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 contract,” 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.