Category: Oakland Talks Trash

Councilmembers, Community Groups Push Mayor for Funding for Homeless, Job Training and Trash Cleanup

Members of East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods demand the city keep its promises to clean up trash and illegal dumping. Photos by Ken Epstein

By Ken Epstein

As the City Council examines a “midcycle” revision of the city’s two-year budget, community groups are demanding the city allocate money to relieve the suffering of Oakland’s rapidly growing homeless population, clean up illegal dumping and trash in flatland neighborhoods, support job-training for low-income Oaklanders and fund social programs for vulnerable residents by reducing out-of-control spending on the Oakland Police Department.

The budget revisions were discussed at Tuesday’s special City Council meeting and  scheduled to be finalized before the end of June.

Mayor Libby Schaaf and the City Administration, in a move that dampened demands for new spending coming from the community and some councilmembers, released a report showing that the 2018-2019 budget includes a projected deficit of $11 million.

To close the deficit, the City Administrator has asked departments to cut two percent of their expenditures.

At the same time the administration is proposing cuts, it is requesting the council adopt $31.3 million in new spending, including $1 million for the homeless, $27.5 million for new appropriations for affordable housing, $982,000 for trash cleanup, $1.6 million to hire three new staff in the Human Resources Department and conduct a Fire Academy, and $167,000 for two new employees for the Oakland Animal Shelter.

No mention was made in the City Administrator’s report of going over the budgeted spending limit for police overtime by $17 million, which more than accounted for the hole in the city’s budget.

Most of those who spoke at the meeting—residents and councilmembers—called on the city to fund concerns and community needs that they said had been shortchanged or ignored when the budget was adopted last year.

Rebecca Kaplan presented a list of new expenditures she is supporting, including cleanup crews for illegal dumping hot spots, public toilets and expanded support for homeless sanitation, job training and apprenticeship programs and support for the Oakland Animal Shelter.

Kaplan also requested changes in administrative practices that would not cost additional money but would require new ways of relating to the community: proactive trash pickup based on focusing on hotspots, not just responding to complaints; working with congregations and community-based organizations to establish alternative homeless encampments; and utilizing less costly security guards instead of police for City Hall security that is being requested by the administration.

Noel Gallo

The city needs to adopt real homeless solutions that “don’t just push the problem from one underpass to the next, at great expense,” she said.

She was also skeptical of the new horse-mounted police unit OPD is reportedly organizing. She asked: who authorized the “ponies”, how much money is being spent and what fund is the money coming from?

Kaplan also raised concerns that the administration has repeatedly failed to carry out resolutions the Council has passed.

“We on the Council should consider that what actually gets implemented is so different than what we voted for,” she said.

OPD overspending for police overtime “essentially accounts for the entire (budget) gap we are talking about,” she said.

Councilmember Noel Gallo proposed that he and his fellow Councilmembers help pay for homeless and trash services by contributing as much as much half of the $600,000 a year each of them receives from the city to operate their offices.

He also said Mayor Schaaf’s office budget is over $3 million. “The mayor should at least contribute a million dollars from her budget,” he said.
A large group from East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods demanded full funding for their proposals to clean up flatland streets.

“Our children pass through piles of filthy, stinking garbage, human feces and the carcasses of dead animals to walk to school,” said Lidia, a spokesperson for the Congress.
“Some of you live in neighborhoods where this would never be allowed,” she said.

Carroll Fife, also speaking for the Congress, criticized the Mayor’s trash proposals.

“We see the proclamations the Mayor is making to the news media about the wonderful things that she is doing… to address the trash issue. We’re here to say it is not enough. It is not even real,” said Fife.

“You have to be honest with the residents of this city,” she said.

James Vann was one of the speakers with the Homeless Advocacy Working Group (HAWG), which is requesting $4.2 million to provide portable bathrooms, shower facilities and clean water at homeless encampments throughout the city.

The $1 million the Mayor is proposing for homeless services is “a pittance—that’s nothing, and it’s not (even) true,” said Vann.

He said the city’s proposed $1 million in new homeless spending is eaten up by the $500,000 the city owes for work on Tuff Sheds that is already completed. In addition, he said providing sanitary services at one site costs about $250,000 a year.

Speakers for the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) called for redirecting some of the money that currently goes to OPD, which accounts for about 43 percent of the general fund.

As little as $10 million taken from police spending would make a dramatic difference in services for the homeless and elimination of trash on the streets, ATPT speakers said.

Posted June 3, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Congress of Neighborhoods Says Mayor’s Illegal Dumping Proposal is “Insufficient”

“The time for partial solutions and unmet promises is over,” says community activist

Trash in East Oakland

By Post staff

Facing mounting pressure to solve the illegal dumping crisis in flatland neighborhoods, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has announced a proposal that community members say is “insufficient and overly focused on enforcement as a solution.”

The East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods raised the demands April 16 at an angry community meeting of 600 flatland residents, where the mayor and city council members spoke.

“The issue of illegal dumping is an issue of access and equity,” says Chris Jackson, Congress leader from District 7. “Equity is everyone getting what they need to thrive. We expect elected leaders to support all of our demands, not the punitive ones they like best.”

Congress is demanding comprehensive solutions to what they see as a public health emergency: One new Public Works crew focused on illegal dumping, three litter enforcement officers, better lighting in chronic dumping areas, a zone-based clean-up system focused on the hotspots rather than simply reacting to complaints.

Responding, Mayor Schaaf and District 2 Councilmember Abel Guillén on Thursday announced plans to hire three litter enforcement officers. However, residents are continuing to press the mayor to meet all of the demands.

Councilmembers Desley Brooks, Annie Campbell-Washington, Noel Gallo, Abel Guillén and Rebecca Kaplan have all agreed to find funding for the demands in the mid-cycle budget review process, which occurs in June.

“We pay taxes just like residents in the hills. We want to see the same level of city services here in the flatlands,” says Congress leader Evangelina Lara of District 2. “We expect all of our demands to be met in the mid-cycle budget review process, as was promised on April 16. We intend to make sure that city officials fulfill their commitments to the community. The time for partial solutions and unmet promises is over.”

“The community’s collective work pushing city officials is creating a reaction,” says Congress leader Manuel Arias of District 5. “We will continue to organize—our children, elders, parents, all residents deserve better. No one’s children should have to walk over garbage to go to school.”

In March, the Congress of Neighborhoods held a “trash tour” that began at Mayor Schaaf’s home and visited trash hot spots in Oakland flatlands, designed to show elected leaders the difference between how the city takes care of hills and flatland streets.

Published May 11, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

City Seeks to Curb Growing Illegal Dumping Crisis

By Ken Epstein

Oakland is facing a public health crisis caused by illegal dumping, which has increased by 100 percent in the past five years. City employees are working seven days a week to respond to growing community complaints.

“This is not just an illegal dumping problem. This is a cleanliness problem,” said Councilmember Desley Brooks at last week’s Public Works Committee meeting.
“We need to look comprehensively at this,” she said. “We’ve been doing the same thing. I think it’s absolutely necessary that we try something different.”

“We’re starting to have increasing problems with rats,” said Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan.

Councilmember Abel Guillén said efforts to stop illegal dumping must be expanded to involve all city departments.

“I think it’s an emergency,” he said. “There are no consequences right now (for illegal dumping). I can’t remember anyone ever being fined.”

City work orders for removing illegally dumped trash, based on complaints filed by local residents, grew from 14,083 in 2011-2012 to 29,370 in 2015-2016 – a 100 percent increase in the last five years, including an 18 percent growth in the past year, according to a staff report submitted at last week’s Public Works Committee.

“Illegal dumping … is a pox on our community. It is prevalent, and it is ubiquitous across the city,” said Susan Kattchee, assistant director of the Department of Facilities & Environment.

A map included in the staff report shows dumping sites in the city stretch from the Berkeley to San Leandro borders, between Highways 880 and 580.

The city’s cleanup department, Keep Oakland Clean and Beautiful (KOCB), picks up trash seven days a week, with a commitment of clearing work orders within three business days.

In the last three months, KOCB was able to respond to the work orders within three days at a 93 percent rate, but staff is uncertain that workers can maintain that rate, according to Kattchee.

About 75 new complaints on average are reported to the department each day. Of these, about 30 are handled by Waste Management.
The city pays $5.5 million a year to remove illegal dumping.

In April, the city commissioned a study of illegal dumping piles “to get a greater insight into the roots of the problem,” said Kattchee.
The survey examined 75 piles to gain a greater understanding of the sources of the trash, whether residential or commercial, and cities from which they came.

The study found that 55 percent of the piles included residential goods, and 8 percent was construction-related debris.
Only 3 percent of the trash was homeless-related.

“Demonizing the homeless is not going to solve this problem. The data shows that,” said Kaplan.

The survey was not very successful in connecting the piles to cities of origin – 63 percent of the piles were of unknown origin. Twenty-nine percent was identified as coming from Oakland.

Ken Houston, a local activist, pointed to the public health threat that illegal dumping poses.

“The street has no rules, so they’re dumping things that are hazardous that are being carried into our households – on our children’s feet (and) on the wheels of strollers.”

Many people have cats, he said. “You can’t see what’s on that cat’s fur.”

In addition to responding to complaints, the city has expanded its bulk pickup program for items too large to fit in a trash cart and is planning an educational campaign for residents, utilizing direct mail and social media: Nextdoor, Facebook and YouTube ads.

Published September 23, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Community Groups Build East Oakland Neighborhood Power

Local residents attend recent meeting to oppose illegal dumping.

By Ken Epstein

Some of the major community organizations in Oakland have joined together  as the East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods to hold a community assembly  to build the collective strength of local residents to impact neighborhood issues such as trash and blight, potholes, the sex trade, homelessness, rising rents and the frustration of dealing with city officials and public agencies that do not pay attention.

The first meeting of the community assembly will be held Saturday, Sept. 30, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at International Community School, 2825 International Blvd. in Oakland. Food, childcare and translation will be provided.

The East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods includes the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Just Cause; Causa Justa, Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), East Oakland Building Healthy Communities, East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC) and Oakland Community Organizations (OCO).

“We expect 1,000 people at the assembly to discuss our values, make plans and discuss strategies and to hold Oakland officials accountable,” said Evangelina Lara, a leader of EBAYC and resident of the San Antonio neighborhood for 18 years.

“These are the issues that the residents themselves have decided are the most important,” she said. “This assembly is bringing together six  (Oakland) organizations to build real power, from the lake to the San Leandro border.”

Andre Spearman, an OCO leader, said the community-based organizations have been working together on some issues for a long time, but they have begun to feel that in order to have more clout, residents from throughout East Oakland need to work together on common issues.
In the past, he said, “We’ve had some victories,” working in individual neighborhoods, “but it doesn’t seem like enough power to really change things, to hold officials as accountable as they should be.”

“If you don’t have power you don’t get consulted,” he said.

For more information, email Nehanda Imara at nehanda@eastoaklandbhc.org or Alba Hernandez at alba@oaklandcommunity.org

Published September 13, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Civicorps and City of Oakland Work Together to Train Youth as Truck Drivers

Recycling and organics truck driver Wulliam Montolla

Recycling and organics truck driver Wulliam Montolla

By Ken Epstein

Oakland may become the only place in the nation where job opportunities for young people are written into a city’s franchise agreement to pick up the trash.

As part of the Oakland City Council’s recent 10-year contract with Waste Management, Civicorps – which provides high school diplomas and job training for young adults – is negotiating agreements that will allow its participants to work in jobs picking up green waste and enter relatively high paid positions as truck drivers.

Though the deals are not yet finalized, Alan Lessik, executive director of Civicorps, is optimistic that young people in the program will soon be driving trucks to pick up organic waste at commercial establishments throughout the city, to be delivered to East Bay Municipal Utility District’s green digesters at the Army Base in West Oakland where bacteria will turn the garbage into electricity.

Currently trainees can earn their Class B drivers license through the recycling program. Under the new agreement, these trainees they will become Teamster Local 70 Apprentice drivers, which will allow them to become union truck drivers and earn substantial raises in pay.

“We don’t have numbers yet, but their wages will almost double when they move from the pre-apprenticeship to the Teamster apprenticeship program,” said Lessik.

Although Civicorps provides young people with work experience, education is at the heart of the program.

For the first four months in Civicorps, students go to school 30 hours a week, full time. After that, they go to a job site for 30 hours a week and attend school for eight hours a week.

Civicorps is the only accredited high school and job training program for youth 18-26 years old in the East Bay. As a charter school in Oakland for the last 10 years, the school offers students a real high school diploma, not a G.E.D.

Civicorps Graduates Nykimbe Broussard, Harris Cox, and Michael Wilder.

Civicorps Graduates Nykimbe Broussard, Harris Cox, and Michael Wilder.

About 75 percent of the program’s students graduate, a higher rate than Oakland public high schools. Over 75 percent of Civicorps graduates go onto college or jobs, an impressive achievement for a program whose students had previously dropped out of high school.

In school, students study English, math, science and social studies. They explore career and college and can act in Shakespeare plays.

“What we know is everyone can learn, no matter what their past history has been,” said Lessik. But in order to be successful in their studies, he says, young people may need support to overcome serious obstacles, such as homelessness, before they can focus on schoolwork.

Civicorps works with about 130 students at time. About 90 percent are from Oakland, the rest from other parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Thirty percent have been involved in the criminal justice system; 28 percent are from foster care.

Ninety-eight percent are students of color.

“All of our students are poor – the school system has failed all of our kids in the past,” said Lessik.

As the young people progress through the program, they begin “traditional conservation corps work,” which provides them with basic skills training.

Civicorps has contracts with EBMUD, the cities of Berkeley and Oakland, as well as the East Bay Regional Parks District. The youth do fire prevention, build trails, clean out streams, pick up litter and learn to handle small tools.

“Our aim is to integrate our kids into the community in a positive way,” said Lessik. “They’re doing environmental and social good in the community and are seeing themselves as part of the community.”

In Civicorps’ recycling program, young people can earn their regular drivers’ license and a Class B License that enable them to drive garbage trucks and other large vehicles.

“Through our program, they can get experience,” Lessik said. “We keep them for two years, because you have to show you have two years of violation-free, drug-free work experience to be eligible for fairly well-paying jobs as drivers.”

Civicorps, located at 102 Myrtle St. near the West Oakland BART station, has year-round enrollment for its school, job training and recycling truck driving program. For more information, call (510) 992-7800 or go to www.cvcorps.org.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 16, 2014, (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

Plan to Divert Garbage from Landfill to Produce Green Energy Awaits Waste Management OK

EBMUD green digesters at Oakland Army Base in West Oakland

EBMUD green digesters at Oakland Army Base in West Oakland

By Ken Epstein

Oakland’s renegotiated trash deal may mean better rates and services for the city’s residents. But the agreement does not settle whether Oakland’s food waste will end up in a landfill or be diverted to East Bay Municipal District’s green digester that turns the garbage into electricity energy.

Under the now defunct plan the city had with California Waste Solutions (CWS), green waste from commercial establishments, such as restaurants, hospitals and cafeterias, would go to the EBMUD plant at the Oakland Army Base. CWS and EBMUD had a signed memorandum of understanding.

William "Bill" Patterson

William “Bill” Patterson

However, the terms of the city’s contract with Waste Management only require the company to negotiate with EBMUD.

“We are at a much earlier stage with Waste Management (than CWS),” said Abby Figueroa, EBMUD spokesperson. If the parties reach a deal, “We would end up being a subcontractor with Waste Management,” she said.

“This contract (would) enable us to put more resources into the plant, turning discarded food scraps and other digestible organic materials into renewable energy,” said William “Bill” Patterson, member of the EBMUD Board of Directors, speaking at a recent City Council meeting.

The idea behind EBMUD’s green digester is quite simple and utilizes technology that has been around for years. Carbon-rich food waste is blended and dumped into one of EBMUD’s 12 tanks to be decomposed by bacteria.

“The (2-million gallon) tanks are kept at about 100 degrees for 2-3 weeks (where the) bacteria chomp away and release byproducts, most of which is methane gas,” said Fugueroa.

The gas is captured and fed into EBMUD turbines or engines to create electricity. Most of what goes into the digesters at present are solids from wastewater, she said.

The digesters were built in the 1980s when the East Bay was still a center of the food processing industry. Most of that capacity is unused at present.

In 2001, EBMUD started collecting food waste to utilize its excess capacity in the digesters. This includes wastes from wineries, dairies, food processors, grease from restaurants and commercial food scraps, said Figueroa.

On average, every day about 10 tons of food waste is delivered to the plant.

In 2012, EBMUD became the first wastewater utility in the country to produce enough energy from biodegradable waste to power its plant and sell extra energy back to the grid, said Figueroa.

This cuts fossil fuel use, greenhouse gas emissions and saves about $3 million each year in electricity bills, she said. Last year, EBMUD produced 6 megawatts of power. Currently, the excess power that is generated is sold to the Port of Oakland.

If EBMUD contracts with Waste Management to take Oakland’s commercial food waste, the utility estimates it will receive 70-100 tons of food waste per day.

“We estimate this will produce 1 megawatt of power, or enough to power 1,200 homes,” she said. “ The alternative is to send all this food waste to landfills, where methane will be produced naturally but not captured for energy production.”

Figueroa said that EBMUD responds immediately to concerns of West Oakland community members about odors that intermittently come from the utility’s plant,

She emphasized that the utility takes these concerns seriously and has spent millions of dollars for the latest technology and uses chemicals to reduce odors. In addition, she said, the odors that cause the concerns come mostly from the wastewater treatment plant, not the digesters.

“We’ll continue our commitment of being a good neighbor in the West Oakland community. We are using the state-of-the-art odor control technology,” said Patterson, EBMUD board member.

EBMUD daily treats about 63 million gallons of wastewater from nine East Bay cities, including Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Kensington, Oakland, Piedmont and part of Richmond.

The utility has been treating the East Bay’s wastewater since 1951.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 10, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

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)

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)

 

 

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)