WM at City Hall

Mike Smith of Waste Management put it simply during the Council Meeting. “What have we done? Everything,” he said, elaborating that Waste Management has done everything that was asked of them. He went on to explain how we got to the point where discussions came to a halt, pointing to the lawsuit of the County and WM by the Landfill Expansion Task force. Additional Waste Management representatives spoke, pointing to their openness with the community regarding communication and expansion plans, as well as the benefits to the community regarding jobs and a willingness to reopen communication with the City.

Various members of the community showed up to speak. Ben Gilbert, owner of Welcome to the Neighborhood Magazine, spoke about the positive benefits of Waste Management as a contributing community member. Others spoke favorably about Waste Management’s processing of waste, turning the methane gases into electricity. Former Council Candidate Ken Sandberg chose to speak about what he refers to as lies and deception on the part of the Landfill Taskforce.

Mark McDonald, owner of SiteServer in Simi Valley, spoke of the green nature of Waste Management’s business. He talked about Waste Management’s business being under strict state and federal regulations regarding the every day operations, suggesting that WM’s business will not be harmful to the community. Other speakers discussed air quality not being a significant issue, also detailing proactive measures to counteract the emission of greenhouse gases.

Harry VanDyck represented the Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce, indicating the Chamber Boards favorable position for the expansion of the landfill.

But it wasn’t all sunshine and roses…

The President of the Big Sky association put it simply enough. He likes Waste Management as a business, he believes they do a good job and that they should be allowed to continue to do a good job. However, he just doesn’t want the landfill to get any bigger than it already is. He commended Barbra Williamson for her work on the Landfill Expansion Taskforce, but also expressed concern that Big Sky home values will not recover from the expansion on the landfill.

Alice Sterling of the Landfill Taskforce indicated that the expansion benefits are rare, if not non-existent. She clearly made the point that she and the Taskforce are against the landfill expansion as proposed. She asked the Mayor to take the high road and to work with the County to ensure that the landfill expansion does not proceed as proposed. Also from the Taskforce, Louis Pandolfi spoke about other situations where Waste Management was made to make-up the difference in home sale prices where it was deemed that their landfills impacted property values. His point: Waste Management can be made to make things right when community leaders require it.

I’ll reach out to Councilwoman Barbra Williamson for a transcript of her statement on the expansion agenda item. Her statement details the points of compliance requested by the Taskforce of WM. More to come over the next several weeks…

UPDATE: The Committee assembled to resume negotiations with Waste Management will consist of Mayor Huber, Councilwoman Barbra Williamson and City Manager Mike Sedell.

Barbra’s Expansion Presentation

Word for word, these are Barbra Williamson’s comments from City Council last night:

As a 40 year resident of this community, I feel compelled to comment on recent actions taken by Waste Management as a part of their aggressive campaign to turn Simi Valley into a “mega dump” for Los Angles garbage.  I am completely stunned by the false and inconsistent comments made by Waste Management.

At the same time they are promising the community transparency and claiming a willingness to address the impacts of their proposed expansion of the dump on Simi Valley, they are strong-arming our Mayor and City Manager with promises of discussions that never happened and documents that never were created.

Let me point our specifically what I mean.  In Waste Management’s court filing presented to the judge on November 15, 2010, they acknowledge their understanding of the clear separation of my role on the Simi Valley Landfill Expansion Task Force, and my position as a member of the City Council Member.

In their statement of fact they write, and I quote, “The Simi Valley Landfill Task Force is not associated with, or acting on behalf of, the City of Simi Valley.  The Landfill Task Force is an unincorporated community group.  Although Barbra Williamson is both an officer of the Task

Force and a sitting Simi Valley City Council Member, SHE IS NOT ACTING IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A COUNCIL MEMBER BY PUIRSUING THIS LAWSUIT” unquote.  On this point I could not agree with them more, but they seem to speak out of both sides of their mouth.

In their own words, Waste Management repeatedly promises our community openness and transparency yet they say one thing in their court filings and another in their press releases and letter to the city.

The day after they told a judge I was NOT acting in  my official capacity as a Council Member,  these same people issue a press release in which they stated, and I quote, “The actions of Council  Member Williamson and her Task Force are confusing” unquote.  Then they send a letter to City Manager Mike Sedell calling off mitigation discussions they had promised to hold with Mayor Paul Miller and the City Manager who were OFFICIALLY appointed by the City Council to meet and come up with a plan that would work for both Waste Management and the residents of Simi Valley.

They claim in their letter to Mr. Sedell that, and I quote, “recent actions taken by one of your city Councilmember’s have created serious obstacles to continue discussions with the city”, unquote.  The recent action they are referring to is the request filed by the Task force for legal clarification regarding the County of Ventura’s processing of the Application for Expansion of the Simi Valley Landfill.

I believe it is clear that any questions regarding my role as a Council Member and my efforts to bring together concerned residents as part of the Simi Valley Landfill Expansion Task Force have been addressed.  I trust my colleagues will agree that Waste Management’s actions are a blatant effort to deflect the real issues facing the community and to avoid having an honest and thorough discussion of the impact this expansion will have on Simi Valley for years and years to come.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Mayor and fellow Council members, tonight we have an opportunity to stop the sound bites and the he-said she said game playing and give the people of Simi Valley a truly transparent discussion and offer Waste Management the opportunity to maintain their previous relationship with the City of Simi Valley.

To that end Mr. Mayor, I would like at this time to make a motion that we place a discussion of the impacts of the proposed landfill expansion on the next City Council Agenda.

Thank you.

Waste Management Under Fire

Waste Management took some heat from citizens last night at the City Council meeting. Most notably was Louis Pandolfi, Landfill Expansion Task Force member and outspoken opponent of the expansion. He took on the issue of the recent press release from WM regarding their choice to longer participate in City discussions resulting from the lawsuit filed by the Task Force.

Mayor-elect Bob Huber spoke as well, identifying WM as a large Texas billion dollar corporation that produced a press release that he found offensive, standing up for Councilwoman Williamson’s right to free speech. Additional speakers suggested alternatives to the large landfill regarding waste disposal, like new state of the art facilities for disposal as well as rail transport to ship waste to landfills outside of Simi Valley.

The number of folks there to speak out in favor of Waste Management: ZERO!

During Council Comments, Barbra Williamson took a few minutes to recite a prepared presentation on her thoughts regarding Waste Management’s recent position. It was a strong, moving statement that I would like to share with you hear. I’m hoping to have a transcript of the presentation later this afternoon.

It’s a terrible position that we’re in as the approval deadline approaches for this landfill. From my observations, the landfill expansion has been surrounded by a mix-up of fear inducing statements and confusing, sometimes conflicting figures. Most people have taken either a firm pro or anti position against the landfill, but for those who want to study the facts and make an educated decision, it’s difficult. Every seemingly credible source is easily followed up by another just as credible source with conflicting data. With one side suing the other, and the other side now refusing to participate, clarity does not seem likely any time soon.

As an added note, Councilwoman Foster’s remarks regarding annexation seemed dead-on to me. Annexation cannot occur without willing participation from the land owner — Waste Management. With that said, as a City we should be laying the pressure on the County Board of Supervisors to ensure that we are represented.