Washington, DC

“Dear PoPville,

We live in Burleith and there’s a bit of an uproar on the local listserv about DPW blanket issuing of $75 fines to those who kept their garbage cans in the alley.

The DPW issued the tickets on the afternoon of our normal garbage day (Thursday, 2/22) during the week of the Presidents Day holiday. Of course, this meant that DPW was essentially conducting a “sting operation” to take advantage of folks’ forgetfulness that the holiday pushes the garbage pick-up back one day. If you put your garbage cans out on the usual garbage day and had your house number on your cans, you got a ticket.

This type of behavior by the DPW is completely unnecessary and just causes more frustration and distrust between citizens and the District government. If there was a serious health issue, I’d be sympathetic to these spot “gotcha” enforcements. But my alley is very clean, I’ve never seen a rodent, and everyone here does their fair share to keep the trash secured and the alley clear for vehicular traffic. It’s basically one of the nicest alleys I’ve seen in DC; pretty damn remarkable.

Furthermore, as new residents (we moved in fall of 2017) we were told by our longtime neighbors to leave our cans in the alley.

Many of those who received tickets said that the city has never enforced this provision in their 30-40 years of living in the neighborhood. So it comes as a bit of a shock that the District didn’t issue any warnings, but instead issued fines via certified mail a few days after receiving our property tax bill. The optics, per usual District government standards, are awful.

I’m raising this issue because we’d like to know if DPW blanket issued fines in other areas of the city, taking advantage of others’ forgetfulness about the holiday shifting garbage collection by one day. We plan on raising the issue to our local ANC and City Council members, since this appears to be one of the more egregious money-grabs by the District government when people are just trying to do the right thing and mistakenly put their garbage out on the usual day.”


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