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Friday, February 4, 2011

Should City's Garbage Contract Be Trashed?

Posted By and on Fri, Feb 4, 2011 at 6:46 PM

City Budget Analyst Says Question Should Be Put to Voters

click to enlarge Should the city's garbage contract go here?
  • Should the city's garbage contract go here?
Should the city's garbage contract go here?
Thanks to a 1932 law, for 79 years only one company has been allowed to pick up and transport garbage on San Francisco streets. In a new report, San Francisco's Budget and Legislative Analyst recommends putting the law to the voters, so they can decide whether to scrap the old garbage contract and put a new one out to bid.

"If I were Recology, I would be nervous

about the board seeking voter approval for a contract that would be put out to bid," said Marcus Young, a lobbyist for Waste Management Inc., a competitor. "Waste Management is eager to reconsider its relationship to San Francisco."

Recology is seeking to expand its reach by taking over the long-haul trucking and landfill storage end of San Francisco's garbage operation, which is now handled by Waste Management. On Wednesday, a Board of Supervisors committee will vote on a Department of the Environment proposal for Recology to transport our garbage to a Yuba City landfill 130 miles away, rather than taking it to Waste Management's Altamont landfill 55 miles to the east, where our trash has been going for the last 20 years.

In analyzing the new landfill proposal, budget analyst Harvey Rose recommended throwing the entire contracting process into the waste bin.

According to the report:

The City's Refuse Collection and Disposal Ordinance of 1932 has resulted in Recology becoming the City's permanent and exclusive refuse collection firm, without Recology ever having undergone the City's normal competitive bidding process.
Getting rid of Recology's monopoly would entail a vote by the Board of Supervisors on whether to place an initiative on the ballot, allowing voters to decide whether to dump the 1932 law. Then the entire garbage pickup, hauling, and landfill contract could be put out to a new bid.

The Budget and Legislative Analyst believes that such a firm should be selected through the City's normal competitive bidding process. Therefore, a policy altemative for consideration by the Board of Supervisors includes submitting a proposition to the voters to (a) repeal the City's existing Refuse Collection and Disposal Ordinance of 1932, such that future refuse collection and transportation services would be required to be awarded by the City under the City's normal competitive process, and (b) require that refuse collection rates for both residential and commercial services be subject to Board of Supervisors approval.
We asked Recology spokesman Adam Alberti what would be wrong with putting the garbage contract out to bid.

"We believe the current system in place provides the best option for San Francisco," he said.

Okay. So then what's wrong with putting the city's garbage contract out to bid?

"Right now, the garbage contract is not a contract. It's

a charter agreement, and it can't be put out

to bid," he said.

Okay. So what would be wrong with making it so the contract could be put out to bid?

"The debate about whether the system

works or not, is a debate we'd be happy to have," he said. "But we feel that debate

is afield of the issue now at hand."

Shall I just write that you refuse to answer the question? What would be wrong with putting the contract out to bid?

"Legally, the problem would be that the city and county would not have the authority to do so. Practically,

we believe that the sytem in place, it would be the superior choice

for the ratepayers, and ultimately it's a board policy matter on how

they would proceed," said Alberti -- who, for the record, refused to answer the question.

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