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.

———————————————————————————————————
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.