Avoiding local 'landfill cliff'

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Editorial: Dec. 12, 2012

ISSUE: Compromise on county’s solid waste plan
Berry and Duvall could provide model

Compromise can be a difficult to achieve. Differing viewpoints and expected outcomes often create insurmountable hurdles that stand in the way of getting everything wanted by those on opposing sides of any issue. Like a brick wall separating one space from another, failure or refusal to communicate can only worsen the problem and push constructive progress further out of reach.

These points are illustrated by a cursory look at the current impasse taking place on Capitol Hill regarding the national debt ceiling and the “fiscal cliff” our nation is approaching.

Last month’s dialog and agreement reached on the Hardin County solid waste management plan between county Judge-Executive Harry Berry and Radcliff Mayor J.J. Duvall can be a viewed as a small-scale case study on how to best address such a stand-off. President Obama and Congressional Democrat and Republican leadership could learn a thing or two from Berry and Duvall.

What, you ask, could be learned?

A great starting point would be the importance of real communication.

Following many indirect exchanges, Berry and Duvall determined a face-to-face meeting was necessary to hammer out differences Radcliff City Council had with the solid waste plan. In his “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey stressed the importance of true communication by encouraging leaders to “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” It’s clear that’s just what both local leaders did in order to identify the areas where compromise was possible.

Another learning could be the importance of finding common ground, literally and figuratively.

Berry and Duvall agreed their meeting and discussion should be held on neutral ground, someplace that didn’t place either in a position of more significance or stature over the other. A meeting room at Fort Knox Federal Credit Union provided the setting. Then came the equally important figurative common ground that was found.

Sometimes opposing sides have to openly affirm the points on which they do agree before they can resolve the points on which they differ. This was present in the compromise between Berry and Duvall as both viewed the importance of a fiscally sound landfill to be of paramount importance and the significant role Radcliff plays in that outcome.

The most significant learning bureaucrats in Washington might take as a queue from Berry and Duvall is the understanding that real and fiscally dangerous consequences can result from inaction.

The impasse between Radcliff City Council and Hardin Fiscal Court on the solid waste plan had to be resolved. Although extended, a deadline was nonetheless pressing for the county’s plan to be reviewed and approved by the Energy and Environment Cabinet. Radcliff City Council’s adoption of the plan was a necessary precursor to this review.

More importantly though, because Pearl Hollow Landfill’s business model is based squarely on the volume of solid waste entered therein, a significant operating impact would have occurred if Radcliff City Council had determined to haul its trash elsewhere. That would have placed every taxpayer – including those who reside in Radcliff – on the hook.

Because Berry and Duvall effectively worked out the issues, such an outcome was avoided. Here’s to hoping the same leadership will occur in Washington before time runs out.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise's editorial board.