Cleveland's new Waste Commissioner has only been on the job for a few weeks and he's already getting an earful. Not just from city leaders but from residents as well. People are upset with a new ticketing system.
"Why they got to try and rip us off with extra stuff like this?" asked Lael Montgomery who is angry. "A lot of people I know in different neighborhoods are going through the same thing. It's so aggravating."
He's right. "Really I can't afford to pay that ticket," Margaret Cheney told us. She lives on the west side of Cleveland and got a $350 ticket. Montgomery received two $100 fines. It's all part of a recent change in trash ticketing that Cleveland City Council Members told us is not targeting the right people.
"We're trying to go after abusers," said Councilman Jeff Johnson. He said that's what's supposed to happen, but instead he told us elderly people, for example who leave an extra bag out, are slammed with big fines in a city where one-third of residents are at or below the poverty line. "And the last thing city hall needs to be doing is taking more money out of their pocketbooks,” said Councilman Johnson.
We got our hands on video of a recent city council committee meeting where Councilwoman Donna Brady went after the Public Works Department and the new Division of Waste Commissioner Paul Alcantar. We asked several times for an interview with Alcantar who's been on the job for a little more than a month, but we were denied. In the committee meeting Alcantar said, “I'm trying to evaluate the whole operation…it's going to take me some time and get a report together so I can get it to my director."
City leaders told us there was a grace period of 6-7 months where they were giving out warnings first then tickets. They said they sent information numerous times about the new system including how to put out bulk items and more. "We gave literature to everyone first. That's the first thing we did when we changed the policy," said Cleveland’s Chief Operating Officer Darnell Brown.
"I didn't get it. I didn't get nothing," said Montgomery. And now people like him want action taken on the trash troubles. "I just hope they just change this because this don't make no sense. It's not right,” said Montgomery.
Council members approved the new ticketing system but now could change it or even repeal it.
The new Waste Commissioner said he will have a report on the collection system ready by the end of next month.