Archive for September, 2014

Pressure Grows for Tagami to Turn Over Army Base Property to CWS

Rebecca Kaplan. Photo courtesy sfgate.

Rebecca Kaplan. Photo courtesy sfgate.

By Post Staff

Connected with the implementation of the Oakland’s garbage agreement is the unsettled question of when the city’s agent Phil Tagami will turn over property at the Oakland Army Base Development so that California Waste Solutions (CWS) can build a new recycling center and finally move out of the West Oakland community.

Henry Gardner

Henry Gardner

CWS’ recycling facility will mean construction and recycling jobs for Oakland residents and will take 18 months to build.

The city has promised to give the property at the North Gateway area of the Army Base to CWS in 2016, but some say the date could be put off for a year or more beyond that date.

Speaking at Monday’s council meeting, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan pushed the administration to fast-track efforts to turn the property over to CWS.

Addressing concerns of residents who are distressed that the company is still in their community, Kaplan said, “City Council voted years ago to move the recyclers out of the neighborhood and over onto the Army Base.”

Mayor Jean Quan

Mayor Jean Quan

“For reasons that still continue to baffle, years pass, and that piece of property still has not been turned over,” Kaplan said. “It is not the fault of the recyclers that they have still not moved.”

“Despite the vote of this council, … that has not been done. I want to be very clear that we expect that to be accomplished – immediately. Is work being done to expedite the process?”

Responding to Kaplan, City Administrator Henry Gardner said, “I have met with Phil Tagami, who is our agent on that site and our future developer.” There is an “urgency” and a “commitment” to make the property transfer happen, he said.

And there are questions why  the city is paying Tagami to be its staff/agent, which permits him arrange for his own businesses with taxpayers’ funds, while city priorities are paced on the waiting list.

Mayor Jean Quan said that the transfer of the property to CWS had bogged down in a lot of complicated issues.

“I started working with Fred Blackwell, and we will continue to work on how quickly we can get CWS into their space,” said a the council meeting. “The original delay is that they are still using part of that space over there as a staging area for the demolition of the (old Bay) Bridge.”

“This is something that needs collaboration. I don’t like that people are being blamed for something that’s pretty complicated,” said Quan.

Some say Tagami wants to push that date back, though other are saying that he is responding to pressure and seeking to start the project on time or move the date forward.

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

In a recent email to the Oakland Post, Tagami wrote: “The city has requested an earlier delivery date of July 2016 in January 2014, and such a date is possible if the current sequencing plan continues without interruption or unreasonable weather delay,” Tagami said.

According to Councilmember Lynette McElhaney, Tagami is hearing the concerns raised by the council and community members and is seeking to address those concerns.

A major problem facing the infrastructure development is that it may run out of money before it is completed, according to a source close to the project.

If the development runs out of cash before it is completed, scheduling becomes crucial, because what is scheduled to be built at a later date may never get built, said the source, who raised some questions.

Will the project complete the work first for Tagami and his partner Prologis? Or will he expedite the city’s priorities – preparing the property for the recyclers and for OMSS truck parking?

Why is the city paying Tagami to be its staff/agent so he can arrange for his own businesses to benefit his personal private gain while using taxpayers’ money?

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 27, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Tavis Smiley Discusses “Death of a King” in Bay Area

Tavis Smiley

Tavis Smiley

By Tasion Kwamilele

Imagine young boy being beaten by is father so severely that he have to spend two weeks in the hospital recovering.

That was the story Tavis Smiley told about what happened to him at the age of 12 when his father became enraged after he and his sister were falsely accused of doing something.

While he says the incident broke his spirit at the time – his father had never acted that way before – it became the defining moment for the rest of his life.

After Smiley was released from the hospital, a deacon from his church gave him a box of recorded speeches by Martin Luther King Jr.

Smiley remembered hearing King’s voice and his message of love that taught the young men that even with the hate, anger and love he had for his family, he had to love his way through the situation.

“(King) literally and figuratively saved my life,” said Smiley.

Speaking at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco this week, Smiley explained that King was his hero but joked that most people only know the civil rights leader for one speech and for one line and think that was all he was about.

“Dr. King has been so sanitized and sterilized that we don’t know who he is,” Smiley said. “We’ve frozen [him] in 1963.”

Describing it as his passion project, Smiley’s new book, “Death of a King,” looks at the last year of his life beginning April 4, 1967, when Ken gave his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, and ends with his assassination exactly one year later.

Smiley reminded his audience that while King is represented as a deity in death, he was demonized during his lifetime. His speech condemning the War in Vietnam was the turning point because that was when the world turned against him, said Smiley.

King’s speech criticized the war and criticized America for not dealing with its own poverty. The media attacked and shunned him. The NAACP, the Urban League, Adam Clayton Powell and Thurgood Marshall all condemned King.

In addition, there were paid FBI informants, and King was receiving death threats daily.

“In the darkest and most difficult hour of life is where you find yourself,” Smiley said. “My favorite Martin is the one in the last year of his life when everything and everyone turns against him.”

And that’s the point of emphasis in Smiley’s “Death of A King.”  Despite the controversy, the naysayers, the nonbelievers, King continued to preach his message and hold firm to his belief. And the leader continued to do so up until his death.

Shortly before he died, King had already prepared his sermon for the upcoming Sunday, titled, “Why America May Go to Hell,” said Smiley.

“Society pays a true price for ignoring truth tellers,” he said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 27, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Mom Keeps Fighting for Son in Berkeley High Special Education

Anthony Gaines

Anthony Gaines

 

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

Nineteen-year-old Berkeley High student Anthony Gaines sits inside a room beyond our understanding within his own mind and wonders why one of his best friends, his mentor, and his constant daytime companion of three years has now deserted him.

Stacey Rodgers

Stacey Rodgers

At least, we believe that’s what Anthony Gaines is thinking. Anthony is non-verbal, has been blind since birth and began losing most of his hearing soon afterwards, and so while his thoughts may be complex, he is only able to express them in the most restricted of forms.

He has been diagnosed with Norrie Syndrome, a rare genetic disease. Because of Anthony’s limited ability to communicate with the world, no-one is able to explain to him that his longtime mentor has not deserted him at all, but has been transferred from responsibility for his care by the helper’s employers, Berkeley High School.

Anthony’s mother, Stacey Rodgers, has an additional reason why she can’t give her son an explanation.

“I can’t tell him why Linnette isn’t working with him any more because I don’t know, myself,” Rodgers said. “They haven’t told me anything other than that they have the authority to transfer her.”

The Linnette that Rodgers is talking about is Linnette Robinson, an Instructional Assistant (IA) at Berkeley High School. As a special needs student, Anthony is eligible to attend public school until he is 22. He attends Berkeley High because he lives full time at Build House, a West Berkeley home for children with severe disabilities.

Rodgers, a single mother, does not live with him, but visits with him several times a week.

While a lead teacher runs the classroom in which Anthony spends his day at Berkeley High, the Instructional Assistant must be at his side constantly while at school, including getting him to and from the bus and the bathroom and overseeing his eating at lunch and snack times.

His IA is his lifeline to the world.

When Robinson first met Anthony at Berkeley High School four years ago, he had been assigned to another IA. “At the time, nobody wanted to work with Anthony because he would have violent outbursts.”

The problem was, Robinson later learned, that neither the teacher nor the instructional assistant assigned to Anthony were communicating with him. “They weren’t signing with him,” she said.

Signing is a particular challenge in communicating with deaf-blind individuals. While a deaf sighted person can see both the familiar standard American Sign Language hand signals as well as the physical expressions and mannerisms of the person they are “talking” with, a deaf-blind person uses a special form of that sign language done exclusively by hand contact.

Anthony has access to a cochlear implant that allows him hearing in one ear, but an earlier device frequently malfunctioned, and he has had trouble adapting to its replacement.

Berkeley High School

Berkeley High School

“If he was wearing his cochlear implant, they would simply give him orders, versus him being able to communicate back to them,” Robinson said. “He had no way of releasing any information.”

Robinson was soon assigned to take over instructional assistant responsibilities for Anthony. The first thing she said she did was to ask the lead teacher in the class: “What sign language does Anthony use? What words does he know? And the teacher didn’t know. Nobody had told him.

“So I started working with Anthony to do things like say that he had to go to the bathroom. I started getting him to walk up and down the hallway until he could do it on his own.”

Robinson began to see progress: “We got to the point where we would sit there arguing back and forth using sign language. The other staff members couldn’t believe it. They didn’t know he could do things like that.

“We had progressed to the point where Anthony’s mother said he had signed to her that he needed to go to the bathroom, and then got up and went. He’d never done that before.”

Anthony’s mother had made formal complaints to Berkeley school officials about Anthony’s educational environment during his first year at Berkeley High. Although Rogers continued to press Berkeley High School officials to add more items to her son’s learning day, she held off on formal complaints after Robinson took over as Anthony’s IA and she began to see him progressing at the school for the first time.

At the same time, his outbursts and acting out at school decreased dramatically. But then abruptly after three years of progress, without prior warning to either Robinson or Rodgers, Robinson was taken off Anthony’s assignment at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.

In a complaint filed with Berkeley Unified School District in January of this year, Rodgers wrote that “Anthony had formed a trusting relationship with [Robinson] and had progressed well under her instruction. I was promised [by school officials] that the new IA was trained in sign language and that [Robinson] would train the new person so that a transition…would occur.”

“Both things…were lies,” she continued. “The first week of school my son worked with a substitute Instructional Assistant. In the first month of school my son experienced a new untrained classroom teacher (no deaf/blind training), a new classroom in a new building, and an IA with absolutely no training.”

Responding, Berkeley Unified School District Public Information Officer Mark Copland called the Robinson complaint “ancient history,” adding that the Berkeley School Board had already upheld Robinson’s transfer from working with Anthony.

Copland did not return several phone messages asking to speak with someone at Berkeley High with direct knowledge about Anthony’s case.

While Robinson wants to be returned to work with Anthony, she said she has been told by school officials that they want to use her skills with other children. However, she has her own theory about her reassignment.

“It’s because I talk to Stacey,” Robinson said, explaining, “I think it’s a Black-White thing. I’ve seen a number of Caucasian kids – if their parents don’t want a particular staff member on their case, they take them off their case. If they say they want something for their student, they get something for their student.”

“Since Stacey is a fighter, they’re going to show her she’s not going to get what she wants,” Robinson said. “They told me before I met her that she was crazy, but after I met her, I found out all she was trying to do was get them to do the things they’re supposed to do for her child, like any parent would do.”

Anthony, Rodgers and Robinson are African-American.

Robinson said that by her observation, Anthony has regressed in the year since she was removed from his assignment. “They’re back to doing things for him, when I had been getting him to do things for himself,” she said.

“They’re not challenging him,” she continued. All that dancing and happiness he had, he doesn’t do any more. He has a sullen look on his face all the time.”

He has also acted out in other ways, with increasing incidents of stripping off his clothes at school or becoming violent with school staff.

“I’m going to ask them again to assign Linnette to Anothony,” Rodgers said as the new school year begins. “I hope they listen to me this time. He was doing so well with her. He’s going to end up being at Berkeley High for seven years. I don’t want the rest of his time to be a waste.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 27, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Waste Management Helped Pay for Lawsuit Filed by West Oakland Group

By Tasion Kwamilele

A group of West Oakland residents, alarmed by issues related to the city’s trash dispute, have sided with West Management against California Waste Solutions (CWS).

Ron Muhammad

Ron Muhammad

The group opposes the growth of CWS, saying it does not support the company’s expanded recycling work in the community or near the Port of Oakland at the city’s Army Base development.

The group accepted money from Waste Management to file an environment lawsuit against CWS.

The residents, who spoke at Monday night’s council meeting, are led at least in part by former Councilmember Nancy Nadel and Alex Miller-Cole, who ran unsuccessfully in the last election against Lynette McElhaney.

“We still get odor from EBMUD (East Bay Municipal Utility District),” said Nadel. “Garbage trucks stink. Hundred of garbage trucks will now be coming to West Oakland. CWS will now be bringing garbage from all over to West Oakland,” she said.

Nadel strongly opposed the council’s decision to give the franchise to CWS. “To say I was incensed by it was an understatement,” she said.

Another West Oakland speaker, Ron Muhammad, challenged Nadel, urging her “to tell the truth.”

Nancy Nadel

Nancy Nadel

“All of this stuff happened on her watch,” referring to Nadel’s four terms on the city council from 1996 to 2012.

Alex Miller-Cole

Alex Miller-Cole

“All of her comments, are skewed, super skewed,” said Muhammad. “Tell that to somebody else, but I was born and raised here.”

The decision for CWS to move to the Army Base was worked out in concert with West Oakland community groups in 2007 and approved by the City Council.

Some community activists are saying they will start a petition against the lawsuit if Miller-Cole and Nadel do not drop it.

 

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 27 ,2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

City Council Settles Garbage Wars

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland City Council declared a victory and a truce this week in the month-long garbage conflict with Texas-based Waste Management, the nation’s largest trash hauler, which was determined to force the city back into a billion-dollar contact that the company had lost to a small local firm.

As a result of the council decision, which divides the contract between Waste Management (WM) and the local company, California Waste Solution (CWS), WM has agreed to drop its lawsuits against the city and to halt its divisive referendum campaign to force a special election to overturn the council’s decision.

Lynette McElhaney

Lynette McElhaney

WM has committed to implementing most of the terms of the city’s agreement with CWS and to reimburse the city and CWS for their legal fees and other damages.

The council is celebrating the settlement, which many say is good for Oakland residents, a much better deal than the city would have won if it had not stood up to WM.

“When you get all that you want at the price that you want, it’s time to declare a victory,” said Councilmember Lynette McElhaney, who has been a leader on this issue on the council, along with Rebecca Kaplan and Dan Kalb.

“Because this council stood firm, we were able to get even Waste Management, based in Houston, to hear us loud and clear. And they sent their team back to the drawing board to figure out how they could better serve the residents of this community – because CWS was willing to stay in the fight,” said McElhaney at Monday night’s council meeting.

Agreeing, Mayor Jean Quan said, “I particularly want to thank Waste Management and California Waste Solutions. Over the last few weeks, both moved a long way. This is the best win for the citizens of Oakland – they get a better rate, (and) we’ll be one of the greenest cities of the country in terms of our garbage disposal.”

Others, however, remain angry that the city has come to an agreement with a company that tried to beat Oakland and CWS in submission with bullying and threatening tactics.

Rebecca Kaplan

Rebecca Kaplan

WM’s actions put the city and CWS in a position where the company might not be able to obtain financing to purchase equipment and be up and running by July 1, thereby jeopardizing the standing of the company and threatening the city with no garbage pickup next year.

Ending the dispute, Mayor Quan announced on Thursday she had negotiated a memorandum of understanding between WM and CWS and that CWS had agreed to give up most of the franchise it had won, settling for taking over 100 percent of the city’s recycling.

Whether this agreement adds up to a win for Oakland depends an examination of the choices the City Council faced at the end of May.

Dan Kalb

Dan Kalb

At that time, when the council was wrestling with the new trash agreement, city staff was championing what was called “Option 1,” which would have shut out California Waste Solutions (CWS) – giving 100 percent of the contract to Waste Management (WM) – and raised rates by 50 percent.

“It is recommended that the City Council authorize the City Administrator to accept the Option 1,” according to the May 16 staff report.

Under the current agreement that expires next July, CWS has been handling half of the city’s recycling.

The proposal backed by city staff would have allowed WM to lock out its employees without penalty. The proposal did not include councilmembers’ key concerns: promoting Civicorps, which handles green waste and creates jobs for Oakland youth, restarting a local call center that was shut down and outsourced by WM and partnering with East Bay Municipal Utility District to utilize a “digester” to turn green garbage into electrical energy, which will help the city reach its zero waste goals.

But these were all parts of an agreement the council felt were fundamental and necessary for Oakland residents – along with lower rate increases.

David Tucker, Waste Management of Alameda County

David Tucker, Waste Management of Alameda County

WM declined to renegotiate rates and services based on the deal the City Council wanted, a modified version of “Option 2,” which would have divided the contract between WM and CWS.

As a result, the council in July voted unanimously to turn to what was called “Option 3,” handing the whole contract to CWS, the smaller, local company that was willing to meet the city’s needs at lower rates.

Under the two ordinances passed at Monday’s council meeting, the council was able to preserve most of what it had voted for in the agreement with CWS. These victories came as a result of the council’s insistence and were not specified in what the mayor had negotiated last week, said Councilmember Kaplan.

“This has not been a done deal,” said Kaplan, speaking at the meeting. “As recently as (a few hours before the meeting), the key provisions that the community fought for were not in the deal before us. (Now) I am pleased to see the language on Civicorps … and EBMUD, the call center and the protections for the workers (are assured).”

Under Quan’s negotiated agreement, rates for residential customers will remain the same as what was in the CWS agreement, but commercial and multi-family rates will increase, though less than WM had originally asked for.

Jean Quan

Jean Quan

Councilmember Kalb said he was pleased with the final agreement, though he was still concerned about how WM treated the city.

“The council’s steadfastness has led to a lower increase than we would otherwise have had,” Kalb said.

Ken Houston

Ken Houston

“There’s always the gut desire not to give into the pressure tactics that have existed over the past few weeks – I share that gut feeling,” he added.”(But) if we were not to make these changes, I fear that the referendum would succeed, (and there would be) costly delays and unanswered questions about what would happen next July and beyond when it comes time to pick up the garbage.”

CWS owner David Duong said, “We can do the job. But then came the two lawsuits and the referendum. This is a lot of costs for us and the city.”

David Tucker of Waste Management of Alameda County promised a good working relationship with the city in the future and apologized for the company’s tactics. “This has been a difficult process for all involved,” he said. “We understand we have stressed relationships with the City Council and the city, and we are fully committed to repair and improve that relationship.”

“When we were told that even a single signature gatherer got the message wrong, we took immediate action,” said Tucker.

Responding to Tucker was another speaker, Ken Houston, a community leader and candidate for mayor, who organized the CWS campaign to pass out literature to counter WM’s petition gatherers.

David and Christina Duong, California Waste Solutiions

David and Christina Duong, California Waste Solutiions

“I have police reports here,” said Houston, saying that someone paid by WM spit on one young woman and another pulled a gun on a woman and her daughter.

“I do not accept your apology. I’ve seen what happened to people out there. The only way I can accept your apology is if you do something for the people who have been spit on, the people that have gotten threatened.”

Councilmember Desley Brooks condemned WM’s tactics as a failure of honesty and a lack of concern for Oakland residents.

“You took a small local company, and you treated them like trash,” she said. “They were disposable to you – to get your ends. What can you say to the people of Oakland to make us believe that we can trust in you for the next 20 years, that you are not going to bully us?”

The purpose of WM’’s referendum and lawsuits “was to mess up CWS’ ability to get financing,” she said. “We all know how the game is played.”

Though the negotiated a settlement was announced Thursday, three days later, Brooks said, WM people were stilling gathering signatures in front of a grocery store. “So, where’s the good faith?” she asked.

“I will not be voting for this,” concluded Brooks, who abstained on the council vote, which passed 6-0.

Mayor Quan was silent on WM’s tactics.

Courtesy of Oakland Post, September 27, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

Port Commission Kills Tagami’s Army Base Ambitions

By Post Staff

Fresh developments have raised new concerns about the City of Oakland’s Army Base project, led by its master developer and project manager Phil Tagami.

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

The first blow came last Thursday when Tagami learned that he was not going to land a contract with the Port of Oakland to develop the port’s property at the Army Base.

The port decided not to go with Tagami because he could not bring money to the table, and the port is not in a position to take on debt, according to the Post’s sources.

The decision not to go ahead with the developer, who had an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with the port, was made at a closed session meeting of the Oakland Port Commission.

The second blow was the failure of the city to secure a nearly $50 million U.S. Department of Transportation “TIGER Grant” to help finish the infrastructure project the city has hired Tagami to head on the city’s Army Base property.

At this point, the financial future of Tagami’s project is tied to the passage of Measure BB, the Alameda County Transportation Commission’s proposal that would raise between $100-$200 million for the project, according to estimates.

The sales tax measure, which would be on the November 2014 ballot, would fund $7.8 billion in road, freeway and transit projects. A similar measure failed in 2012, largely because it grants $400 million for a BART extension to Livermore, which would pay for one that one station to the rail line.

“Most of Tagami’s developments are predicated on his use of the city’s or the port’s money. He uses taxpayers’ monies for his salary, and then he develops corporate welfare strategies to self-enrich while ignoring the promises to hire Oakland residents,” said Post Publisher Paul Cobb. “By holding the city’s Army Base lot as ransom in the CWS trash dispute, he could pocket another $2 million while also seeking to be the developer of other downtown properties. All of this occurs dring his record of delinquincies in payments to the city.”

According to Tagami’s email newsletter, Measure BB would pay for “infrastructure upgrades, including roadway and truck route improvements” on the project.

“Without new funding, Alameda County will lose job opportunities, experience increased traffic on degraded streets and highways, suffer potential cuts on buses and BART and see more costly transportation services for youth, seniors and people with disabilities,” the newsletter said.

Neither Tagami nor Mayor Jean Quan responded to the Post’s questions about possible jeopardy to future funding for the city’s Army Base project.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 20, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Mayoral Candidates Dispute Council on Garbage Contract

Part 2

By Ashley Chambers

With Oakland’s garbage conflict capturing public attention, a number of mayoral candidates are expressing discontent with the two-year process of how the City Council came to a 7-1 decision.

Bryan Parker

Bryan Parker

“The city government really messed up the process. They created a process where Waste Management was almost guaranteed to win,” says Dan Siegel, civil rights attorney.

Last week, the Post interviewed mayoral candidates who hold public office – Mayor Jean Quan and Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Libby Schaaf –who upheld the council’s decision as democratic and transparent and called it the deal that will provide the best services and lowest rates for Oakland residents.

Siegel says he prefers CWS over Waste Management but adds that the Council “bought themselves a huge lawsuit and created incredible uncertainties to what’s going to happen” through this process.

While Port Commissioner Bryan Parker says he supports investment in a local West Oakland business, he also criticized the contracting process.

“I would have ensured that every concern – including whether a particular vendor had the capacity to provide services – was addressed before the contract was awarded,” Parker says. “Then the lawsuit could have been avoided. We need better planning, better processes and less drama. We need real leadership to avoid these issues in the future.”

Joe Tuman

Joe Tuman

City auditor Courtney Ruby has failed to comment on the heated trash debates. But mayoral candidate Joe Tuman, a professor at San Francisco State University, was willing to weigh in on the matter.

“I’m bothered by the fact that there has been misleading information,” says Tuman, responding to the Waste Management referendum that seeks to disrupt the trash contract with CWS.

Dan Siegel

Dan Siegel

“The process was fair and to claim otherwise is just silly,” he says, having personally witnessed paid signature gatherers make incorrect claims.

“City Council decided to award the contract differently than what city staff had recommended.” However, he says, “that’s just fine; we don’t elect our City Council members to be rubber stamps, we elect them to exercise independent judgment.”

While he believes in awarding the contract to the local company, Tuman criticized City Council for not being transparent about the franchise fee – $30 million – that the company awarded with the contract pays annually to the city, and would ultimately raise rates for consumers.

“The city knew full well that the winning vendor would pass that rate on to ratepayers…the money goes right back into the city’s pockets,” Tuman says. “Our city government should’ve been more honest about what that [franchise fee] was. It’s reprehensible that the council and the Mayors office weren’t more vocal and upfront about this.”

CWS will build a new state-of-the-art facility at the Oakland Army Base and offer job opportunities for youth, local residents, and Waste Management workers. The new contract is scheduled to start July 1, 2015.

Photos by Adam L. Turner.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 19, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Oakland Goes Head to Head with Waste Management

Supporters of CWS distribute literature urging people not to sign the Waste Management petition. Photo by Gene Hazzard.

Supporters of CWS distribute literature urging people not to sign the Waste Management petition. Photo by Gene Hazzard.

In late-breaking news, the city announced a CWS-Waste Management compromise with rates about one-third lower than WM’s ‘last-best’ offer.

 By Ken Epstein

Since it lost its $1 billion, 10-year garbage contract with the city, Waste Management corporation has been bearing down on Oakland to force the city to accept its deal – whatever the terms and whether the city wants the company or not.

After the council voted 7-1 against Waste Management in August, company representatives graciously pledged to work with the city to help ensure a smooth transition to the new company.

But that may have been before they got marching orders from corporate headquarters in Houston, Texas.

Marshaling attorneys and ramping up the opinion war, the nation’s largest trash hauler has filed lawsuits and filled the media with misleading and dishonest claims.

They alleged they offer residents cheaper rates (not true); they have said the other company, California Waste Solutions (CWS), has no experience (false); they claimed CWS would build a garbage dump in West Oakland (untrue); and they vilified city leaders, saying they made a sweetheart deal with CWS (false).

Most upsetting of all, the company has mobilized its troops, utilizing scores of highly paid signature gatherers to try to force the city to call a special election next year at the cost of about $1 million.

Many signature gatherers – which Waste Management and their representative, political consultant Larry Tramutola refuse to reign in – come from out of the region and even as far away as Nevada and Arizona.

Oakland residents have complained that signature gatherers have lied and distorted the facts in order to get them to sign. Other residents say they have been insulted, yelled at, pushed and threatened by Waste Management’s people.

Some Waste Management’s representatives have resorted to anti-immigrant racism: “Don’t you want a U.S. company to serve Oakland, not a Chinese company?” CWS owner David Duong is a longtime resident of West Oakland and is a Vietnamese-American.

If a referendum makes the ballot and if by some chance it passes, the result would invalidate the council’s two-year public negotiations over the garbage contract and force a new round of contract negotiations.

“The council is clear that we acted lawfully, and the decision we made was in the best interests of this city – this is about David versus Goliath, and Oakland is David,” said Councilmember Lynette McElhaney.

“Now or in a referendum, the people of Oakland will recognize that this (campaign) is not about protecting Oakland. It’s about protecting Texas profits,” she said, emphasizing that this a fight over local democracy.

“This is about forcing Oakland to accept less services for higher prices,” McElhaney said. “Their position is, if we can’t win the contact (through negotiations), we’ll take it.”

Waste Management lost the contract with the city after two years of negotiations that included public discussions at council meetings and a number of hearings at the City Council’s Public Works Committee.

After their experience with the company, members of the council are less interested than ever in being forced into a contract with Waste Management, McElhaney said. “We don’t want to be bound for the next 100 years to that corporation and be in a position where we couldn’t push back against rate hikes.”

Countering Waste Management’s petition gatherers, CWS has hired over 100 people to distribute fliers explaining the other side.

They are encouraging people to send a letter to the City Clark asking for their names to be taken off Waste Management’s petition if they believe they were misled into signing the petition.

CWS delivered over 500 letters this week to the City Clerk signed by people who want their names removed.

“Our people have been quite successful, many people are not signing petitions,” said Joel Corona, chief operations officer of CWS.

Several of the CWS people, including a young woman, have told the Post that they have been threatened: Waste Management’s representatives “told me something would happen to me if I kept passing out those papers (against the petition),” the young woman said.

“Some of their signature gatherers have picked up their tables and moved to another location,” Corona said. “They have started going house-to-house and to BART stations and AC Transit. They are going to places where they don’t have to respond to facts and to (opposing) literature.”

Several local residents point to Waste Management’s recent mistreatment of a rural area called Canyonlands outside of Castro Valley as a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of being locked into a deal the corporation.

At first, Waste Management told the people who live in Canyonlands in June that their rates would go up over 60 percent – from $17.68 a month for a 32-gallon container to $45.99

When customers complained bitterly, Waste Management responded by announcing the company is canceling their trash pickup at the end of December, leaving residents to fend for themselves.

“We gave them the rest of the year to make other arrangements,” said Joe Camero, Waste Management spokesman, in an interview with the Oakland Tribune. “It’s a difficult area to service. I think it’s going to be expensive for any hauler.”

In late-breaking news, the city has announced that CWS and Waste Management have reached a tentative compromise settlement, which would end WM’s referendum and lawsuits.

The agreement would commit Waste Management to complying with the CWS rate schedule, which is about one-third lower than what Waste Management had demanded from city residents.

The agreement would also create a new company with a new logo that would operate trucks on the streets of Oakland. CWS would still build its new facility at the Oakland Army Base and work with East Bay Municipal Utility District to use green waste to create electrical energy and with Civicorps in West Oakland to provide jobs and training for young people.

The council is also asking Waste Management for a letter of apology to Oakland residents for the behavior of its signature gatherers.

City Councilmembers acknowledged CWS for its unselfish decision to act in the best interests of the community. “CWS has been gracious enough to share the franchise contract that they won fair and square, for the peace of the city and to keep the community from bearing the brunt of a protracted bitter battle that would cost in both dollars and good will,” said McElhaney, speaking Friday morning at a press conference.

CWS CEO David Duong speaks at press conference on Friday. Behind him are (L to R) City Councilmember Lynette McElhaney, CWS Chief Operations Officer Joel Corona and CWS Chief Financial Officer Christina Duong. Photo by Ken Epstein

CWS CEO David Duong speaks at press conference on Friday. Behind him are (L to R) City Councilmember Lynette McElhaney, CWS Chief Operations Officer Joel Corona and CWS Chief Financial Officer Christina Duong. Photo by Ken Epstein

According to CWS CEO David Duong, “It was very difficult to put our frustration and indignation over the lawsuits and referendum aside, but we believe that this solution between the city, CWS and Waste Management is best for Oakland residents and the community that we love and call home.”

While Mayor Jean Quan issued a press release Thursday claiming credit for negotiating the compromise, it is not clear at this time what role she played in resolving the ongoing dispute.

The tentatative agreement must still be finalized. It will be discussed and possibly voted on at a special City Council meeting scheduled for Monday at 5:30 p.m.

The arguments in favor of Oakland’s decision to contract with California Waste Solutions can be read at www.helloiamtrey.com/cws2/news/cws-will-build-clean-modern-facility-in-west-oakland/

Waste Management’s campaign calls itself Oakland Residents for a Clean City. Its website can be viewed at www.CleanOakland.org.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 19, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Mayoral Candidates Side with Local Company Against Waste Multinational

By Ashley Chambers

Part 1

National trash hauling company Waste Management is playing hardball after losing its bid on the 10-year, $1-billion garbage contract with the City of Oakland.

Mayor Jean Quan

Mayor Jean Quan

The company pledged in August to support the city’s transition to Oakland-based, minority-owned California Waste Solutions (CWS), which won the contract when its offered lower garbage rates and jobs for local residents.

Now, however, Waste Management is doing whatever it can to disrupt the deal. In the midst of the petition referendum conflict that is playing out on Oakland streets, a number of Oakland’s 15 mayoral candidates have weighed in with their views on the City Council’s strong stand.

In a press release issued after the council decision, Mayor Jean Quan backed the deal as “one of the greenest garbage contracts in the country.”

“With this contract Oakland is taking a historic step toward fulfilling our goal of zero waste … diverting more waste away from our landfills and dramatically reducing our greenhouse gases,” Quan said.

Rebecca Kaplan

Rebecca Kaplan

As one of the councilmembers who voted for the CWS award, Rebecca Kaplan says the council’s decision “saved the people of Oakland $200 million by not going with the worst bid.”

Libby Schaaf

Libby Schaaf

“The Waste Management proposal was so much worse than what we voted for. We voted for lower prices, more jobs, a local customer service call center, and green energy,” she said.

CWS will add new services to create local jobs and partner with Civicorps to provide job opportunities for teens in Oakland. The company will hire all of the former Waste Management workers.

Councilmember Libby Schaaf, who voted to award the contract to CWS, called for the city to take steps to support the move to the new company.

“The city needs to do everything in its power to ensure a smooth transition to CWS, (and) that includes transfer of the land” at the Army Base that will be used for the company’s trash facility, she said.

Jason "Shake" Anderson

Jason “Shake” Anderson

Schaaf said the city needs to respond to Waste Management’s misleading referendum by educating residents about the real facts in the new contract. “Oakland needs to fight back against this bullying behavior,” she said.

Mayoral candidate Jason “Shake” Anderson said he trusts that the City Council made the right decision for Oakland, though he has concerns, “How long is it going to take [CWS] to actually do the job that’s necessary to provide for the citizens of Oakland?” He asked.

“A small company getting a big contract is going to change a lot of things. I hope it changes for the better,” Anderson said.
The Post will cover the positions of other mayoral candidates next week.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 13, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)