Feb 11 2014

OPINION: Questions Raised Concerning New Waste Management Tax

At a public hearing on March 26, 2014 the Alameda County Waste Management Authority (ACWMA) will consider approving an annual fee of $9.55 to be added to the property tax of every residential unit. Piedmont is a party to the Joint Powers Authority for the ACWMA, with a seat on its Board.  The Piedmont City Council appoints one of its members to represent the City on the ACWMA Board.  
The following letter was submitted to PCA:
February 6, 2014
Mr. Gary Wolff, Executive Director
Alameda County
Waste Management Authority
1537 Webster Street
Oakland, CA 94612-3355
       Re: Proposed Household Hazardous Waste Collection and      Disposal Fee
Dear Mr. Wolff:
       As you will recall I spoke to you recently by phone  concerning the above captioned matter. Firstly, there are a couple of housekeeping issues. (1.) I never received a so-called ballot regarding the proposed fee and as reported by several other people. And despite my request, I have not been provided one.  (2.) The phone number listed in the material (1-877-786-7927) continually rings “busy”. It clearly does no good to list an “information” number and never pick it up – a complaint expressed by several other people. (3.) The two different dates, February 26, 2014 and March 26, 2014, is confusing – again, a common complaint by several others.
       The Proposed Fee:  As you will recall, during our conversation I took the position that the Alameda County Waste Management Authority (ACWMA) lacked the required legal authority to either ballot for (conduct an election) or impose any such fee. Your position was and I presume still is, to the contrary. During our conversation you were insistent that the matter and the particular issues were thoroughly reviewed and approved by legal counsel. You also insisted that the proposal is by the authority and under the provisions of particular California State Statutes and applicable laws.
     However, when I asked that you provide copies of the material and documents supporting your position, you blatantly refused. Further, neither the enabling Ordinance, No. 2014, nor the Resolution # WMA 2013-06 (and as amended by Resolution #WMA 2014-02) cite any such legal authority, state statutes, laws, or codes.
     The only codes cited in the material are Government Code, section 6254, dealing with “public records”,  section 6066, concerning “notice publication”, and CEQA Regulations, section 15378(b)(4), and 15308, “project exemption”.
     We therefore take the position that the ACWMA lacks any and all legal authority to either, ballot the Alameda County electorate, residents, citizens, taxpayers, property owners, or otherwise, in order to impose a tax, fee, assessment, charge, or otherwise, or to “impose” (regardless of the outcome of a vote or an election) a fee, tax, assessment, charge, or other remuneration under the guise of a “Household Hazardous Waste Collection and Disposal Fee.”
     Please take notice that this correspondence is a formal complaint and notification that we seek immediate termination of the ACWMA proposal and of our intent to take whatever action deemed necessary in order to adequately protect our interest.
     Your immediate attention to this matter is greatly appreciated.
               David E. Mix
Read Stopwaste.org explanation of the proposed fee.
Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.

7 Responses to “OPINION: Questions Raised Concerning New Waste Management Tax”

  1. Who currently represents Piedmont on this board?

  2. I concur.

    WMA continually goes beyond their mission statement and charter.
    I represented Piedmont on the WMA for eight years from 1994-2002. It was then, and appears now to be an even more bloated, bureaucratic government agency seeking to justify itself.

    Thinking back to a few years ago when they tried to tell Piedmonters how they could garden by denying us money that all the cities in the county had already earned! They had no logical reason for requiring everyone in the county to plant their recommended plants. WMA was created to reduce the waste going into the landfill, not regulate water usage.

    Though I support the banning of plastic shopping bags, it seems to me that they should have been banned by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, which does have the authority to pass laws, not the WMA which should remain strictly an advisory agency.

  3. I did receive a post card from the Waste Management folks saying they were going to impose a tax of $9.?? to every household in Alameda County. It said if I opposed the vote, I should return the post card. Many friends received the same card and inadvertently threw it away, never having read it carefully. I not only returned the post card, but I wrote a series of objections to this tax. I, of course, did not expect a response to my objections, but now to find so many didn’t even receive the card and that W.Management has no authority to impose such a tax, I am vexed and baffled. Mr. Wolf not only provided much wrong information, the people working for him did not return phone calls.
    Laurie Field

  4. This fee looks like a tax and should be subject to the requirements of Proposition 13 or other requirements that it cannot be passed or approved by a simple majority of the voters.

  5. Proposition 218 REQUIRES a vote of the people for any tax measure EXCEPT water and sewer who can only raise rates to cover costs. See pg. 115 of the 2011-2012 Alameda County Grand Jury Report for criticism of Stop Waste.Org as a self-perpetuating JPA whose board is not holding it accountable to its voter-approved mandate.

    Also, condo owners ALL pay the $9.95 even when all units are on one parcel!

    VOTE NO…

  6. Essentially we do not have the option of voting NO as this is not put on a ballot. The “voting” – and I use the term very loosely – is done by majority protest. If a majority sends those cards back in, instead of normally discarding them as most residents will do, then Waste Management Authority does not get its $9.95.

  7. I have been Piedmont’s representative on the StopWaste (ACWMA) board and voted as directed by City Council to initiate the Prop 218 process for the HHW fee adoption. This item was agendized for several City Council meetings over the past year at which fee adoption was extensively discussed.

    I think commenters are referring to Proposition 218 which was a proposition in the state of California on the November 5, 1996 ballot. Prop 218 amended the California Constitution (Articles XIIIC and XIIID) which, as it relates to assessments, requires the local government to have a vote of the affected property owners for any proposed new or increased assessment before it could be levied. The Proposition was passed by California voters on November 5, 1996, and the assessments portion placed in effect on July 1, 1997. In the past, the local government agencies were not required to obtain ballot approval from the property owners before levying street lighting assessments; only council approval was required, even if there were significant protests. Government agencies affected by Proposition 218 are counties, cities, and special districts. The “protest ballot” does allow property owners to reject the imposition of this fee increase. I agree with Rick – this balloting procedure is not optimal.

    The adoption of the fee is not solely dependent on the outcome of the protest ballot. If the protest ballot does not exceed 50%, the SW board still has to formally adopt the fee and the Piedmont representative will vote as directed by City Council. No doubt HHW fee adoption will be agendized by the new Council before the board vote on March 26. The Alameda County Waste Management Authority will consider adopting a fee of $9.55 per year per residential unit, collected through the property tax roll, at a public hearing on March 26, 2014. You may also comment in person at either the February 26 ACWMA Board meeting or at the hearing on March 26. Both meetings will take place at 3:00 p.m. at 1537 Webster St., Oakland. Visit http://www.stopwaste.org/home/index.asp?page=1271 for more information on the fee and how to file a protest ballot.

    Patty, maybe you are not aware but the StopWaste budget has been flat these past few years due to decline in tonnage at landfills. Rather than growing, the agency is reducing in size. And you mischaracterize (again) the actions of SW over the Bay Friendly ordinance. As a JPA, the board of SW requires its members to implement core policies that the agency has developed in order for member agencies to receive their annual funds. These policies – food scrap recycling, construction and demolition ordinances, civic and residential Bay Friendly ordinances among others – were adopted by Piedmont and other cities over the past years and Piedmont received its per capita share of funds – and substantially increase the city’s diversion rate . In recent years, SW ratcheted up the number of policies member agencies had to adopt to receive funding and most member agencies did adopt residential Bay Friendly ordinances. Piedmont, to which less that 1% of its parcels a BF ordinance would have applied, chose not to. Piedmont and I think 3 other municipalities did not receive their funding as a consequence and in no way was Piedmont chosen out for retribution by SW as you imply.

    The collection of HHW is actually a county program but implemented through StopWaste because the prevention of the dumping of hazardous waste in the landfill is under its jurisdiction. Piedmont happens to be the largest user of this program in the county = 19% of its residents have used it compared to the county average of 8%. A potential source of funding for the program that will reduce the annual fee is the adoption of Point of Purchase programs that enable the return of spent waste containers to hardware centers and lumber yards where these chemicals are sold. You can currently do this with car batteries at your local auto parts store. A state-wide program for paint is being implemented and fees returned to the county will be used to offset the HHW fee.

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