Updating a February post, the Alameda County Waste Management Authority (Stopwaste.org) is poised to skirt the spirit of the law and establish a fee for hazardous waste collection for every household in the county.
The authority, which consists of council members from each Alameda County city, plus a supervisor and special district rep, held a hearing on the new fee on Feb. 26 and is poised to approve it at 3 p.m. tomorrow at its monthly meeting. The board concluded that there were not sufficient objections to stop the fee.
Contrary to what I wrote previously, the fee would have to be objected to by the majority of property owners in the county to be prevented (thanks to Leslie Strauss of Emervyille for pointing that out).
Clever lawyers have determined that the fee does not violate Proposition 218, a constitutional amendment passed by state voters in 1996 that required any new fee or increase in taxes be approved by a majority vote of the citizens. There will be no vote on this onethe board is poised to adopt it having determined at its Feb. 26 meeting that there is not a majority of property owners objecting. Leslie reports whether they will actually count the objections is an open question.
StopWaste sent letters out in January to all residential property owners informing them that the county waste authority (one of the two government bodies that comprise StopWaste) was going to institute a fee of $9.95 annually per unit for 10 years to operate its hazardous waste collection service. In its cash-flush days, the agency built its state-of-the-art collection centers such as the one in east Livermore off Vasco Road.
If you collect your unused paint, solvents, pesticides and pay attention to the calendar, it's a fairly efficient process to drop them off. The big challenge is that the center in Livermore is only open six days a month (Thursday through Saturday, twice monthly).
The proposed fee will raise $5 million annuallya big chunk of the overall budget. Currently the program is funded by a $2.15 per ton charge that is shrinking as the volume of waste declines.
As I wrote previously, for most government agencies and the bureaucrats they employ as well as many other institutionsthe No. 1 goal is to stay in business. For StopWaste, the reduction in tonnage at the dumps is a great victory. Instead of declaring victory and going out of business, the mission creeps or goals are revised upward so the agency stays around.
The core question remains: is there a cheaper and more convenient solution. How about contracting with the transfer stationsthat operate seven days a weekto become drop-off centers. Instead of adding yet another fee for no improvement in service, the agency should ask the more fundamental questionhow can we serve the residents more efficiently?
The local reps are council members Jerry Pentin (Pleasanton), Don Biddle (Dublin) and Laureen Turner (Livermore).