Garbage Rate Protest Postmortem, Part 1
In-Flight Dream Machine

Garbage Rate Protest Postmortem, Part 2



Pacifica City Council unanimously approved Recology's 8 percent garbage rate hike on May 23, despite numerous protest forms downloaded from Riptide and advertised on the sign along Highway 1 (above). This was the first time that locals had a legal process of written protest against a garbage rate hike. A complete lack of long-term oversight and a backroom process in signing the new contract with Recology have resulted in Pacifica’s paying the highest rates for garbage collection in San Mateo County. (Source: San Bruno City Council agenda report rate survey, 5-10-11)

Other cities have this strange habit of caring about their citizens, negotiating contracts that better hold in check the costs of things like solid waste collection, but in the wackydoodle world of Pacifica, anything goes! Compare the proposed new Recology rates for Pacifica, San Bruno, and Millbrae:

      Per month          Pacifica                 San Bruno                  Millbrae

20-gallon cart          $21.86                    $18.44                        $16.87

32-gallon cart          $34.24                    $23.78                        $27.00

“Citizens are sitting ducks for every trick and scam governments can think up. We are going bankrupt – food and gas are difficult to pay for and you add more fees (and) taxes? No.” (San Bruno resident William Walker, quoted in the San Mateo County Times, 5-10-11)

Mr. Walker really should come through the looking glass into Pacifica to see how much commercial accounts pay here versus San Bruno:

Commercial Can/Cart Solid Waste Pickup        Pacifica             San Bruno

32-gallon cart                                                       $39.01                $30.23

64-gallon cart                                                       $78.02                $60.46

96-gallon cart                                                       $117.03              $90.69

And check out proposed debris box price differences between the same two cities; local contractors would do well to look elsewhere:

                            Pacifica (14 yard container)      San Bruno (16 yard container)

Two days                $495.56                                       $419.98

Five days                 $619.73                                      $419.98

                             Pacifica (20 yard container)      San Bruno (20 yard container)

Two days                  $638.44                                      $461.19

Five days                  $784.72                                      $461.19

Of course, we’re told that the lack of commercial activity in Pacifica is why residential rates are so high. Who then are our rate-oppressed business people subsidizing?


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As of May 18, only 171 protest votes have been turned in at City Hall. We need a lot more than that if we are going to make an impact on the City Council. Talk to your neighbors. Hand out forms. Collect them and make sure they are turned in.

It may be difficult getting the sales contract from the city. That would be like going to the city to get a copy of a sales contract for any other private transaction. Why are people in this town such conspiracy addicts? Don't you all know the world ends on Saturday and we should be carousing in total dissipation and debauchery!

I could put in a Public Records Act request and get the sales document. You and Mr. Picardo and the lamppost have no right to conceal it.
You managed a quasi-public agency (Coastside Scavenger), which had a monopoly contract with the City of Pacifica that it defaulted on.
I believe the RATEPAYER is picking up the tab, not poor (HA) Mr. Picardo.
Revisionist history doesn't wash when people are watching.
Where's the audit, and who was the auditor?

Lionel, Mr. Picardo paid the debt to the city, and any councilperson, Steve Rhodes, Ann Ritzma, or Cecilia Quick (or the outside attorney hired here) will tell you that.

For the last time, please speak to the people who are involved. That is where you will get the factual information.

This will be my last post. It is difficult to explain the correct information and continue to be in essence told I don't know what I am talking about. I was privy to all aspects of this sale and operation, and NO, the sale documents will not be posted.

Thank you to whoever took the time to read and listen to me.

Thanks, Lionel, but due to the rigged way our City Council conducts this so-called election, the rate increase is a done deal. In truth, our council members use every devious trick they can think of to raise our taxes so that they can continue their own benefits and the overpaid salaries to Pacifica employees. Built into the rate increase is the franchise fee, which is a disguised tax. If our council were truly on our side, we would not be stuck with the highest rates in the county. Last time I went by City Hall, no one (and I really mean no one) was doing any work. Throw the bums out. I invite everyone who reads this to go by City Hall (morning or afternoon) on any workday. Take a look and see if anyone is really working. Please talk to Steve, Ann, and Cecilia. See if your tax dollars are really at work. You may be surprised.

The annual audits of Recology are public record, and it would be a great benefit to all concerned for them to be posted here as it would dispel any false information, to be sure.

I may be remembering this wrong, but at the council hearing for the current rate increase the consultant did say he did not review the audit and that he was taking Recology at its word that the increase was necessary. Ann Ritzma said, if I remember correctly, that an audit had not been done.

You are correct, and have my apology. Millbrae is serviced by South San Francisco Scavenger, according to the S.M.Co. Times

As for the explanation of the debt owed by Mr. Picardo to the city, it's news to me that he, rather than Recology, as a part of its sales agreement with the city of Pacifica, paid it off.

Why would Recology have said it would take care of the debt as part of the deal? I'd like to see the sales agreement posted online.

You write that an audit exists of the rate increase, yet the city's usual auditor (H.F.&H.) didn't do the audit. Who is this auditor and will you please post this online as well for examination? This doesn't make any sense.

"To end, I will say that this was not a sweetheart deal but a sale of a company that Mr. Picardo, at 74 years old, had every right to do."

You've got to be kidding! Mr. Picardo was in arrears to the city to the tune of $810,000 (your number), and Coastside Scavenger was in open warfare with the city, bouncing checks like there was no tomorrow, using every legal device to prevent an audit, and now you tell us that Picardo, and not Recology, paid off the debt!
Pretty interesting stuff, Chris.

Thanks for the posted number, Chris.

Corrections to comments posted, and clarification on other areas of comment: Recology does not service Millbrae. San Bruno and Millbrae DO NOT offer their citizens food waste pickup in conjunction with greenwaste (composting) pickup. San Bruno has just begun offering a 20-gallon garbage can when we have had that service in Pacifica for 10 years. You can put up comparisons of rates, but unless you compare like services, the comparison does not ring true. Recology did not pay back the City of Pacifica for the back-owed franchise fees of approximately $810,000. Louie Picardo did before the sale of the company happened. Yes, there was a sale of Coastside Scavenger Company to Recology with four years remaining on the franchise agreement. The City of Pacifica had the right to review and approve the sale, and took the opportunity to request more services that the citizens of Pacifica had been asking for (for example, composting and single-stream, one-container recycling). To provide the services the city asked for, Recology negotiated an additional three years to be added to the franchise to be able to finance the needed equipment expenditures and to bring our office up-to-date. The new agreement was written up by an outside company employed by the City of Pacifica and reviewed by the city attorney. We also began a new program for customers who have a financial hardship, regardless of age, and used the PGE CARE Program as a measurement for this discount. This replaced the automatic senior discount, which went into effect at age 65 whether you had a financial hardship or not. There are close to 500 people on the financial hardship program currently. Also, we do not own the recycling yard facility on Palmetto Avenue. It is owned by Jim Payne and we have been paying him rent since 1990. This facility is exclusive to Pacifica and coastside customers. We will not truck our trash to San Francisco and then by train to Yuba City. Our trash goes to Half Moon Bay's Ox Mountain Landfill, and we were successful in negotiating a deal with it at the beginning of the year to hold our disposal rate as is. The numbers on the rate increase were from a yearly audit done by an outside company not affiliated with Recology and given to the City of Pacifica. Hilton Farnkoff did not audit the numbers again when it did the rate review. The next rate submission will have the numbers re-audited by Hilton (or whoever is the city's reviewer) at an additional cost to the xity. The franchise agreement allows for a 4 percent to 8 percent rate increase. The documents, after being reviewed by the city and its reviewer, authorized a 9-plus percent rate increase, but the agreement holds it to 8 percent maximum. If people are using the programs and have a 20-gallon cart, they will pay $21.86 with the increase, which is more than 25 percent less than the $30.19 they paid for a 30-gallon can in 2007. Ratepayers can help themselves by recycling and composting, as the garbage rate is charged by the size of garbage cart you use.

To end, I will say that this was not a sweetheart deal but a sale of a company that Mr. Picardo, at 74 years old, had every right to do. He had several offers but felt Recology was the best for him and his employees. Another thing is that Recology found jobs for all of its outsourced employees within the Recology family. This is something that I, as general manager, was most grateful for.

I hope this answers some questions. If you have a question you want an answer to, please feel free to call my office or call City Hall and speak to Steve Rhodes or Ann Ritzma. I am also sure any city councilperson will verify that the statements I have made are completely accurate.

There are many environmentally concerned citizens in Pacifica, and Recology prides itself on its environmental background. We have raised the diversion level by more than 10 points by bringing in new and innovative programs and working with community groups like Pacifica Beach Coalition to raise community awareness.

Again, comparisons of rates are difficult to make without listing services provided that correspond
with the rates. I have been in this job for many years and I try to listen to what the community wants in its garbage service.

Recycling revenues collected before expenses on financial statement dated 9/30/2010 was $264,006.

As I recall, our current elected officials articulated and approved the current waste disposal contract that provided for the current rate structure and subsequent several increases in rates. Thank you, Lionel Emde, for your action to protect the rights of our citizens to have a say in this process. We the citizens of Pacifica are ultimately responsible as we have voted for the individuals who presently serve our city.

Dan, tried to give some info and for all I know Niavogue is not a Recology plant.

Why are our Recology service rates among the highest on the Peninsula? Can we renegotiate our contract? Is a rate increase based on CPI indexing better at containing costs than arbitrary rate increase requests?

Chris, as a buffer to criticism, could you post the revenue from recycling items that you were able to sell? Just a gross or net figure? Or could you post the yearly audit(s) here on Riptide?

Everything's a conspiracy with you, Dan-o.

The question posted by Nlavogue is awfully easily answered and fails to provide a reason why Pacifica needs to buy services that other cities are not required to buy. That and the omission of a real name make me wonder if Nlavogue is some kind of a sock puppet for Recology of the Coast.

Hello Niavogue: All monies collected for recycling are posted on the yearly audit submitted to the CIty of Pacifica. Last year we recycled more than 1,000 tons of materials. Not all items recycled are revenue generating. The compost material (greenwaste and food) costs more than $82 a ton to dispose of and there is also a charge for batteries, fluorescent tubes, medical needles (Pacifica is the only city in San Mateo County where you can recycle this material), and oil.

Rate hike?! I would like to see a yearly tally posted for the public of all the aluminum, plastic, paper, etc., that Recology has collected and recycled. We recycle, but how profitable is it to Recology? More transparency, please!

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