Williamson Resigns as Chair of Task Force

Barbra Williamson has officially resigned from the Simi Valley Landfill Expansion Task Force, according to this news release distributed this morning by the Task Force:

*** UPDATE: Barbra Williamson has resigned as Chair of the Task Force, but still remains a member of the group. ***

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Resignation of Barbra Williamson, Chair of the Simi Valley Landfill Expansion Task Force

Simi Valley, CA (December 8, 2010) – Barbra Williamson announced today the resignation as Chair of the Simi Valley Landfill Expansion Task force effective immediately.

Citing the perception of a possible conflict of interest due to her recent appointment to the negotiating committee with Mayor Huber and City Manager Mike Sedell on discussions with Waste Management and the proposed landfill expansion, Williamson thought it best to step down.

SVLET member Louis Pandolfi will take over as acting chair.  “The Task Force has exceeded my greatest expectations and I know it will continue in its professional investigation of the impacts of the landfill expansion on the residents and businesses in our Community”, Williamson said.

“Task Force members will surely miss the leadership that Barbra has provided for over three years, during which she has worked tirelessly to protect Simi Valley from the negative environmental impacts that will result from the proposed landfill expansion”  said Charles Blaugrund Task Force Member. “We wish her success in her new assignment with Mayor Huber.”

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.

Landfill Expansion Taskforce Website

Minutes after I sent an email to Councilwoman Barbra Williamson offering to host a website for the Landfill Expansion Taskforce, she replied with a press release announcing the new website for the Taskforce! Obviously, she and the team have been working on this for a while and the website is a solid representation of data.

For information regarding the Landfill Expansion Taskforce, dates and schedules, as well as related documents, check out www.savesimi.com.

Simi Valley Landfill Expansion Task Force Announces Website Availability

Simi Valley –Barbra Williamson, Chair of the Simi Valley Landfill Expansion Task Force announced today that the Task Force has created a website available for viewing at savesimi.com  Responding to numerous requests by interested community members concerned about the negative impacts of the proposed Simi Valley Landfill expansion by Waste Management, Inc., Ms. Williamson states, “This website makes it easy for members of the public to contact the Task Force directly and share their points of view with us. I receive inquiries daily on how people can get involved in the Task Force and learn more about the landfill expansion. This gives them an opportunity.”

Found on the website is an overview of the landfill expansion, highlights of critical impacts effecting Simi Valley and neighboring communities, links to forward thinking waste-to-energy techniques and documents associated with the Task Force. Enlisting the aid of local college students, the creation of the website is one example of the commitment of volunteers to inform the community of the impacts resulting from a three-fold expansion of the landfill.

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The Simi Valley Landfill Expansion Task Force is an independent community group formed in 2007 by Simi Valley City Councilwoman Barbra Williamson and members of the community. The Taskforce is not affiliated with the City of Simi Valley or any other government body. Its mission is to keep the public informed and engaged on issues involving the Simi Valley Landfill and Recycling Center’s proposed expansion currently under consideration by the County of Ventura.

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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.

Waste Management Requests Lawsuit Dismissal

Waste Management is requesting a dismissal of the lawsuit filed against them by the Landfill Task Force according to a statement released by Waste Management. WM is confused by the move and objects to the Task Force’s position. Here are a few of their remarks:

We continue to believe what we’ve always believed since the beginning of this project: that all Ventura County groups, residents and business people, and especially all Simi Valley residents, should expect us to be open and transparent about the project. And we have lived up to that.

Those comments, attributed to Mike Smith, Director of Operations for WM in Ventura County, were followed by these regarding the Task Force’s position on the legality of the expansion project:

The actions of Councilmember Williamson and her Task Force are confusing. We have been meeting with Councilmember Williamson and her Task Force since 2007 under the assumption that they were interested in making this a good project that would work for Simi Valley. Then, they file a lawsuit against the County and WM.
Then, they ask us to debate them while the lawsuit is awaiting a decision by the courts. Now, Councilmember Williamson tells the media that the Task Force isn’t suing us, even though they obviously are.

John Newell, Waste Management Corporate Counsel, concluded the statement with this to say about their plans for this case and the legality of the expansion:

WM, in our filing, is asking that the Court dismiss the lawsuit completely. This request is based on the undisputed facts that the proposed project is subject to a reimbursment agreement between the County and WM (i.e., the County is not spending taxpayer dollars) and that an independent body, CalRecycle has already determined that the project is properly described within the County Siting Element.

Simply put, the Task Force’s lawsuit fails on the facts and the law.

No word yet on how the Landfill Task Force intends to respond.

The statement can be read in its entirety by clicking here.

Landfill Debate Challenge

The election may be over, but the fight between the Landfill Taskforce and the Simi Valley Landfill continues to rage on. The Taskforce recently submitted a letter to the General Manager of Waste Management’s Simi Valley Landfill to debate the issue of the expansion in a public forum. The letter reads as follows:

November 4, 2010

Mike Smith
General Manager
Simi Valley Landfill and Recycling Center
2801 Madera Road
Simi Valley, CA 93065

Dear Mr. Smith:

The Simi Valley Landfill Expansion Taskforce invites Waste Management to participate in an open forum/debate on the issues surrounding the expansion of Simi Valley Landfill. We believe the community would benefit from an opportunity to hear all sides of the proposed expansion in a forum that ensures the debate does not become a battle of competing sound bites, half-truths and unanswered questions.

A community forum/debate with mutually agreed upon rules would prove beyond a doubt WM’s commitment to the principles outlined in your April ll, 2007 press release announcing Waste Management’s application for expansion of the Simi Valley Landfill and Recycling Center. You stressed that WM is “committed to meeting the long-term waste disposal and recycling needs of Ventura County in an environmentally sensitive, cost-effective and community-focused manner.”

We would like to schedule this for early to mid December and have already spoken with California Lutheran University Professor Herbert Gooch, PhD. and he has agreed to serve as the moderator. I am hopeful you will accept our invitation at which time we can finalize the remaining pertinent details.

You can contact me at your convenience at 805.231.2497.

Barbra Williamson
Councilwoman, City of Simi Valley
Chair, Simi Valley Landfill Expansion Taskforce

So far, all we know at this point is that Waste Management is in receipt of this letter. No official word yet on whether or not they will accept the challenge and participate in the debate.

November 4, 2010
Mike Smith
General Manager
Simi Valley Landfill and Recycling Center
2801Madera Road
Simi Valley, CA 93065
Dear _.””~ ..I.•..,…”••..•. ”
The Simi V ey Landfill Expansion Taskforce invites Waste Management to participate in an open
forum/debate on the issues surrounding the expansion of Simi Valley Landfill. We believe the
community would benefit from an opportunity to hear all sides of the proposed expansion in a forum
that ensures the debate does not become a battle of competing sound bites, half-truths and unanswered
questions.
A community forum/debate with mutually agreed upon rules would prove beyond a doubt WM’s
commitment to the principles outlined in your April ll, 2007 press release announcing Waste
Management’s application for expansion of the Simi Valley Landfill and Recycling Center. You stressed
that WM is “committed to meeting the long-term waste disposal and recycling needs of Ventura County
in an environmentally sensitive, cost-effective and community-focused manner.”
We would like to schedule this for early to mid December and have already spoken with California
Lutheran University Professor Herbert Gooch, PhD. and he has agreed to serve as the moderator. I am
hopeful you will accept our invitation at which time we can finalize the remaining pertinent details.
You can contact me at your convenience at 805.231.2497.
Barbra Williamson
Councilwoman, City of Simi Valley
Chair, Simi Valley Landfill Expansion Taskforce

Landfill Lawsuit Presses On

The lawsuit filed by the Landfill Expansion Task Force is still on, with a court date of December 13, 2010. The motion is available here for download and if you’re looking for an interesting (and thorough) read, I encourage you to download it and take a look.

This Motion is made on grounds the County of Ventura is currently expending significant monies to process an application for the tripling of capacity at the Simi Valley Landfill, for a location that is expressly and unambiguously prohibited by state law, as expressed in the County’s own “Countywide Siting Element.”  The Countywide Siting Element was approved by all of the cities within the County and by the state’s Waste Board (now CalRecycle), and the Element clealry excluded from consideration the location of the expansion.  Thus, the processing of this application is a waste of public funds that must be immediately enjoined. 

This Motion shall be based upon the attached Points and Authorities, the Declaration of Barbara Williamson, the Request for Judicial Notice filed concurrently herewith, upon all pleadings and papers on file in this matter, and upon such other evidence, oral and documentary, which may be presented at the time of hearing.

The document can be viewed in its entirety by clicking here.

Huber’s Campaign

In February of this year, Bob Huber announced his candidacy for Mayor with one caveat. According to the article in the Simi Valley Acorn…

What may be surprising is the caveat that comes along with his candidacy. He said he would not run if Paul Miller decides to run for reelection. But Huber hinted that he didn’t think the current mayor would seek a fourth term.

“Many people are under the impression that Mayor Miller is not going to seek reelection,” Huber said. “If he chooses to retire, I will run, and should he run again, I will support his reelection.”

Despite taking a position to support Mayor Miller should he run again, political opportunity eventually struck and Huber’s position flipped. Now he claims the Council consists of failed leadership, “reactive” behavior, and believes Mayor Miller and the Council have been asleep at the wheel. When the Council asks Huber where he’s been during the so-called passive years, he and his supporters take offense. But in Huber’s own words, he’s been a proactive adviser to our leadership for quite some time:

“But with the state taking more redevelopment funds, revenues down and economic pressures on the people of Simi Valley, I realized I could no longer sit on the sidelines and quietly advise city and community leaders. It is time to step up.”

Bob Huber believes our City and its leaders require an overhaul and he believes he’s the man for the job. He doesn’t seem to understand much about the landfill expansion, but he’s quick to publish fear-inducing ads about it. He promises more jobs with E-Verify, though with no audit program, no plan for enforcement and no way to produce measurable positive results. He disregards the fact that our City produces a balanced budget every year despite economic challenges because it doesn’t fit with his campaign message. It seems like he wants us to vote for headlines and sound bites.

I have a real concern for this City and I want the best for it. I believed in Bob Huber several months ago. Though I disagreed with him on the effectiveness of his E-Verify proposal, I believed his heart was in the right place and that he was truly in it for the City. I had many long conversations with his strongest supporters to make sure I made an informed decision on who to vote for. Ultimately, I believe a few of his supporters and some members of his campaign misled me and let me down. Shortly afterward, his campaign launched their aggressive anti-City Hall slams that, when closely examined, are blatantly misleading and sometimes outright false. I now believe Bob Huber is NOT in it for the City but is in it for himself. I cannot support such a candidate in good conscience no matter how much momentum he may have among the people I look up to and respect as community leaders. That’s a fact that I’ll get a lot of flack for admitting.

Under Paul Miller’s leadership as Mayor, I believe our City has a lot to be proud of. I believe we are fiscally stable despite outside economic challenges. We have a community where we can safely and comfortably raise our children. We do NOT have a Mayor who has conducted “secret” backroom deals, or one who refers to our city as “America’s Dump.” I feel that Huber’s message is that a vote for Bob is a vote for sending Paul Miller into retirement as a Mayor who dropped the ball, and that’s a message that I reject without hesitation.

Taskforce Requests Halt to Landfill Expansion

COUNTY OF VENTURA VIOLATING LAW BY PROCESSING ILLEGAL
WASTE MANAGEMENT DUMP EXPANSION APPLICATION

Simi Valley Landfill Taskforce files a Writ asking the Ventura County Superior Court to halt further taxpayer funded action by County of Ventura staff on Waste Management’s Simi Valley Landfill expansion application pending court review of legality
.

Simi Valley, CA (October 13, 2010) – The Simi Valley Landfill Taskforce today filed a Writ with the Ventura County Superior Court asking for an immediate halt to any further activity by County of Ventura staff processing Waste Management, Inc.’s application for expansion of the Simi Valley Landfill and Recycling Center pending review by the Court of the County’s Siting Element and determination of the project compliance with the element.

The County of Ventura County, in accordance with California law, has adopted a Siting Element, including stringent criteria, for purposes of evaluating the placement and expansion of landfills within the County.

“Despite the fact that the Siting Element would otherwise prohibit the expansion of the Simi Valley landfill into the area proposed, the County of Ventura has permitted the application for expansion to move forward,” said Simi Valley Landfill Taskforce (SVLT) Chair and Simi Valley City Councilwoman Barbra Williamson.

SVLT member Louis Pandolfi added, ” this egregious and intentional misapplication of the Siting Element by the County has cost taxpayers thousands of dollars for the sole benefit of Waste Management, has violated the law, and shown complete disregard for the residents of Ventura County.”

The SVLT was hopeful that Waste Management, the largest trash hauler and waste disposal company in the world, would modify its current permit application to address the issues surrounding the Siting Element as well as the numerous negative environmental impacts on the residents of Simi Valley and Moorpark.  Unfortunately, thus far, despite countless meetings and discussions, the County of Ventura and Waste Management have not addressed the critically important requirement of compliance with the Siting Element and the landfill expansion is scheduled for approval consideration by the County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors in a few months making legal action the only remaining option for the Taskforce.

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The Simi Valley Landfill Taskforce (SVLT) is an independent community group formed in 2007 by Simi Valley City Councilwoman Barbra Williamson and members of the community.  The Taskforce is not affiliated with the City of Simi Valley or any other government body.   Its mission is to keep the public informed and engaged on issues involving the Simi Valley Landfill and Recycling Center’s proposed expansion currently under consideration by the County of Ventura.

Bob Huber’s Landfill Mythology

Click here for thoughts on the Bob Huber for Mayor Campaign

One of the unfortunate facts about politicians is the way they count on the electorate to cast their votes based on mythology over facts.  And there’s no better way to mythologize an important issue than to publish an ad with a dramatic headline.  A politician counts on the headline weighing more on voters than the content itself. Take Bob Huber’s ad on the landfill expansion, complete with “trash can” bullet points, that reads “Welcome to Simi Valley, Home of America’s Dump,” an unusual headline from a candidate hoping to be Mayor of Simi Valley.

The ad begins with a quote from the landfill taskforce that the landfill expansion will serve as a permanent barrier to White Face Mountain.  The landfill elevation already obscures the view of White Face Mountain when traveling on the 118 freeway from Moorpark into Simi Valley. When traveling at normal speeds, the view is obstructed for approximately 2 seconds.  That current obscurity will increase in height per the expansion.  White Face Mountain WILL NEVER BE HIDDEN from view for the City of Simi Valley.  For more perspective, the maximum proposed height of 1270 feet is actually lower in elevation than the upper half of Big Sky, and the mountains behind the landfill are approximately 1000 feet taller than the proposed max.

The ad indicates that Waste Management will triple the number of trucks.  That is incorrect.  To start, Waste Management will increase their total daily trips to the landfill by 70 from their current permitted count of 822.  This will bring their permitted count to 892 daily trips to the landfill.  The expansion authorizes the total number of trips to 1297, however that is over the course of their entire build out period and is representative of all of their divisions (i.e. dumping, green energy, recycling, etc.).  This does NOT mean that when the landfill expansion is approved, 1297 trucks will start climbing the hill every day.  Also, 405 of those daily trips represent Waste Management employees, as part of the expansion includes locating all employees at the landfill site.

The ad suggests that annexation must start immediately to authorize the City to approve the landfill expansion.  What the ad fails to mention is the annexation process takes approximately 3 – 4 years to complete, and during that time period as space becomes limited, Waste Management is already authorized to begin making use of land they own that is visible from the 118 freeway.  One purpose of the expansion is to allow for landfill operations to expand behind the mountains, out of view, while also providing for new facilities to park their trucks at the landfill location instead of the separate structure on Easy Street, ultimately reducing traffic on Madera.  Not to mention, Waste Management as the land owner MUST AGREE to be annexed and is unlikely to do so to enhance anyone’s political agenda.

The ad mentions that we don’t want Los Angeles trash. I suppose it would be ideal if our landfill contained strictly Simi Valley trash, but being a regional landfill, that’s not the case.  Suppose we insist that the landfill close when capacity is reached.  Then we will need our garbage shipped out to a landfill outside of our area, much like the Los Angeles trash the ad is referring to.  Packaging and transporting trash comes at a cost, a cost that would likely be passed to customers. Isn’t a better use of our time to approach Waste Management and request added benefits like discounted rates due to any measureable environmental impact of the expansion rather to insist that it be halted at a potential cost to residents?

Lastly, in a blatant attempt to stir emotions, the ad mentions that the City is carrying on “secret back room negotiations.”  This is nonsense.  As it stands currently, the City has practically no leverage for mutually beneficial “back room” negotiations.  Furthermore, City Council has committed to updating the public on record of the progress of their discussions Waste Management.  Due to the lengthy and complex nature of the discussions which involve detailed reviews of the environmental impact report, the discussions are NOT being held during public City Council meetings.  To date, Waste Management has met with all Neighborhood Councils, has been before the Planning Commission twice, been before the City Council twice, participated in many City Council meetings regarding the expansion, has participated in two draft  EIRs and has encouraged public commentary on both EIRs.  Where are the secret back room negotiations?

In an attempt to give his campaign a boost, Bob Huber hastily published this advertisement that serves to mislead and misinform the reader.  His suggestions would actually force Waste Management to begin dumping in areas that are visible to the freeway!  Finally, he is alienating a valuable member of our business community who has cooperated with City officials and landfill taskforce representatives voluntarily for several years.  This ad serves as an example of political mythology with the aim of striking fear in voters. It is the worst kind of politics.