Statement of Neil V. Getnick About Proposed Legislation to Regulate and Reform Commercial Waste Removal in New York City

Good afternoon. Having testified at the City Council hearings on this proposed legislation, particularly endorsing its independent auditing and monitoring provisions, I am here today to urge that it be signed into law.

In 1962, then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy delivered a major address on civil liberties and civil rights at the University of Georgia. At the start of that speech, Kennedy turned to his audience saying that he wished to comment on another area first. Here is what he said:

“In too many major communities of our country, organized crime has become big business…. It is not the gangster himself who is of concern. It is what he is doing to our cities, our communities, our moral fiber. Ninety percent of the major racketeers would be out of business by the end of this year if the ordinary citizen, the business man, the union official, and the public authority stood up to be counted and refused to be corrupted. This is a problem for all America, not just the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice. Unless the basic attitude changes here in this country, the rackets will prosper and grow. Of this, I am convinced.”

Today’s legislation, like the Fulton Market legislation before it, represents such a basic change of attitude. It comes to us as the result of a non-partisan collective effort by Mayor Giuliani, Public Advocate Mark Green, District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, and Speaker Peter Vallone together with Councilmembers Kenneth Fisher, Jerome O’Donovan, Kathryn Freed and others.

It comes to us as well as the result of courageous efforts from the private sector as exemplified by the early entry of Browning Ferris Industries into a cartel-run industry as well as those willing to take the risk of rewarding that undertaking with their business.

As the Chair of the Civil Prosecution Committee of the New York State Bar Association Commercial and Federal Litigation Association, it has been my privilege to serve with bar leaders who in 1994 issued a bar association report endorsing such legislation including independent auditing and monitoring provisions. Likewise, as President of the International Association of Independent Private Sector Inspectors General, it has been my privilege to serve with representatives of the legal, accounting and investigative professions who have spent the ensuing two years crafting a code of conduct ensuring the highest ethics and standards in privatized monitoring.

To those who say Government cannot work, that Democrat and Republican cannot forge ahead together, that the private sector cannot embody commitment and integrity, that cynicism must prevail, I say look at New York City today. This legislative effort, to paraphrase Bobby Kennedy, embodies the truest expression of our highest ideals.