What Does the Valencia St. Fire Have to do with Trash Pick-up and Politics?

It's been only a few weeks since a massive fire tore through a Valencia Street building, displacing dozens of residents, and the disaster is already being perverted for political purposes.  How?  By a disinformation campaign by the SF Firefighters and Recology (the city's trash-collection provider) to protect the company's 70-year-old government-granted monopoly status by painting the ballot measure as an assault on our recycling and composting laws.  How darling.

(Oh, and if you are actually interested in reading up on this, the SFBG has a shockingly reasonable analysis of the ballot measure.  You can also read the initiative itself, as well as the Chronicle's dueling opinions for the measure and against it.)

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Comments (16)

the proposition system is flawed. always vote not.

That’s about as logical as saying “politics is corrupt, so don’t bother voting.”

how many ppl do you know that read the entire text of a proposition before voting on the main issue it presents? you know how much other crap they can sneak into that loaded legal text? fuck. talk about logic.

The fact that all the major parties are telling me to vote against this means there must be something to it.

+1 !!

Tells you as much as the fact the the only ones telling you to vote for it are the ones that stand to benefit monetarily.

I actually sat down and read the proposal. *ALL* of the so-called public statements against this proposal were funded by Recology. One would think that if it was really so bad for us (the taxpayers), some of them would have spoken up?

This brings me to another point. Why are the firefighters supporting Recology and asking you to vote against this? There’s a simple reason. All of them (firefighters, MUNI unions, police unions, etc.) are care about only 1 thing: fleecing the taxpayers of SF. The firefighters offer their support to Recology; in turn, the trash pickers will offer support to the firefighters when their turn comes at the trough. And so on: you scratch my balls, I scratch yours.

It is really sad that you see billboards funded by Recology (and hence, by you and me) against this proposal, but no one puts one up for the taxpayers.

SPUR is a pretty legit source of practical public policy advice for the city. I was pretty convinced by their argument that I’m about to post an excerpt from, but you can check out for yourself at http://www.spur.org/publications/library/report/june-2012-voter-guide. They give a pretty honest list of pros and cons, and then a few paragraphs explaining why they made the decision they did.

SPUR supports the principle of competitive bidding for a range of city services, and we believe that there are many benefits to be derived from strategically employing competitive bidding to drive down the cost of public services. But this measure is not simply an affirmation of competitive bidding; it is a detailed legislative proposal that contains specific changes to how the city’s waste is collected, processed and disposed, with little mention of cost implications or what is working — and not working — in the current system. While the city’s longstanding relationship with Recology may be unconventional, that partnership seems to be working well, and the city is well on its way to realizing its ambitious zero waste goals. We should not jeopardize that progress with a flawed legislative proposal.”

I am sorry, but when Recology provided “volunteers” and funds for Ed Lee’s campaign under orders of Rose Pak, that was the last straw for me.
This is a company that has a monopoly in the City, and actively buys politicians who turn around and maintain its lucrative contract.
Ed Lee has also proposed raising our garbage fees.

I see SPUR’s endorsement as just politics as usual.

What does Recology have to fear? If they’re doing such a great job, they’ll outbid others anyways.
Competition is good.

They will handily be outbid by WM because WM doesn’t have to worry about silly expenses like treating their workers or customers like human beings.

I don’t disagree that there’s some gross stuff going on, and there’s a real good chance I’d vote for a version of this proposition that offered a more specific plan.. but as-is, this prop is high in emotional appeal but very low in content. I’m sure this is my inner engineer talking, but bad shit inevitably follows when you destroy existing infrastructure because you’re pissed off at it without knowing how you’re going to replace it - better yet if you can already have the replacement functioning before you take out the old stuff.

IMO, the confusion that follows is the easiest time for somebody else (WM, etc) to swoop in with a lot of sweet-talk and take advantage of everyone. Make them at least tell you up front how they’ll be able to provide service more efficiently than Recology.

The measure wouldn’t let WM, Recology, or any other single company run the entire garbage program – they could run ⅖ of it at most. Also I’m unclear on where you got the idea that a contract would be awarded to a company that couldn’t provide proper service.

Many other cities in the Bay Area award garbage contracts to the lowest bidder and it works just fine. Why is SF so different in regard to garbage service that this wouldn’t work here?

There’s a difference between saying something would work here and saying that something would work better than what we currently have, though. The biggest concern I have about this proposition is that it requires the city to build or acquire all of the waste processing and transfer facilities and they must be within city limits, but doesn’t address the costs or project estimates on what they might be. Large unknown variables being introduced to the city’s books for unknown gains are fairly scary. To reference SPUR again, “there are no funds identified for development or acquisition of the required real estate and facilities, and this is certainly no small task in one of the most dense, expensive and built-out cities in the country.”

If the proposition passes, then we’re forced into doing that, and how much cheaper would the new waste collection service need to be in order to make up for the difference? This is the rub - competitive bidding hopefully brings the cost of waste collection services down, but is there really so much fat to trim that the city would be able to buy and maintain a shitton of large properties? It’s a pretty huge question to leave unanswered for a proposition that commits us to that path.

In a purely ideological sense, I’d prefer we didn’t have a monopoly providing these services either, but there has to be a practical consideration at some point, or else we end up acting like the left’s equivalent of the tea party - all idealism, no pragmatism. And like I said, if this was a more complete proposition rather than an “I’m angry so let’s legally bind ourselves to change this and figure out the details later” proposition, it’d probably have my support.

I’m not a lawyer, but it’s my understanding that most voter propositions/measures aren’t exactly fully fleshed out. Normally once it’s passed, the corresponding legislative body churns out bunch of laws to make it work in practice.

In other words, the lack of details isn’t in and of itself a reason to vote against a measure.

It’s also worth noting that this measure didn’t come about due to “anger” or “idealism,” it’s the direct result of a study the city did on its own policies. That study concluded we were overpaying for garbage service. If you recall the scaling back of the fire department a few years ago, this is pretty similar in conception and scope.

I should also point out that I don’t pay for garbage service so none of this really matters to me in any direct way.

Other Bay Area cities don’t recycle and compost 78% of it’s waste like SF does. Sure the rates are lower in other cities but they also have awful collection services and low recycling rates. Alameda county has over 15 different waste haulers. Try sorting your trash into 15 different carts every week…

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