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.

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.

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.

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.

Huber Responds to Landfill Task Force News

Today, The Simi Valley Landfill Expansion Task Force issued the following statement (in part):

“With the current application for expansion of the Simi Valley Landfill and Recycling Center and the resulting negative impacts on the community, the issue of annexation of the landfill site and contiguous property owned by Waste Management to the City of Simi Valley should be of paramount importance to the City.  Therefore, at the September 20th Simi Valley City Council meeting, Council Member Barbra Williamson will request scheduling for public discussion the annexation of the landfill and adjacent Waste Management properties.”

Council Member Barbra Williamson (a task force member) has asked that the issue of annexing the land for the expansion of the Simi Valley landfill and the proposed commercial development be placed on the agenda of the next city council meeting.

On September 7, Simi Valley Mayoral candidate Bob Huber sent out a press release, which, in part said:

“Today Mayoral candidate Bob Huber called for the immediate start of the process to annex to the City of Simi Valley the land to be used by Waste Management for expansion of their facilities and commercial development.”

“For at least five years the City of Simi Valley has watched the process, yet has not taken any action to make sure the people of Simi Valley have a controlling vote on the use of this property,” said Bob Huber

Once again Huber has opened up an issue, that the City Council could have resolved years ago. In this particular case, more than five years ago.

Currently the County of Ventura has jurisdiction over the landfill expansion and development of Waste Management’s property. Annexation would give The City of Simi Valley jurisdiction over the landfill expansion and development. Thanks to the push by Bob Huber, the City of Simi Valley will consider starting the process of protecting its almost 128,000 citizens by ensuring the City has control, instead of allowing County Supervisors representing cities such as Ventura, Oxnard, Ojai, Fillmore and Santa Paula to control the landfill expansion, added traffic and pollution to our streets, massive commercial and residential development.

Huber said, “City Council needs to be aggressive in protecting the quality of life of Simi Valley–it needs to be pro-active, not reactive.”