Almanac

Viewpoint - January 26, 2011

Letter: Blaming Recology misses the mark

Nicholas and Oouisie Jones are right to be outraged over the extraordinary increases to their garbage rates. But blaming our new garbage company, Recology, misses the mark.

The rate increases are to pay off costs incurred by the previous contractor, Allied Waste. Much of the increase will be used to cover the very generous labor contracts that Allied negotiated with the Teamsters Union. Unfortunately, Recology inherited these contracts, meaning that we will be paying for these contracts for the next four years.

The good news is that Recology's operation is much more efficient than Allied's. More of our waste stream is being diverted from the landfill using less labor. And once the current labor contracts expire, sweetheart labor deals will be a thing of the past. Until then, we have little choice but to pay for Allied and the Teamster's cost increases.

Heyward Robinson, former Mayor, City of Menlo Park

Comments

Posted by Lee Ivy, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 29, 2011 at 9:52 am

Here is one other factor that can affect Menlo Park garbage bills. We were shocked by our first Recology garbage bill, it was more than double our previous monthly rate, but it turned out to be a billing error on Recology's part. It seems Recology decided to sign us up for the more expensive 2-32-gallon-can service even though we had the cheaper 1-32-gallon-can option. After clearing this up, our costs will be roughly the same as they were under Allied Waste.


Posted by old timer, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 29, 2011 at 10:49 pm

While ex-councilman Robinson can write all he wants, all this occurred while he and the other 4 council persons were on the watch.

They stood by while all this was going on and their excuse is "all the other cities did likewise."

Robinson is dreaming when he expects to see lower rates in the future when the existing contracts expire.

Apparently City staff was asleep while all this was taking place. Everyone seemed so concerned with being "green" and not watching what was more important.

While reading the City's e-mail long, I now find out why I'm being billing separately, rather than being included on the property tax bill. Apparently the City wanted out of the billing business, so ignoring tax savings by its residents, they just had Recology do the billing.

Today, I receive another announcement from the City on a public hearing about further raising the collection rates.

Time for major changes in City staff, starting with no renewal of Rojas this August.


Posted by retired teacher, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 30, 2011 at 6:52 am

My garbage bill for 2010 - 2011 is double what it was for July 2009 - June 2010 according to billing/information from Recology and the city for what is virtually the exact same curbside service.

While I appreciate that our garbage will now be handled in a more environmentally positive way, I resent paying for generous wage increases to the Teamsters. Many other unions, including my own, have agreed to salary and benefit decreases because of our economic downturn.

I agree with Old Timer...where was the city staff and council when this contract with Allied Waste was negotiated?


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 30, 2011 at 7:54 am

It's funny how people slowly realize how unsustainable these wages and benefits are. We see service costs increasing, tax rates climbing, and new parcel taxes. Pretty soon, we'll all be priced out of our homes.

In this case, the Teamsters are an easy target. But we fail to admit that the wages, benefits and pensions enjoyed by teachers, police, fire and other public service workers are equally unsustainable at our own peril.

No one is exempt. If you think teaching children or putting out fires are such sacred endeavors, just wait until your trash isn't collected for a few weeks.


Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 30, 2011 at 10:03 am

The Almanac also does selected reporting of the news. When it comes to leftist causes(and not all of them are bad) the Almanac trumpets the cause. But when it came to the increase in garbage rates, it was reported (kudos to Sean Howell), but it was glossed over on the editorial pages.

The Almanac said in a January 12, 2011 editorial
"The new system will be much better for the environment, but it will cost more, in most cases a lot more"

And rather than point to the egregious contract approved by the City
Council, the Almanac gives this glib response:

"If you are an angry ratepayer, the best way to save is to recycle more and throw away less"

It took "A Voter" to expose the truth in rebuttal to a July 7, 2010 rebuttal to the disingenuous Heyward Robinson Guest opininon piece where "A Voter" said

"Have you forgotten that you directly and indirectly approved all the actions that resulted in the negotiated wage rates with the Teamsters, the bloated management salaries and benefits, the worker retention policy, and the selection of a Teamster-owned company? Shame on you for trying to deny your responsibility when you were Mayor and trying to act like the taxpayer champion now that you are a City Council Candidate. Frankly, your newly found concern rings hollow."

It is quite obvious to me that the Almanac is heavily on the side of the Unions and believes that it is the tax payers' responsibility to shore them up, even in the most dire economic times, where people are losing their jobs and having their salaries and benefits reduced.



Posted by old timer, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 30, 2011 at 10:12 am

I don't often agree with Hank Lawrence, but most of what he says above is correct.

When is MP going to wake up. I don't excuse Boyle or Robinson, even though both are now gone. Fergusson was a leader, along with Robinson in promoting the new system and she still sits there, unfortunately.

But sitting on top of all of this is the City Manager, and this along with pension increases and huge raises to police have all been part of his 4 year tenure. Quite frankly we need a change at the top. I don't see this happening and won't happen unless the public finally gets it through their heads what an incompetent administration we have.


Posted by retired teacher, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 30, 2011 at 10:56 am

POGO: My question about garbage rates and the Teamsters was prompted by the comments posted by Mr. Robinson to the Almanac Online. I was hoping someone could give me a better explanation of what had occurred that resulted in my garbage rates doubling within a year.

Your assumption that I think teaching or fire fighting is more important than garbage collecting is wrong. Your assumption that I am only slowly beginning to realize there may be a problem with unsustainable wages and benefits is also erroneous.

In the past I have written a comment or two on various topics. Each time you have rudely responded to whatever I have written by letting me know how you feel about teachers. Apparently whatever the problem is...it's a teacher's fault. Tired of it.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 30, 2011 at 11:33 am

My apologies, retired teacher, if I misread your intentions. I don't recall ever replying to one of your posts - perhaps you use different pseudonyms?

I have no problem with teachers, but I have a huge problem with their union leadership. The resistance of public employee unions (teachers included) to address the unsustainable wages, pensions and benefits will be catastrophic. And, unfortunately, we don't have long to wait before their house of cards collapses.


Posted by old timer, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 30, 2011 at 12:26 pm

WOW!!!

@POGO who writes above

"Your assumption that I think teaching or fire fighting is more important than garbage collecting is wrong"

On just what planet do you live? Take out the "fire fighting". Putting teaching in the same category with garbage collecting, WOW!!!

In point of fact, why has California sunk to the bottom of the heap in excellence of education? Precisely because the better teachers have fled the state for better opportunities elsewhere.

As far as I am concerned POGO has no credibility at all.

In any case, this is off topic, and I won't go further.

What is on topic is the lousy new garbage contract, which our City staff (and Council) so signed up for.


Posted by reminder, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 30, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Who's paying attention to public pensions? (Almanac, Dec. 8, 2004): Web Link


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 30, 2011 at 2:08 pm

old timer -

You must know how much I value your opinion. Somehow I'll try to go on...

Web Link

I'll take a teacher's strike any day.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 30, 2011 at 2:12 pm

old timer, I never said what you are attributing to me.

This is what I said: "If you think teaching children or putting out fires are such sacred endeavors, just wait until your trash isn't collected for a few weeks."

Perhaps your eyeglass prescription needs updating.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 30, 2011 at 2:13 pm

We all need to understand is that the local cities, as part of the larger consortium, has contracted with Recology to do garbage collection in those cities and the contract guarantees that Recology's expenses will be fully reimbursed plus a profit.

If the rates that we are being charged do not yield as much revenue as the Town owes Recology then the Town must make up the difference (this is called 'topping up'). This is why the cities still owe Allied Waste for prior years because the old rates did not fully cover what the cities owed Allied waste. The new rates not only cover (hopefully) what the cities have guaranteed Recology but those rates also cover the top up still owed to Allied Waste.

This arrangement has some interesting consequences. For example, the two compost bins we get are not really free - if our fees don't cover the cities guarantee to Recology then the cities will simply have to pay the difference. And Recology is perfectly happy to pick up cardboard that doesn't fit into the blue bins because the Town will have to pay the extra cost. And the only place to get the difference will be by raising the next year's rates or have a parcel tax since the cities are already running a deficit.

It is simple - there is no free lunch and no free garbage collection. We have gotten in the habit of producing lots of garbage, lots of recycling and lots of compost. So much, in fact, that we still owe Allied Waste for everything that was not covered by the old rates.

I have figured out how to significantly reduce my costs under the new rates by minimizing my black bin garbage - unfortunately if everyone does that then the topping up amount to be paid by the cities will be HUGE.

There needs to be a rethink of this rate schedule to BOTH produce the required revenues AND to encourage recycling and composting. We each need to pay our own true costs as we go and not have some of those costs shifted to other people either now in the current rates or later in the topping up process.


Posted by Interested, a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Peter. No disrespect, but your analysis is far too simplified. SBWMA was originally formed as a Joint Powers Authority to negotiate garbage rates collectively by the original 11 agencies, rather than individually, with BFI (remember them.)

The original concept was a good one. It has since become a total boondoggle.

Original conceived as a consortium of local agencies, it is now its own government agency (yes, yet another one). It would be interesting to know just how much of our garbage rates go to maintaining SBWMA (now Rethink).

Rethink does not allow elected officials to serve on its Board, and while most important decisions have to be approved by the councils of the member agencies, most other decisions are made by members of staff, some of whom are not subject to the ordinances they subject the rest of us to.





Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Interested - I miss your point regarding my comments. I was discussing the rate structure while you touched on the organizational issue.


Posted by Interested, a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Sorry Peter I probably did not make it clear. Rethink now costs a minimum of 2.4 million to operate. It used to cost nothing.

The problems really started when BFI threatened to sell the property on which the Transfer Station sat. It should have been taken by Eminent Domain. Instead SBWMA purchased it.

There is so much more to the history of this than has been reported.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 30, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Interested - Thanks. Perhaps the Forum participants can help fill in the blanks on this story. It would be fun to use the Forum to create something useful.


Posted by Interested, a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Peter. Do you know how much it originally cost the member agencies to operate SBWMA ?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 31, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Interested asks:"Do you know how much it originally cost the member agencies to operate SBWMA?"

No, but adding that information to this thread as well as solid facts from others will certainly help build a coherent public history. And that would be a good substitute for the kind of reporting that news agencies can apparently no longer afford to do.


Posted by Interested, a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2011 at 7:28 pm

The answer Peter is not one red cent. The former City Manager acted as the Chair of the Authority, San Carlos provided the meeting space and The City of San Carlos did the admin work (which was minimal) at no charge....Now it costs 2.4 million in admin costs and that does not include the additional costs to run the transfer station.....which will incur a loss this year of almost 4 million....They say they will make it up later....

Fat chance

Been there done that :-)


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