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Rawlins Flow Control Ordinance Is Attack on Economic Opportunity

Local governments in Wyoming have a nasty habit of attacking entrepreneurs. The most recent example of this campaign against economic opportunity is the City of Rawlins’s monopolistic Flow Control ordinance forcing garbage collection companies to deliver trash exclusively to the city-owned transfer station.

Like all of us, local governments face economic challenges. The evidence is all around, from reports that more people are moving out of Wyoming than into the state to the declining state tax revenue legislators are grappling with. Local governments can be tempted to use their political power to capture a larger share of the local economic pie, even if that market is hauling trash — but economic conditions are no excuse for this self-serving, poverty-creating behavior.

If communities like Rawlins want to achieve true prosperity and to successfully diversify local economies, then local governments must resist the temptation to replace small businesses and entrepreneurs with city owned services. As it stands, the Rawlins ordinance prevents a private business from providing the best service at the best price it can to its customers. Given the fact that this ordinance comes at approximately the same time that one of the trash collection companies is spending money to build its own transfer station shows that this ordinance is all about economic competition and monopolistic, anti-competitive behavior by the City of Rawlins.

To borrow a distinction the Wyoming Supreme Court has made between types of city activities, “When a municipality charges a fee or receives compensation for collection and disposal of refuse and garbage, it is exercising a proprietary function.” Town of Douglas v. York, 445 P.2d 760, (Wyo. 1968) This means that when the City of Rawlins charges residents or garbage collection service companies a fee to use the city’s transfer station, the City is essentially engaged in private business. Logically then, the City should also follow the rules that apply to other business enterprises in the marketplace. In this case, the City of Rawlins should not use its police power to force a competing garbage transfer station to close. Instead, the City of Rawlins should welcome the fact that a private business is building a facility and hiring people in the community.

Wyoming, including the City of Rawlins, needs to embrace local companies like Dirty Boyz that find opportunities to hire people and make investments in Wyoming. If Wyoming and Rawlins truly want to move beyond the boom and bust cycle of energy extraction to a more stable, diverse economy, then we need to embrace private sector businesses and investments that provide services to households and businesses. Doing so will require local governments to allow these businesses to both invest and then effectively use their investments. The flow control ordinance directly undermines local business investment and will make Rawlins residents worse off as a result.

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Monday, 23 October 2017
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