Time to stop abusing ratepayers
Published: Monday, December 3, 2012 at 12:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 12:32 p.m.
To better understand why the Petaluma ratepayers are being abused, one needs to put the current garbage contract in context.
Ten years ago the garbage hauler was Empire Waste, which provided a basic garbage service for far less cost. That hauler was very much interested in upgrading its service (such as it is now) and extending their contract for ten years.
The hauler offered the City Council an alternative which would have circumvented the competitive bid process in exchange for lowering the then-existing rates by 40 percent.
I was the only one on the City Council who supported the proposal to lower rates. The dysfunctional City Council was so distrustful that they launched into a convoluted bid process that took over three years and resulted in the doubling of garbage rates and the awarding of the contract to a San Jose garbage hauler.
Our rates today are at least double what a competitively bid contract would require. But instead of waiting until the end of the current contract and seeking to lower charges to the ratepayers, the city administration is manipulating the City Council into extending the contract for 15 years without a competitive bid. Why? Same old reason, the city administration is seeking general fund revenues to pay for the public employee contracts that the city cannot afford.
The city manager has suggested that staff has done a study justifying the large increase in franchise fees. Be assured it is not a valid study, which must be why he didn't provide a copy of the study to the council or the public. Just like the recent staff studies suggesting why the sewer ratepayers should pay for the general fund expense of storm drain maintenance, this bogus study would not withstand scrutiny.
We are being fed the same old lies that the additional revenues will be used to fix our streets. The increased franchise fees will be placed into the general fund with absolutely no constraints on how they are spent. These funds have already been spent on the city's unfunded public pension liabilities. Gas tax monies are supposed to be used only on street maintenance but the administration is essentially using some of them to pay for park maintenance now. And the condition of our streets is deteriorating at an increasing speed.
The City Council is again being misled by a corrupt administration which is seeking to jack-up the garbage rates to cover its lucrative pay, benefits and retirement packages. Last week's editorial was spot on. What the city needs now is competent leadership. Every council member who supports this abuse of the ratepayers should be recalled.
(Bryant Moynihan is a former member of the Petaluma City Council and founder of Nexus Realty Group, Inc.)
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