Category: Oakland Talks Trash

New Jobs, No Layoffs in New Trash Contract

California Waste Solutions (CWS) is partnering with Oakland-based Civicorps to create jobs for Oakland youth.

California Waste Solutions (CWS) is partnering with Oakland-based Civicorps to create jobs for Oakland youth.

By Ken Epstein

Workers at Waste Management have a lot of reasons not to oppose the agreement between the City of Oakland and California Waste Solutions (CWS), ending the city’s decades old contract with Waste Management.

Under the new deal, Waste Management’s employees are guaranteed jobs and union protections. They all will be able to

According to Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, Waste Management paid a $7.9 million settlement in 2007 for locking out workers and letting page pile up in Oakland for one month.

According to Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, Waste Management paid a $7.9 million settlement in 2007 for locking out workers and letting garbage pile up in Oakland for one month.

move over to CWS and continue as members of their union, requirements that the City Council placed on both bidders for the contract.

In addition, Waste Management has a history of anti-labor practices, including a lockout of its workers in 2007 that left garbage piling up on the streets of Oakland for one month.

Waste Management also shut down its customer service center in Oakland, which is now moving to Arizona, perhaps to be replaced by automated answering machines.

In its “best and final offer,” the company defines answering customer phone calls as “any method of picking up customer calls, including recorded greetings.”

Yet Marty Frates, secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 70, which represents many CWS and Waste Management employees, remains in favor of Waste Management and has reportedly encouraged workers to serve as petition gatherers for the referendum organized by political consultant Larry Tramutola to force the city into a special election to overturn the garbage contract.

In a Sept. 8 letter to the city, Frates denies union involvement in the Waste Management campaign but left an opening for his members’ participation in signature gathering.

“We understand why Waste Management is doing what they are doing, and I am sure many of our members support their issues,” he said.

“I want to go on record about the rumors being circulated that Local 70 is behind and supports Waste Management’s lawsuit and referendums to challenge the City Council’s decision,” he said. “Local 70 is not behind any of this,” he said, though the union “did not like the decision of the City Council.”

“Local 70 will keep its commitment to make this transition work and that our members do the right thing,” he added.

Councilmember and mayoral candidate Rebecca Kaplan criticized Waste Management for its past record of harming Oakland and its own employees.

“Not only is Waste Management is the company that right now is trying to deceive Oakland voters into higher rates for worse service, this is the same company that locked out it its workers and refused to pick up the trash for a month in 2007,” she said.

As a result of a city lawsuit, Waste Management was required to pay a $7.9 million settlement with the city, she said.

In this year’s Waste Management proposal, which the council rejected, the company added a provision that a lockout would be considered “a force of nature” for which the company would not be legally responsible.

“You would think that city staff would want to put stricter penalties on the company,” said Kaplan. “It was horrible for Oakland. They left trash on our streets for weeks.”

Signing a contract with CWS means “more stable jobs, long-term good paying jobs for Oakland residents, which will stabilize neighborhoods” and counter some of the forces of gentrification, said Kaplan.

Though Waste management pledged to a 50 percent local hiring agreement, only 21 percent of its employees live in Oakland. At CWS, which since its inception has hired locally, 69 percent of its workers are Oakland residents.

“CWS is going to hire local people to answer customer service calls,” Kaplan continued.   “There will be local people answering the phone calls.” Customer concerns “will not being go to machines in Arizona.”

“CWS listened and responded to what the council asked for,” said Kaplan. Waste Management ignored the council’s requests,” made in public meetings and written documents, and then “they acted surprised, trying to say they didn’t know we wanted those things,” she said.

CWS Will Build “Clean, Modern” Facility in West Oakland

Rendering of California Waste Solutions (CWS) facility at Oakland Army Base in West Oakland

Rendering of California Waste Solutions (CWS) facility at Oakland Army Base in West Oakland

By Ken Epstein

When people hear that California Waste Solutions (CWS) will build a waste transfer station at the Oakland Army Base in West Oakland, what comes to mind is Waste Management’s Davis Street transfer station in San Leandro, commonly known as the “Oakland dump.”

Nothing is farther from the truth, according to city leaders and officials at CWS, who are asking Oakland residents to take the time to separate fact from misinformation.

“The facility that we’re going to construct will be a state-of-the art mixed material processing and transfer facility. It will be nothing like Davis Street – it is light years ahead of what (Waste Management) is operating at Davis Street,” said Joel Corona, Chief Operations Officer of CWS.

Lynette Gibson McElhaney

Lynette Gibson McElhaney

Corona said he went this week with West Oakland resident Margaret Gordon and City Councilmember Lynette McElhaney to visit a state-of-the-art facility in San Carlos, which can provide a living example of how the new plant in Oakland will operate.

Like most of the modern facilities around the country, this plant is an indoor operation and indistinguishable from other adjacent industrial buildings.

The San Carlos plant is in an industrial park, located near Oracle. Inside, the plant is clean –  there is no paper or litter blowing around. There are no odors, no rodents and no swarming birds, like people expect to find when they visit Davis Street.

“Our plant will have high speed roll-up doors. Everything we do will be inside the facility,” said Corona.

The plant and its equipment will be cleaned daily, and trash material will be moved in and out quickly, not allowed to accumulate like at Davis Street, he said, emphasizing the facility will be designed and built by top professionals in the country.

By contrast, Davis Street started its life as a landfill in 1942 and has evolved since then, according to Councilmember McElhaney. Today, “Waste Management uses bulldozers to move trash and uses that trash to buffer the bulldozer from the concrete underneath,” she said. “The (operation) requires a constant layer of trash in order to function.”

Margaret Gordon

Margaret Gordon

Corona also emphasized that CWS would not be doing composting anywhere in Oakland.

“We’re simply not going to do that,” said Corona, hoping to clear up misinformation. All the composting will be done out of town in Napa or Yolo counties, where the product will be closer to agriculture, he said.

The new plant, which will be located on the city’s North Gateway property at the Oakland Army Base in West Oakland, will take 18 months to build, according to Corona. In the interim, the company will use facilities at East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) or in Richmond.

CWS has plans A, B and C to ensure that it is prepared to pick up trash, starting day one next July, he said.

Rendering of CWS facility at Oakland Army Base in West Oakland

Rendering of CWS facility at Oakland Army Base in West Oakland

Responding to the city’s environmental requirements, CWS will be using a fleet of trucks that operate on natural gas fuel, state-of-the-art vehicles, he said.

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

“We Will Not Roll Over,” Say Councilmembers

By Tasion Kwamilele 

City Councilmembers are unwavering in the face of what they consider to be the bullying and intimidation tactics of Waste Management (WM), a nationwide trash collection company that lost the City’s $1 billion trash and recycling contract is now trying to overturn the council’s decision.

Pat Kernighan

Pat Kernighan

Along with its aggressive referendum campaign on the streets of Oakland, the company has filed a lawsuit against the city – attempting to disrupt the city’s new agreement with California Waste Solutions (CWS).

“By filing a lawsuit, one can say that is a legitimate claim to address their grievances. But running a deceptive campaign is political – that’s not about your grievances, that’s about locking in Oakland’s business,” said District 3 Councilwoman Lynette McElhaney.

Waste Management is trying to pressure the city to sign a new 10- or 20-year contract for whatever rates it wants to charge.

“They were providing the worst services, at the worst prices, and they lost. And now they want to bully the city into being wholly dependent on them,” said McElhaney.

City Council President Pat Kernighan released a letter regarding the referendum and the city garbage contract, which says,  “Waste Management’s proposed rates were even higher” than those offered by the new company.

The Council “approved the bid with the lowest increase,” said Kernighan.

“Waste Management has endless money, and they are willing to play hardball and engage in unscrupulous tactics in order to win,” she said.  “It’s shameful.”

Rebecca Kaplan

Rebecca Kaplan

According to Kernighan, the city can fight back by challenging the validity of the referendum because of  the numerous reports of signature-gathers heckling community residents and gathering of signatures under false pretenses.

“It’s unclear how this will play out, but we will not roll over in the face of these tactics,” she said.

Councilmember and mayoral candidate Rebecca Kaplan was deeply concerned about some city staffers’ apparent attempts to manipulate the negotiations over the trash contract in favor of Waste Management.

Oakland had in its existing contract a provision that allowed the city to extend Waste Management services for six months – until December 2015.  But staff, acting in secret without informing the public or City Council, signed away that provision, according to Kaplan.

By dropping that part out of Waste Management’s contract, staff in effect was giving the company an unfair advantage by shortening the time that any competitor could implement a new contract, Kaplan said.

She said the City Administrator should investigate to find out who made that decision.

District 7 Councilmember Larry Reid praised Councilmember McElhaney for her leadership in the council’s choice of a local company that will charge residents a lower rate and has a proven commitment to creating jobs for young people in the city, which Waste Management refused to do.

Former Mayor Elihu Harris worked with both companies during his tenure as the city’s leader.  He says Oakland residents should be concerned about the “cheating, lies and deception” on the part of Waste Management.

Elihu Harris

Elihu Harris

“Waste Management lost the contract,” said Harris. “They compete all over the country, and they take contracts from the other people. At minimum it’s hypocrisy.”

“CWS grew in Oakland, is headquartered in Oakland, and won the competition fair and square,” Harris added.

Anyone who signed the Waste Management petition and wants to remove their name can mail or hand deliver a letter to the City Clerk’s Office saying, “Please remove my name from each of the three referendum petitions.”   An original signature must be signed at the bottom of the letter.

The City Clerk’s Office is located at 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, #1, Oakland, 94612.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 12, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Oakland Residents Say Petition Gatherers “Lie, Bully and Harass”

Some Petitioners resort to anti-immigrant racism

By Ken Epstein

Pamela Drake, director of the Lakeshore Business Improvement District, was  working in her office at home last week when she heard that Waste Management’s signature gatherers had descended on the area.

Petition gatherer at Tader Joe's on Lakeshore Avenue. Photo by Pamela Drake

Petition gatherer at Tader Joe’s on Lakeshore Avenue. Photo by Pamela Drake

She went to see for herself when she heard there were petitioners at Trader Joe’s and setting up tables around the Lakeshore and Lake Merritt area.

“They had signs saying that the petition was to lower garbage rates, and people were going up and signing,” she said.

“If you said no or argued, they ran after you, harassed you or took a picture of you,” she said.  They followed one woman, Drake said, photographing the woman’s license plate. Numerous people said they were followed, harassed or intimidated.

“I said to someone who was signing the petition, ‘Don’t sign, because they’re lying to you,” Drake said. Several signature gatherers responded: “No, you’re a liar!” She said.

“They told me to go away three times. I said, ‘You get to put your table here, and I get to stand here,’ and then one man came up and pushed me away,” which is assault, she said.

The signature gatherers had their petitions clipped together so Drake could not read the text, and she had to argue with them for a while to actually read the petition, she said.

Drake’s experiences on Lakeshore Avenue are typical of what residents have been reporting all over the city. A number of residents having been arguing with the signature gatherers, who reportedly are being paid $2 a signature, up to $6 per signer on the three related petitions.

In charge of the operation is political consultant Larry Tramutola, paid by Waste Management to run its campaign.

Pamela Drake

Pamela Drake

Some residents, infuriated by Tramutola’s and Waste Management’s tactics, have been circulating their own flyers and gone online to use social media to respond to what they consider a corporate disinformation campaign.

“We are taking our case to the streets of Oakland,” wrote Barry Skolnick, area vice president of Northern California-Nevada Waste Management in an email memo dated Sept. 2.

Preying on racial and anti-immigrant hostilities, one petitioner asked, “Do you know that CWS is owned by someone from Vietnam?” Another petitioner told a man in front of the Oakland YMCA that he  should sign to support Waste Management, an American owned company, instead of  CWS, which was owned by people who are Chinese.

Responding to Waste Management, CWS began to put people out on Oakland streets last Saturday, said Claude Everhart, who is handling communications for CWS.

“We got 100 people out (Wednesday), he said. “At a lot of places, when we show up, they leave. We are getting out with leaflets and signs, and we’re asking people to check out our website: www.truthaboutoaklandtrash.com.”

“They’re trying to do a shock and awe campaign on us. This is like an old-time union fight in Chicago. They’re hiring thugs to take away people’s democratic rights,” Everhart said.

Barry Skolnick, Waste Management

Barry Skolnick, Waste Management

“We’re hearing that people are finding Waste Management’s representatives shameful and disgusting, and they’re (angry) that people would try to insult their intelligence,” he said.

“If people have already signed, they’re asking us more and more how they can take their names off the petition,” Everhart said, adding that CWS is circulating a form on the streets and on its website that people can sign and return to the city if they want to take their names off the petition.

When asked about petitioners’ lies and bullying, Tramutola, Waste Management’s political strategist, denied that he had told anyone to misrepresent the petition or create signs saying that the petition would reduce trash rates.

“If (we have) knowledge of someone not being accurate, we have taken action to correct that,” he said. “All we can do is correct any incident where that might have taken place.”

“Truth in some ways is in the eye of beholder, but to say that anyone out there is wrong is not right either,” Tramutola said. “We believe that the facts speak to themselves.”

Larry Tramutola

Larry Tramutola

“If anyone put garbage at risk, it is City Council,” he said.  “They ignored their staff recommendations. “The simple fact is that City Council has rushed the agreement through without public attention, and the process needs to be slowed down.”

Councilmembers accused staff of biasing reports and recommendations to favor Waste Management. Rather than being rushed, the contract was negotiated and discussed at City Council and at the Council Public Works committee for two years.

Before they lost the contract, Waste Management criticized the process for taking too long.

Post publisher Paul Cobb said he will help raise funds to send a delegation to Washington, D.C. to file an anti-trust complaint with Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice.
Cobb is asking the public to photograph and record signature gatherers and send stories and videos to postnewsgroup.com so the conflicting reports can be compared.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 12, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Waste Management Uses Dirty Tricks to Overturn Garbage Deal

The corporation that lost the bid is circulating a referendum, calling itself “Oakland Residents for a Clean City”

coutesy of sfgate

Photo courtesy of sfgate

 By Ken A. Epstein

Oakland residents may have thought that the city’s acrimonious trash debates were over last month when the City Council ousted Texas-based Waste Management corporation that has had a lock on the billion-dollar garbage contract for decades.

But the corporation – rich, arrogant and furious – is back, not only with a lawsuit but a petition on the streets of Oakland to overturn the council decision to give the 10-year contact to California Waste Solutions (CWS).

CWS is a West Oakland-based company that won over almost the entire council in the face of determined opposition of city staff and lobbyists who included former Council President Ignacio de la Fuente.

CWS’ proposal was compelling to council members because the company hires local residents, partnering with youth training agency Civicorps, and will charge customers smaller rate increases than Waste Management offered in its proposals.

“In addition to the lawsuit we filed on August 18, we are taking our case to the streets of Oakland. On Saturday (Aug.30), we helped launch, and are backing, a referendum campaign to overturn the … contract awards,” wrote Barry Skolnick, area vice president of Northern California-Nevada Waste Management, in an email memo dated Sept. 2.

“We continue to pursue every option to overturn the ill-conceived and illegal award of the Zero Waste contracts by the Oakland City Council to California Waste Solutions (CWS),” he said.

The company has hired local political consultant Larry Tramutola to lead the referendum, according to the East Bay Express.

According to Skolnick, the petition demands that the City Council rescind its decision or “schedule an election so the citizens of Oakland can cast their vote to overturn CWS’ out-of-county … solution that doesn’t deliver Zero Waste services or guarantee services on day one of the contract.”

The petition is “paid for by ‘Oakland Residents for a Clean City’ with major funding by Waste Management and affiliated entities, Skolnick said in the memo.

“Out on the streets when they are collecting signatures, “They’re telling people all kinds of lies,” said a source inside City Hall.

“They are using the most aggressive bully tactics I have ever seen,” said an obviously angry Councilmember Lynette McElhaney. “They have paid petitioners, saying that if people sign the petition, they will get lower garbage rates.”

“They know they will lose in the court, that’s why they are trying to subvert the process,” McElhaney continued. “It’s disgusting and dishonest. If they win a special election, the taxpayers will have to pay for the election. Nobody in the history of the city has done anything like this when they lost a competitive bid.”

“It would be one thing if they were just collecting signatures, but they are not telling the truth,” said the City Hall source.

A number of people are reporting the petition is being circulated under false pretenses. “I signed the petition last weekend because they told me it was opposed to higher garbage bills. I was misled – I wouldn’t have signed it if I knew what it was,” said Post reporter Tasion Kwamilele.

“Waste Management was arrogant during the negotiations – they never came up with reasonable costs, and they thought they were entitled to the contact,” the source continued.

“They blame everybody else, but they did this to themselves,” the source said. “They didn’t listen. They thought they had the upper hand.”

Waste Management is also trying to mobilize its workers to circulate the petitions. “We will hold meetings at each (work) site to distribute petition packets and instructions to any Oakland resident employee who wants to collect signatures in their neighborhood,” Skolnick wrote.

Waste Management Loses Vote, Sues City

 

Civicorps will  partner with California Waste Solutions to provide job and training opportunities for local young people.

Civicorps will partner with California Waste Solutions to provide job and training opportunities for local young people.

By Ken Epstein

The country’s biggest trash hauler is refusing to take no for an answer after the City Council voted overwhelmingly to reject Waste Management’s proposal, instead giving the 10-year, $1-billion contract to a local company that has cheaper rates and is pledging to local hiring and partnering with local agencies to handle the city’s waste.

Waste Management filed a lawsuit against the City of Oakland for illegally giving the contract last week in a 7-1 vote to its competitor – California Waste Solutions (CWS) – accusing the council of being “heavily swayed by long-term personal and political connections with (CWS),” according to the lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court on Aug. 18.

The suit asks the court to set aside the council’s decision and award damages and attorney’s fees to Waste Management of Alameda County. As the only other bidder besides CWS, the company would effectively be awarded the contract.

According to the suit, Waste Management spent $1 million to create a proposal to meet the city’s needs to more efficiently handle recycle and compost trash. “(But) the City Council was dedicated to subverting the process to ensure (California Waste Solution’s) success,” the lawsuit said.

The real issue is not that the playing field was tilted toward CWS but rather that many in the community feel that city staff tried to rig the deal to go to Waste Management, according to Post Publisher Paul Cobb, who has spoken with numbers of members of the community and the City Council.

Cobb said a Freedom of Information Act request of emails would show staff’s role in the bidding process.

“I think its important for people to know that our vote brought significant cost savings to the people of Oakland,” said Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan.

“Waste Management should not have been surprised that it lost. It was significantly more expensive and offered significantly fewer services to the community,” she said.

Cobb said he was hearing that staff extended negotiations with the companies up to the last minute, making it difficult for a competitor like CWS to win the contract and get its operations up to speed in a relatively short period of time.

In addition, Kaplan said, “The city had an option to extend the contract through December 2015. Without tell us, staff chose to shorten the contract to June 2015,” tilting the field n favor of the incumbent.

The city paid a consultant $1 million to find companies to bid for the contract but only came up with two. Other cities like San Mateo and Contra Costa County did not have trouble finding six or eight bidders, Cobb said.

“Staff liked Waste Management, though it was charging much higher rates, and hated CWS, though it charged less and is committed to hiring local residents,” he said.

“They tried to make it look like CWS owner David Duong did not have the expertise, though he operated trash services in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam,” Cobb said. “I think the city has been fairly disrespectful of a vendor of color. He lives in West Oakland and hires 69 percent Oakland residents.”

“I look forward to the seeing the results of the city’s ‘disparity study’ – which was finally approved seven years late – only because Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan pushed for it,” he said.

“I think the study will show that the city is bypassing minority and women-owned businesses in favor of the usual suspects.”

“The Waste Management lawsuit is political ploy to the City Council to reconsidering option 2, which would give part of the contract to Waste Management.

“Even though Oakland is only 4 percent of Waste Management’s national business, they don’t want to cities to learn from Oakland’s example,” Cobb said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 24, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Oakland “Dumps” Waste Management

By Ken A. Epstein

Waste Management (WM) lost out on a billon-dollar, 10-year contact to handle trash removal and recycling for Oakland when the City of Council went for a more compelling proposal by a homegrown West Oakland Company that practices local hiring and is willing to offer the services that the council has asked for.Waste Management

The vote went 8-0 for California Waste Solutions (CWS) at the council’s July 30 meeting. Rejected, Waste Management, the nation’s largest trash hauler this week made a last ditch attempt to sway the council.

CWS already handles recycling in half of the city and has a facility in West Oakland. The company has promised the community it will move its operations to a new plant that it will build at the Army Base.

Councilmembers reported that they were under a lot pressure this week to reverse their vote, but they stuck to their decision.

“We’ve been getting pressured, but what’s important to me is doing what is best for Oakland residents,” says Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan.

WM took its complaints to some of the local media, which seemed to be outraged on behalf of the company. The company has hired lobbyists, including former City Council President Ignacio de la Fuente, and has threatened to file a lawsuit.

Though negotiations were over and the votes were cast, the company this week came out with a new, sweeter offer. Waste Management was trying to influence the council ahead of its second vote Wednesday night whether to reaffirm the decision in favor of CWS at the previous meeting..

bdy_residualsCouncilmember Lynette McElhaney led the opposition on the council to the Waste Management bid even though city staff had presented what she called highly biased and “slanted” staff reports in favor WM, which has picked up trash in Oakland as long as anyone can remember.

CWS offers a better deal for city residents, starting with a considerable savings on rates, especially to commercial customers, according to McElhaney. CWS also has provisions for local hiring and plans to create a customer call-in center in Oakland, which WM closed down and moved out-of-state several years ago at the cost of local jobs.

In addition, CWS has listened to the council’s priorities, working with Civicorps, a nonprofit based in West Oakland that creates jobs for young people, and partnering with East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) to convert organic waste to energy to reduce electricity rates.

Like any newcomer that replaces an incumbent, CWS still has to overcome a lot of skepticism about its capacities. At this point, the company is set to purchase equipment and expand operations, getting up to speed for a smooth transition when its trucks roll at the end of June 2015.

The company says it has backup provisions, plans A, B, C and D in place to ensure that all transitions will be seamless.

Ultimately, the council voted Wednesday night 7-1 for CWS, opposed only by Noel Gallo, who favored Waste Management. “I vote for the best rate and the best service for the long haul,” he said.

Praising the decision, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said the council had to stand fast when staff pushed for a Waste Management deal that would have meant trash pickup rate increases of 45 percent or more. Because the council pushed for a better deal, the rate increases will be less than half of that original amount, she said.

In addition, Kaplan said staff stacked the game in favor of Waste Management by shaving six months off its contract. With six months less, a competitor like CWS would have under a year, rather than a year and half to prepare for taking over waste pickup in Oakland.

Councilmembers and people attending the council meeting applauded former Mayor Elihu Harris, who with his then aide Councilmember Larry Reid worked 22 years ago to help CWS get a start in West Oakland.

“I appreciate that you (the council) have faith in a local company,” said Harris, speaking at the end of meeting. “That is what Oakland is all about. (About) 70 percent of their employees are Oakland residents – that’s what Oakland is all about.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 15, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Council Goes for Local Trash Pickup, Rejects Waste Management

Celebrating the City Council victory Wednesday nigth with Civicorps workers were Vice Mayor Larry Reid (Left), Councilmember Lynette McElhaney (fifth from left) and Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan (second from right)). Photo by Ken Epstien

Celebrating the City Council victory Wednesday nigth with Civicorps workers were Vice Mayor Larry Reid (Left), Councilmember Lynette McElhaney (fifth from left) and Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan (second from right)). Photo by Ken Epstien

By Ken A. Epstein

It was David versus Goliath, a multinational garbage removal corporation going up against a company that began in West Oakland and has grown larger while cooperating with the city and hiring local residents.

During several years of negotiations, City Administration has told council members a slanted story that favored Waste Management, pushing the council to approve a contract that would raise trash pick-up rates by 50 percent for households and shifted most of the risks and liabilities to the city.

Waste management has angered community groups by its reluctance to support community efforts to clean up illegal dumping.

On the other hand, staff had nothing good to say about California Waste Solutions (CWS), which has already been conducting curbside recycling in Oakland and would raise rates by about 26 percent.

On Wednesday night, however, in an upset that surprised everyone, the council voted unanimously to give the contract to CWS.

“I have to tell you last night was major – it was epic,” said Councilmember Lynette McElhaney in an interview with the Post on Thursday. She said she led the fight to give the contact to CWS, joined by Larry Reid and supported by Dan Kalb and Rebecca Kaplan.

“Staff has only had one answer for us, and that was Waste Management.” she said.

According to staff, she said, “there was nothing positive in the CWS proposal, only risks; and for Waste Management, only positives and no risks.”

“What they proposed would have decimated a West Oakland company – California Waste Solutions – and I wasn’t having it.”

Ultimately, she said, the council had the choice of going with a multinational corporation that will charge more and has done nothing to partner with local businesses, agencies and the community.

Or it could pick the firm that is cheaper and already has a track record of hiring local youth. CWS is also partnering with East Bay Municipal Utility District and Civicorps, which hires and trains many young people who need a second chance.

CWS will hire workers from Waste Management, which was part of the city’s requirements. In addition, the company will hire several hundred local workers and 200 construction workers to build a recycling site at the Oakland Army Base.

“Last night, we created a major economic ecosystem in West Oakland, a billion dollar business,” McElhaney said.

Pointing to Oakland’s past efforts that led to the founding of CWS, she said, “It was (former Mayor) Elihu Harris’ brilliance 22 years ago to introduce competition into our waste system, so we wouldn’t be bound to the Waste Management monopoly.”

Following the council’s vote, City Administrator Henry Gardner said that staff support for waste Management “was based on the professional expertise of experienced staff and incorporated the evaluation of objective, third-party subject area experts who evaluated the risks and benefits of the competing proposals.”

He said staff believed that Waste Management’s proposal offered the “highest waste diversion towards the Council’s Zero Waste goal (and the) best value and experience for the ratepayer.”

” I want it to be clear to the council and to the public that the staff’s commitment is unqualified in making sure that this is as smooth a transition as possible, (to CWS),” Gardner said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 1, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

City Wants Answers to Garbage Dumping, Graffiti

District Attorney’s Office Says Dumpers Will Be Prosecuted

By Ken A. Epstein

A kick-off meeting of the Beautification Council in East Oakland this week brought together community, city and county leaders seeking ways to make a dent in out-of-control trash dumping and graffiti that are blighting Oakland neighborhoods.

Ken Houston and La Tanya Hawkins of Oakland-based Turner Group Construction. Houston is chair of the East Oakland Beautification Council.

Ken Houston and La Tanya Hawkins of Oakland-based Turner Group Construction. Houston is chair of the East Oakland Beautification Council.

Community members and officials said they will make it a priority to identify and prosecute those who are responsible for the dumping, some who reportedly come to Oakland from other cities to leave their trash.

The meeting was chaired by Ken Houston – in charge of community and government relations at Turner Group Construction – who serves as a community advocate under the direction of Vice Mayor Larry Reid, District 7.

“I’m a third generation Oakland native,” said Houston, explaining why he felt so passionately about blight. “I saw kids on the way home from school walking through this trash one day. What’s the state of mind of kids walking through this trash? What effect does it have on them?” He asked.

“Someone dumped tons and tons of dirt in West Oakland, dumped it in a closed building. Do people think they can just come here and dump trash? It’s bigger than District 7, it’s about Oakland as a whole,” Houston said.

Attending the meeting were councilmembers Reid, Desley Brooks and Noel Gallo, as well as community members, representatives of local businesses, representatives of the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, Oakland Police Department officials and officials from the Oakland Unified School District, Public Works Department and other city agencies.

According to city numbers, over 35 percent of Oakland has signs of illegal graffiti and dumping.  In 2011, city litter enforcement received 11,336 calls for service, including more that 5,000 in East Oakland.

Efforts to clean up the trash have been overwhelmed by lack of funding, a failure to prosecute cases and cleanup crews flooded with illegal dumping calls, according to a report presented at the meeting.

The city is negotiating with Waste Management of Alameda County to pick up trash on the weekends on busy commercial streets and to increase the number of bulky trash pickups, from two to six a year.

“They’re the ones that control the dump. They are the ones in that are in the trash business,” said Councilmember Gallo, who organizes volunteers to clean trash in District 5 neighborhoods every Saturday.

The Beautification Council meeting ended with concrete commitments to solve the problem, including plans to increase community involvement.

The Alameda County D.A.’s office committed to prosecuting dumping offenders.  Seeing graffiti as a issue that is better solved with positive than punitive measures, Houston is looking into incentive programs to channel young graffiti artists to use their talents to beautify the city and win prizes and recognition for themselves.

District 7 Beautification meeting

Shown clockwise from left: Desley Brooks; Council Member District 6; Aaron Forkash, Aaron Metals Co.; Tim White, Asistant Superintendent, Oakland Unified; Capt Kirk Coleman, OPD; Richard Fuentes, BART, Government and Community Relations (head hidden); Paul Figueroa, Assistant Chief OPD; Kevin Dunleavy, Alameda County Asst. D.A.; Pat Mossburg, office of City Council Member Larry Reid, District 7; Noel Gallo, Council Member District 5; Jacqueline Orpilla, office of Assemblymember Rob Bonta; Maria Ramirez, Alexis Banquet Supply in Oakland; Jeff Simpson, General Supply; Dinah Benson, community member, District 7; Paul Hora, Alameda County Assistant District Attorney; 14. Ken Benson, community member; 15. Phebia Richardson, Sobrante Park Time Banking. Among those not shown are Council Member Larry Reid; Stanley Roberts, KRON-4; and Hellen Harvey, Community Reformed Church. Photos by Ken Epstein.