Garbage collection is one of the most dangerous jobs in America.

Sanitation Director Clifton Gillespie has been successful bringing to light an issue not previously considered by most residents of Dallas — trash pickup is dangerous for workers on the job. It’s time for citizens in our city to help make their task safer and easier.

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Earlier this month, Gillespie presented a plan to the city council to replace alley trash collection with curbside pickup in all areas of Dallas. Curb service is more cost effective, he said, because, although smaller alley trucks cost less to purchase, they require two extra workers to help attach rollcarts onto loading arms. The primary reason for the change, though, is safety, he explained.

In some areas of Dallas, particularly older neighborhoods, alleys are simply too narrow and too rutted to permit safe navigation by today’s automated sanitation vehicles. In others, though, particularly in newer subdivisions designed with wide, paved alleys and rear entry garages, alley pickup is safe and viable when sanitation crews and citizens work together.

Some hazards of working on a sanitation crew can’t be helped, but others certainly can. Gillespie provided video snippets to the council which showed crews tearing open chain link fences and pulling up gas meters when citizens placed their rolling carts too close. That’s on us. In other scenarios, trash truck drivers were simply careless and inattentive. In one case, the driver knocked over carts and ran over them with the back wheels. In another, a driver smashed into a large boulder and pushed it through a neighbor’s stockade fence. That’s on the driver.

You may view the two-minute video here by scrolling to 2:34:00.

Here at Advocate, we’ve received messages and comments from folks who have no alley and must park in the street. Some live near elementary schools where cars line residential blocks throughout the weekday. They’re concerned about the scrapes and dings vehicles might receive as trash and recycle trucks squeeze down streets to pick up bins set out at the curb. How will they prove a sanitation truck did the damage and not the teen down the block?

Council member Cara Mendelsohn, representing Far North Dallas, said her constituents with newer homes, wide alleys and tall fences would likely have to push rolling carts ten houses down the alley around to the front on trash day, then push them back again that evening — times two, since they’ll have trash and recycle to contend with. Older neighbors, folks with bum knees and those living on an incline or terraced lawn will be especially burdened. They can’t leave them on the sidewalk or the front porch — Chapter 18 of city code says they “must be removed to a point at the side or rear of the (home) not later than 8:00 a.m. of the day following collection.” What an unsightly mess.

I’ve driven and walked many of the alleys in our community, and Mr. Gillespie is right. We are not doing the work we should be doing as homeowners to keep our alleys free of impediments. We are placing our rolling carts too close to gas meters, power lines and other hazards. We are letting fences droop, bushes lean and trees grow out into the alley. We can do better. We must do better if we have any chance of keeping alley pickup.

The city hasn’t been shy in the past when they wanted to change the behavior of citizens. We’ve received code violation notices for Little Free Libraries and watering on the wrong day. We’ve been ticketed for basketball goals at the curb and parking in the cul-de-sac. Small businesses have been fined because their signs were too big. Heck, I was ticketed because my bushes stuck out over the front sidewalk a couple of inches. The driver of every trash truck has a stack of orange tags for code violators. Place one of those puppies on a rolling cart, and the homeowner won’t make the mistake of placing it next to his gas meter again.

Mr. Gillespie, give Dallas residents a chance to clean up our act before you make such a dramatic change and reduce the quality of life for tens of thousands of taxpayers.

The sanitation department doesn’t require approval from the city council before implementing the new plan, but sanitation answers to the city manager, and the city manager answers to the council. If you have strong feelings one way or the other about alley and curbside pickup, you may message the mayor and the entire council online here. District 10 Council member Kathy Stewart is at My email is