Menlo Park's Future


Our City’s Garbage Policy, Does It Pass the Smell Test?

Fellow Residents,

What do a San Jose Scandal, Garbage, and the Menlo Park City Council have in common?  Read on.

In 2006, the New York Times, NPR, and all our local papers reported that San Jose Mayor Gonzalez was arrested on “6 felony counts including bribery conspiracy and falsifying documents for conspiring with a garbage contractor [Norcal Waste Systems] to win a lucrative city contract and pass off the company’s increased labor costs to taxpayers. “

A Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury report noted that the San Jose mayor had received a combined $7,500 contribution from Norcal and $2,500 from the Teamsters Union after the 2000 contract was negotiated. According to the deal, Norcal’s subcontractor switched from the Long Shoremen’s Association to the higher paying Teamsters. Norcal was ultimately fined $10milion.

Why should you care about this? On Tuesday Oct. 7, 2008, after a year-long review process by SBWMA (South Bay Waste Management Association), the consortium that handles our garbage issues, our City Council voted to negotiate a huge 10-year contract with, guess who, Norcal—and, now for the kicker, the City of San Jose has never been interviewed. Why? Because our Council was told that although many references had been gathered, no one from San Jose “got back to” the consultant.

But wait. Another big question came to light at that City Council meeting regarding the cost of a new facility to deal with hoped-for increases in recycling. Estimates by Norcal for that facility have risen FOUR times in the last six months, from $25.9 million to over $59.3 million.

I am not the only one uncomfortable with this process. Unincorporated San Mateo County —led by Supervisors Jerry Hill, Mark Church, and Rich Gordon-- and the cities of Burlingame and Belmont are reconsidering their commitment to SBWMA. Their defection from this consortium will obviously increase our rates. Even without the defection, an “estimated” rate increase of 10% plus 5% more for the new facility is anticipated.

Finally, the reluctance of 4 members of our City Council to even defer negotiations with Norcal until more information is provided doesn’t pass the smell test for me. And I wonder what is going on.

Please let me know what you know—or think--about this at

Lee Duboc

P.S. The only local paper to pick up on this important issue was the Daily Post.

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