Saturday, June 13, 2015

Trash Talk: Athens Services’s Phony Rate Increase

Green Day?
(Mod: There is a blog out there somewhere in the SGV called Trash Talk. What they deal with exclusively is the garbage industry and its business interface with city governments. Given the somewhat checkered history of the trash industry in Los Angeles County this isn't necessarily a bad idea. And as they have been saying in the trash carting business for as long as anyone can remember, somebody has got to do it. The following article discusses a 2013 rate and contract extension campaign that Athens Services had been conducted that year, one that might not have been completely above board.)

Athens Services’s Phony Rate Increase: Ask & Ye Shall Receive (link) - In the fall of 2013, trash hauler Athens Services sent letters similar to this one to its Los Angeles County client cities. In the letters, the company claimed that since the Puente Hills landfill – the largest in Los Angeles County, not to mention the nation as a whole –  was closing in the fall of 2013, cities were now going to risk higher and uncertain costs to get rid of their trash in the future. The proposed “Athens Solution” was for the cities to take action outside of their normal contracts with Athens and give the company a 10% or more rate raise at the expense of their residents.

Two big problems with what Athens said:

1) The landfill closure was no surprise. For a decade – since 2003 – the entire region knew that the Puente Hills landfill had been scheduled to close, and had been preparing for its closure. Athens had even negotiated contracts with some of the very same cities they sent the letter too a few years back using the same trick: “pay a bit more to us now so that we can take into account and stabilize the future costs coming because of the Puente Hills landfill closure.”

2) The landfill closure was no excuse. There was no legitimate reason for the Puente Hills closure to significantly raise costs. After extensive review, the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County predicted a very slight increase in costs due to the closure: “For  an  average  home,  this  equates  to  an  increase  of  approximately  $0.50/month household.”

So the entire rate increase request was a ruse.  But we can’t blame Athens for asking, I guess. A 10% increase in rates leads to tens if not hundreds of millions of extra dollars in their pocket over the long lives of their decades long contracts with these cities. Plus, in the corrupt world of Southern California politics, it works!

What happened over the course of last year in response to this shameless request to allow Athens Services to take more from the pockets of the residents of Los Angeles County for no reason? I poked around a bit, but there is still lots more to uncover.

Two cities were smart about it and “just said no.” A few “negotiated” the unjustified increase down a little. But lots of them just rolled over and sold their residents out to completely unjustified rate increases.

In fact, a few cities even negotiated new, no-bid long term contracts with Athens Services that raised rates far more than 10%. And only one city thought these significant rate increases given outside of set contracts ought to trigger Proposition 218, which one might think requires voter approval for such significant rate raises made virtually arbitrarily by the city councils.

(Mod: In July of 2013 Sierra Madre entered into a new "long term one time" agreement with Athens Services that extended the existing contract for an additional 25 years - link. Was there any connection between the Puente Hills landfill closure and this new understanding? 2013 seems to have been a big year for new contracts at Athens.)


(Mod: More if I figure it out.)

Drought/RHNA Connection

An interesting article titled "California’s Challenge to Reliable Water isn’t Infrastructure. It’s RHNA" can be found on a very well done blog called "DroughtMath." Click here.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

48 comments:

  1. Is there more to this story?

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    Replies
    1. There is always more.

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    2. It's part of the process.

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  2. http://waydowninthehole.com/

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  3. Please do not for get that the City receives a nice franchise fee from Athens also...that goes back into the General Fund

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    1. So we pay the trash company and they pay the city?

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    2. I believe the uncivil term for that would be "kick back."

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    3. The City got a $100,000+ lump franchise fee for signing the Athens contract extension. Council spent it on the Public Safety Officer or some such program within a few months.

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    4. The odds on GF funds going to public safety are just under 3 out of 5.

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    5. Appreciate this post. Let me try it out.

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  4. Let me see if I have this straight, a $100,000 donation to the city and 15 dog waste stations "with bags" for a 25 year contract that extends a year each year. Is that good business on the city's part, does anyone know? Looks like business as usual to me. What council members were in charge back then?

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    1. That would have been your Mayor Josh Moran and Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Pants.

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    2. 5-0 vote Walsh, Harabedian, Koerber, Capoccia & Moran.

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    3. How is it John Harabedian got to vote on this? Isn't his dad a big player at Athens?

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    4. Political empires are often built on garbage.

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  5. Harabedian should have recused himself.

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    1. I don't think he believes the rules apply to him. And the way things work here he is probably right.

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    2. Maybe Johnny recused. It was a few years ago.

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    3. If he did it happened after he'd already voted. I am not sure you can do that. Then again, he is Johnny.

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    4. No difference if it was 4-0 or 5-0.

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    5. One of those 5 had a direct financial stake.

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    6. It would have passed anyway. I typed this answer slowly so you'd understand.

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    7. Yes, and everyone saw your lips move while you did it. But the point is one City Councilmember needed to recuse himself and didn't.

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    8. Or maybe he did and an earlier post is wrong.

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  6. If you put "Ed Chen" into the search engine on the City of Sierra Madre website the first item that comes up is:

    1. Edible Gardening at the Sierra Madre Public Library

    I'll let you know what else I find out.

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    Replies
    1. We need to increase the budget for that.

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  7. Usually when the city uses the term "one time" it means forever. Other tip offs are "temporary" and "contingent." Look at the UUT increase back in 2008.

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  8. So many bad decisions of past council have really hurt this town. Unfortunately when your new here you don't know these things thus you make bad decisions.

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    Replies
    1. The greatest asset the town wreckers have is the large quantity of dumb bunnies in town.

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  9. Great article on RHNA. Thanks for the link.

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    Replies
    1. I agree. Throw in SB375's claim that additional housing increases the chances of stopping global warming and the idiotic picture is complete.

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  10. WHERE DO YOU THINK THE $100,000 FRANCHISE FEE COMES FROM?

    THE RESIDENTS ARE OVERCHARGED, THE FEE COMES FROM THE RESIDENTS?

    WHY Didn't ELAINE ASK FOR 5 MILLION DOLLARS?

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  11. HOW MANY FRANCHISE TAX FEES DOES THE CITY HALL RECEIVE AT THE RESIDENTS EXPENSE?

    1) $100,000 Athens trash services?
    2) do the other utility companies pay city hall a franchise Tax for guarantee services as well, and if so how much?
    2) water company $_____
    3) gas company $_____
    4) hard wire telephone company $_____
    5) fax line company $______
    6) internet company $______
    7) cell phone company company's (towers in our city) $______

    8) O' I see the Residents of Sierra Madre are also charged another ( FRANCHISE TAX on top of the utility companies bill) which is paid to city hall PLUS another tax called the UTILITY USER TAX
    THATS 2 FRANCHISE TAX FEES plus a UTILITY TAX FEE = that 3 taxes per utility?

    9) Please added it up, the residents are charged ( 3 ) on going taxes for each utility purchased!

    These monies support salaries, health care and death benefits, and we the residents still do not have Infrastructure repairs? Why are our water wells dry? The monies should have been spent to fix the water infrastructure. ARCADIA PUMPS WATER from the same "SHARED WATER FIELD WIDE WATER RESERVOIR", why does arcadia have water & Sierra Madre has no water, that's because Sierra Madre is cheap and has failed to repair its water pumping infrastructure? It called mismanagement!
    we the residents are paying city employees for salaries and receives NO SERVICES IN RETURN.

    These idiots need to go!

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    1. City gets franchise from most if not all of the utilities. You can see it on your bill.

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    2. ALL CAPS! WOOO!! WOOOO!!!

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    3. Sigh, all caps still doesn't realize that Arcadia is down hill from Sierra Madre. Maybe someone should take him on o tour of the water system.

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    4. When I read CAPS GUY's posts, the theme song from "Rocky" starts playing in my head.

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  12. 12:16,,, you are so right. And they think were going to vote in more taxes.

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    1. They're basing it on the 100 or so people who showed up at the fire station last weekend. According to today's Mountain Views News that somehow overturns the results of two elections.

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    2. And The MVN never lies. At least not on days it doesn't publish.

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    3. Lots of PR spin. Makes you wonder who they might have hired.

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  13. When will the residents finally figure it out that we have a bunch of bumbs running this city? Regarding the caps guy... God Bless him, he wants change and we surely need it!

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  14. The original UUT was 6%. Then they raised it to 8% , with 2% going to fire and police basically. Then it went to 10% with the same formula as 8%. Voters voted down the increase and as of June 30, 2015 mandated that the UUT go back to 6%. The 6% goes directly to the General Fund. It is on all utility bills. My Verizon was 8.31 this month. I'll have to look up my other bills. How many home phones, cell phones are in the city? That's what they receive each billing cycle. Add the other amounts and it's not a bad sum. I could live on it.

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  15. 12:35PM You are so right. Those 100 people were the happy progressives. Willing to sell their mother if it gets them more. Because, after all, ther is not enough kindness and civility in the world and they're gonna make it happen with more taxes. Affordable housing is the next thing coming. Let's hope they start that in Beverly Hills, Malibu or choose your beach city.

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    1. It's kind of funny. They lost on the UUT question twice, but now they're running around town telling anybody unlucky enough to have to listen that they won something. Maybe they're on happy drugs or something.

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    2. Even the no on UUT people (me included) realize that there has to be some kind of financial income coming in to sustain the city. Nobody has won anything. Nobody has lost anything - yet. If not the UUT what? Either you all do not understand budgets or are not willing to acknowledge that the city is in duress unless another income source can be determined Take your pick..

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    3. It is all about the $4 million the city spends on the cops. Either cut their pay, fire a few or bring in the Sheriffs. Then everything else will be fine.

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