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TRASH TALK: “It’s David versus Goliath”

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Since it lost its $1 billion, 10-year garbage contract with the city, Waste Management corporation has been bearing down on Oakland to force the city to accept its deal – whatever the terms and whether the city wants the company or not.

After the council voted 7-1 against Waste Management in August, company representatives graciously pledged to work with the city to help ensure a smooth transition to the new company. But that may have been before they got marching orders from corporate headquarters in Houston, Texas.

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Photo by Gene Hazzard

Photo by Gene Hazzard

Marshaling attorneys and ramping up the opinion war, the nation’s largest trash hauler has filed a lawsuit and filled the media with misleading and dishonest claims.

They alleged they offer residents cheaper rates (not true); they have said the other company, California Waste Solutions (CWS), has no experience (false); they claimed CWS would build a garbage dump in West Oakland (untrue); and they vilified city leaders, saying they had a sweetheart deal with CWS (false).

Most upsetting of all, the company has mobilized its troops, utilizing scores of highly paid signature gatherers to try to force the city to call a special election next year at the cost of about $1 million.

Many signature gatherers – which Waste Management and their representative, political consultant Larry Tramutola refuse to reign in, come from out of the region and even as far away as Nevada and Arizona.

Oakland residents have complained that signature gatherers have lied and distorted the facts in order to get them to sign. Other residents say they have been insulted, yelled at, pushed and threatened by Waste Management’s people.

Some Waste Management’s representatives have resorted to anti-immigrant racism: “Don’t you want a U.S. company to serve Oakland, not a Chinese company?” CWS owner David Duong is a longtime resident of West Oakland.

If a referendum makes the ballot and if by some chance it passes, the result would invalidate the council’s two-year public negotiations over the garbage contract and force a new round of contract negotiations.

“The council is clear that we acted lawfully, and the decision we made was in the best interests of this city – this is about David versus Goliath, and Oakland is David,” said Councilmember Lynette McElhaney.

“Now or in a referendum, the people of Oakland will recognize that this (campaign) is not about protecting Oakland. It’s about protecting Texas profits,” she said.

“ This is about forcing Oakland to accept less services for higher prices,” McElhaney said. “Their position is, if we can’t win the contact (through negotiations), we’ll take it.”

Waste Management lost the contract with the city after two years of negotiations that included public discussions at council meetings and a number of hearings at the City Council’s Public Works Committee.

After their experience with the company, members of the council are less interested than ever in being forced into a contract with Waste Management, McElhaney said. “We don’t want to be bound for the next 100 years to that corporation and be in a position where we couldn’t push back against rate hikes.”

Countering Waste Management’s petition gatherers, CWS has hired over 100 people to distribute fliers explaining the other side.

They are encouraging people to send a letter to the City Clark asking for their names to be taken off Waste Management’s petition if they believe they were misled into signing the petition.

CWS delivered 400 letters Wednesday to the City Clerk signed by people who want their names removed.

“Our people have been quite successful, many people are not signing petitions,” said Joel Corona, chief operating officer of CWS.

Several of the CWS people, including a young woman, have told the Post that they have been threatened: Waste Management’s representatives “told me something would happen to me if I kept passing out those papers (against the petition),” the young woman said.

“Some of their signature gatherers have picked up their tables and moved to another location,” Corona said. “They have started going house-to-house and to BART stations and AC Transit. They are going to places where they don’t have to respond to facts and to (opposing) literature.”

Several local residents point to Waste Management’s recent mistreatment of a rural area called Canyonlands outside of Castro Valley as a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of being locked into a deal with the corporation.

At first, Waste Management told the people who live in Canyonlands in June that their rates would go up over 60 percent – from $17.68 a month for a 32-gallon container to $45.99

When customers complained bitterly, Waste Management responded by announcing the company is canceling their trash pickup at the end of December, leaving residents to fend for themselves.

“We gave them the rest of the year to make other arrangements,” said Joe Camero, Waste Management spokesman. “It’s a difficult area to service. I think it’s going to be expensive for any hauler.”

The arguments in favor of Oakland’s decision to contract with California Waste Solutions can be read at www.helloiamtrey.com/cws2/news/cws-will-build-clean-modern-facility-in-west-oakland/

Waste Management’s campaign calls itself Oakland Residents for a Clean City. It’s website can be viewed at www.CleanOakland.org.

 

 

City Government

Sec. of State Shirley Weber Urges All Californians to Vote in Upcoming Recall Election

Weber is California’s first African American Secretary of State and the fifth Black person to serve as a constitutional officer in the state’s 170-year history. She said working as president of the San Diego Board of Education and serving four terms in the state Assembly after that showed her how elected officials can dismiss communities when they know that they don’t vote.

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Election Mail in Ballot at an Official Ballot Drop Box; Photo Courtesy of California Black Media

California Secretary of State Shirley Weber says all registered Californians should vote in the special election to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom. It is scheduled for September 14.

“This is an extremely important election,” said Weber, who said she comes from a family of Arkansas sharecroppers who migrated to California when she was three years old.

“My grandparents on my father’s side never had a chance to vote because they died before 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was passed,” she said. “We understand why it’s important to vote but we also understand what happens to communities when they don’t vote. We have to understand the positives of voting and also the negative impacts of not voting.”

Weber is California’s first African American Secretary of State and the fifth Black person to serve as a constitutional officer in the state’s 170-year history. She said working as president of the San Diego Board of Education and serving four terms in the state Assembly after that showed her how elected officials can dismiss communities when they know that they don’t vote.

Weber was speaking at a news briefing organized by Ethnic Media Services last week. During the virtual news conference, Weber shared details of how her office has been planning for the special elections, including making sure that every Californian will be mailed a ballot. Counties across the state will start sending them out in mid-August.

On the day of the special election, Weber said, polls will open at 7:00 a.m. and close at 8:00 p.m.

Voters will also be able to track their ballots via email or text messages by registering at wheresmyballot.sos.cagov.

Weber said the recall election ballot will ask two questions: Do the voters want to recall Newsom, and if so, who do they want to replace the governor. If 50% or more of voters cast no votes on the first question, Newsom stays on as governor. If 50% or more say yes, then he will be recalled and replaced by one of 46 candidates on the ballot who has the most votes.

Weber said planning the special election has been challenging, but her team has been effective and thorough.

“What I inherited in the Secretary of State’s office is a group of people who really know elections,” Weber told California Black Media.

“I’ve just been in awe of what they do. They have a system and they have it down pat. The last election was a good training ground for them to deal with absentee ballots, ballot boxes, and things that we’ve known would work but could never implement because people were hesitant about it. That is one thing that I know for sure that takes place in the Secretary of State Office: We know elections.”

Along with its elections duties and to safeguard the state’s official documents, including the Constitution and Great Seal, and the state archives, the Secretary of State office also registers businesses, commissions notaries public, and manages state ballot initiatives.

Each of California’s 58 counties oversees its own elections but Weber’s office sets the stage and regulations to ensure the counties have the tools to function properly and efficiently.

Weber meets with each county Voter Registration and Elections office each month. She learned when she took office in January that local election officials have been ahead of the process. Weber said, “this whole reality of elections is their life” and not something that is done one time each year.

“They were prepared for the recall before the recall was called,” Weber said during the virtual news conference.

“They are not the type to sit around and wait until July 1 and jump up and say we have to have an election. They have been preparing all along in terms of staffing, what they would do, and their plans to implement the election,” she added. “They are in the process of setting up voting centers, polls and mailing out the ballots. They know ( the recall election) is coming fast and that it has been an extremely unusual year of election after election.

Weber also provided details to media outlets needed to inform voters: from when to expect mail-in ballots, to the number of candidates, to when the polls will open and close, and the impact of voter turnout.

The budget for the Office of Secretary of State in the 2020-2021 fiscal year was $ 252,722,000. But the recall election has a hefty price tag.

“We are not really sure the total amount,” Weber said. “In the end, it could be close to $400 million and some people say $500 million. Yes, it is an expensive enterprise. It’s a serious one not only in terms of financing.”

Whatever the recall election outcome is in September, Weber said that Californians will have a chance to elect another governor in two years.

“No question. The regular elections move on,” Weber said. “We’ll have the primary election in June (2022) and the general election in November (2022).”

For more voter information about polling places, language preference for election materials and status about mail-in ballots, California voters should visit voterstatus.sos.ca.gov.

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City Government

Mayor London Breed Celebrates Completion of Haight Street Transit Improvement Project

New streetscape design enhances pedestrian safety, activates public spaces, and creates a more vibrant Haight Street corridor

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Haight Ashbury Intersection Photo Courtesy of Robin Jonathan Deutsch

Mayor London N. Breed joined city leaders, merchants, and community members at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 28 to celebrate the completion of the Upper Haight Transit Improvement and Pedestrian Realm Project. The transformative project improves pedestrian safety, enhances transit efficiency, and builds on the neighborhood’s vibrant character.

The two-year, $22.3 million project was based on a community-supported vision to revitalize and improve street safety and public spaces in the historic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. The redesign of Haight Street enables the most significant possible degree of flexibility by reimagining urban spaces that can evolve with the changing demands of the community.

“The Haight has a rich history that attracts tourists and locals alike, and with the completion of this streetscape project, we are making this historic neighborhood more inviting for all,” said Breed. “As we emerge from this pandemic and begin to see our city come alive again, it’s critical that we invest in the cultural vibrancy of our neighborhoods and provide our small businesses with the support they need to help drive our economic recovery.”

The project was designed to incorporate numerous safety features, including new pedestrian-scale lighting, ADA-compliant curb ramps, and expanded bus-boarding areas. The project also replaced the aging sewer system to bolster resiliency, repaved seven blocks of Haight Street between Stanyan Street and Central Avenue, and added new street trees and sidewalks to beautify the neighborhood. Crews performed additional sewer and repaving work on Masonic Avenue between Haight and Waller streets.

“The improvements are a welcome addition to the well-known neighborhood with its trove of independent retail establishments, cafes, and restaurants,” said Sunshine Powers, president of the Haight Street Merchants Association. “This project provides many wonderful enhancements that retain the character of this magnificent, sparkly corridor and will keep us thriving.”

Construction began in September 2018 and continued uninterrupted during San Francisco’s Stay-at-Home Order, which allowed work to continue on essential infrastructure. This project supported more than 130 construction and electrical trade jobs at a time when putting people to work was crucial.

San Francisco Public Works oversaw the design and construction management for the project. Key partners included the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and the Department of Technology.

Through the Office of Economic and Workforce Development’s (OEWD) Construction Mitigation Program, OEWD staff partnered with Public Works to provide small businesses with the necessary support to help minimize construction impacts.

“The redesign and safety enhancements bring much-needed improvements to this historic part of the City. The project serves as a great example of successful collaboration among City agencies in partnership with the community and our elected representatives to enhance neighborhood safety and livability,” said Acting Public Works Director Alaric Degrafinried.

“The changes we see on Haight Street today include a faster travel time for Muni passengers, bringing meaningful improvements to the community as we emerge from the pandemic.” said San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director of Transportation, Jeffrey Tumlin. “The signals are designed to prioritize the 7-Haight– one of our highest ridership lines. Muni is delivering similar projects on most of our lines and we are proud to offer these improvements on Haight Street.”

“This project is another great example of City agencies working together to bring much needed improvements to our communities,” said SFPUC Acting General Manager Michael Carlin. “By upgrading and replacing our aging infrastructure, we are ensuring the safe and reliable delivery of critical sewer services to our customers.”

Funding for the improvements came from various voter-approved sources, including Proposition K sales tax revenue, the 2011 Roadway Improvement and Street Safety Bond, and the 2014 San Francisco Transportation and Road Improvement Bond. Additional funding sources included the City’s General Fund, Prop AA Grant, and Wastewater Enterprise Renewal and Replacement Funds.

“The Transportation Authority is proud to provide transportation sales tax and other funds for this project, which began with the community’s advocacy for safety and streetscape improvements along Haight Street,” said Transportation Authority Executive Director Tilly Chang. “The new traffic signals, pedestrian scale lighting, bulb-outs and curb ramps will enhance community access for the neighborhood and help achieve San Francisco’s citywide Vision Zero goal as well.”

Additional project information is available at www.sfpublicworks.org/upper-haight.

This report is courtesy of the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Communications. 

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Bay Area

Council Approves Additional Public Safety Investments

Councilmember Thao’s amendments included direct investments in West, Central, and East Oakland, including West Oakland Community Centers, Central Oakland traffic safety, and Oakland 911 response. 

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Stop typography on a sidewalk in Sterling Virginia during the fall photo courtesy of Obi Onyeador via Unsplash

Councilmember Sheng Thao

Councilmembers, community leaders, and city staff,  approved public safety investments for Oakland recommended by Councilmember Sheng Thao

These additions, approved Monday afternoon, included investments that align with the city’s reimagining public safety goals. The City Council unanimously approved Councilmember Thao’s budget amendments, which included investments in:

  • Traffic Calming and Sideshow Prevention
  • Faster 911 Response
  • Restoring Foot Patrol officers in business corridors during the holiday season
  • Business District Ambassadors
  • Adding Public Restrooms near homeless encampments
  • Investments to job training and resources

“My top priority is public safety, which means addressing violent crime, street safety, poverty, and homelessness,” said Thao.

“These budget amendments invest in our community and increase our Police Department’s ability to prevent and respond to violent crimes. These amendments will also protect our business corridors so Oaklanders can feel safe while they shop, and in turn, invest in our Oakland businesses.”

Said Oakland Police Chief LeRonne L. Armstrong, “I would like to thank Oakland City Council Member Sheng Thao and other Council Members for their vote and support with additional funding.

“These funds will provide walking officers in our business districts across the city during this holiday season. The funds allow us to restore much needed public safety services, walking officers, while our community and visitors shop across our city.”

Councilmember Thao’s amendments included direct investments in West, Central, and East Oakland, including West Oakland Community Centers, Central Oakland traffic safety, and Oakland 911 response.

“These amendments also help address decades of divestment from our BIPOC communities in East Oakland,” she said. “By bringing investments into street safety, beautification, and city services. It is important that we stay committed to equity for East Oakland.

“Our office made a point to work with Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, Councilmembers Treva Reid and Loren Taylor to bring these amendments forward, and I thank them for their strong partnership in this work,” said Councilmember Thao.

 

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