Trash talk headed to November ballot in San Francisco 

click to enlarge San Francisco voters may have an item on the ballot this November that will ask them about opening up competition for The City's trash service. (Bloomberg News file photo) - SAN FRANCISCO VOTERS MAY HAVE AN ITEM ON THE BALLOT THIS NOVEMBER THAT WILL ASK THEM ABOUT OPENING UP COMPETITION FOR THE CITY'S TRASH SERVICE. (BLOOMBERG NEWS FILE PHOTO)
  • San Francisco voters may have an item on the ballot this November that will ask them about opening up competition for The City's trash service. (Bloomberg News file photo)
  • San Francisco voters may have an item on the ballot this November that will ask them about opening up competition for The City's trash service. (Bloomberg News file photo)

A battle over The City’s lucrative trash hauling business will add to the excitement of the November election, which already features a crowded mayor’s race and dueling pension measures.

The debate over whether to open up San Francisco’s garbage industry to competition is not new, but it has resurfaced as the Board of Supervisors is considering approving a 10-year landfill contract with Recology, which has had a monopoly over The City’s trash-hauling business for decades. With the $112 million 10-year contract, Recology, which plans to dump the trash 130 miles away in Yuba County, would control all aspects of The City’s trash.

Currently the trash ends up in the Altamont landfill, operated by Waste Management, which is fighting to keep the contract

Laws dating back to 1932 have permitted Recology to haul San Francisco trash without having to compete for the job. But that could change under a ballot measure proposed by Tony Kelly, who lost the recent District 10 election, along Quentin Kopp, a retired judge and former state Senator who is a long-time proponent of competitive bidding. Similar efforts in 1993 and 1994 failed at the ballot. 

“This is something that is probably long overdue,” Kelly said. “It is about how City Hall does business rather than about one company.” Kelly said not having competition is a clear example of “waste and mismanagement” at City Hall. Recology “will probably spend millions” against the measure, he said.

Backers say that competition could lead to lower garbage rates and The City could receive millions of dollars a year through a franchise fee to spend on city services.

“We’re being gouged by a monopoly,” Kopp said, adding that it has been allowed by “a bunch of City Hall sycophants.”

Recology is opposed to the measure, and says there is no reason to change the current system when rates are competitive with other areas and a wide variety of services are provided.

“If you achieve great success with what you have, why would you change it?” Recology spokesman Adam Alberti said.

He also said there is no guarantee rates would decrease and studies show rates could even increase with competition. 

Influential groups, such as the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and the San Francisco Labor Council, have spoken against any change.

Backers of the measure need to collect 7,168 signatures by to place it on the Nov. 8 ballot.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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