares who drives the train as long as it gets me to my destination on time? — what occurred last week Thursday evening was wrong for substantive and procedural reasons.

   It also was illegal.

   Public Works Director Mike Ehrenberg innocently waded into the matter after the properly noticed commercial garbage pickup discussion had ended.

   “… Here’s what I want you to think about [for the next meeting],” he asked. “My question is, should the city be picking up garbage at all? Should it be contracted out? Should the service be done by somebody that does that for a living?”

   Had Ehrenberg just asked board members whether they were OK with including “residential garbage pickup” as an agenda item for the next meeting, there would have been no harm, no foul.

   But by posing the questions about whether garbage pickup should remain a city responsibility, he set the stage for a seven-minute discussion on a topic for which the public had no forewarning and so no opportunity to offer ideas, suggestions or concerns ...

Read the full editorial in the Feb. 13, 2020 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.