091013i-Gary-MelloEvery candidate for public office seeks the endorsement and cash of well-known unions and special interest groups. A blessing from the Sierra Club, a special interest nonprofit, is especially coveted. Like the unions and other organizations, the Sierra Club sends candidates a confidential questionnaire loaded with biased challenges, each with a “right” and “wrong” answer. Toe the line and they might endorse you.

This election cycle,one such question concerns a policy called “Pay as You Throw.” This is nothing new; it means that a separate charge is imposed on each bag of rubbish you place curbside for collection. In cash-strapped Worcester, residents must pay $7.50 for five large bags or 10 small ones. In theory, good citizens will recognize just how much trash we generate and try to reduce it, as well as improve the recycling rate because that remains a freebie. Sound thinking.

While a program like this may work well in Belmont or Newton, in big cities the result may be anything but green. In apartment-dense Cambridge, trash is something residents can drop and walk away from. As we’re reminded every student turnover, furniture, bedding and toys just pop up on the street overnight and our Department of Public Works is left to DNA analysis. Reminds me of Arlo Guthrie and the group W bench.

PAYT will turn hallways, backyards, alleyways and your neighbor’s porch into a rodent’s paradise. Worse, the blue recycling bins will become trash barrels to an even greater degree. If you check out those rollaways, you’ll discover that plenty of folks already don’t distinguish between waste and recycle. The problematic recycle rate will decline, not improve.

So who will embrace the policy? Your city management , of course! Getting citizens to pay twice for the same services is a dream come true for City Hall. Despite our unparalleled wealth, Cambridge can always invent a new way to spend. PAYT might even increase overall costs if new jobs for pals are created.

At least one of the candidates for our recently vacated 5th Congressional District has already pledged an “open book” presentation of his or her responses to the special interests. Ask your favorite City Council candidates to do the same. Judge for yourself if their answers work for your benefit or their politicking.

Gary Mello, candidate for City Council