Opinion

Tuesday, Oct 22 2013 06:00 AM

Recall expensive for Golden Hills CSD

The residents of Golden Hills are being asked to spend up to $24,000 on a recall election. The issue that gave rise to this recall is the effort of our Board of Directors to bring the benefits of market competition to trash service in Golden Hills. Currently, Benz Sanitation has a monopoly and has been the advocate behind this recall effort in the hopes of preventing Golden Hills' residents from having a choice in its trash service provider.

The arguments of the recall proponents center around four issues:

1. Recall proponents incorrectly claim that solid waste service is a latent rather than active power of Golden Hills Community Services District. In 1966 the Kern County Board of Supervisors gave Golden Hills CSD authority over solid waste. In 2006, pursuant to Government Code Section 61002(h), LAFCo requested a list of services provided by the CSD. Unfortunately, this request was made in such an informal manner that the question was not brought to the attention of the GHCSD board, but instead was informally answered by General Manager William Fisher.

Mr. Fisher stated: "Golden Hills CSD ... desires to provide in the future solid waste collection service." This statement ignores the fact that the CSD was already providing solid waste collection to residents who complained of illegal dumping of trash in Golden Hills, but that the CSD was simply not providing trash service on a scheduled basis.

Mr. Fisher had no authority to cause the CSD to abandon its power over solid waste. Only the elected Golden Hills CSD Board of Directors has that power (yes, really ... see California Government Code § 56654(b)). This fact was recognized on March 27, 2013, by LAFCo when it determined that Golden Hills CSD did, indeed, have authority over solid waste in our community.

2. The straw-poll of 2011 indicating that 558 out of the 4,758 voters of Golden Hills had no desire for trash service with an "opt-out" provision (only 793 voted in this straw-poll).

The current Request for Proposals solicits only "opt-in" proposals -- that is, residents must ask for trash service. No one who does not want trash service will be required to have it or to take any action to "opt-out." This is a far different proposal than the one suggested to the residents in 2011.

3. Director Ed Kennedy, speaking as an individual and not for the Board, said in 2011 that if the CSD were to reconsider instituting trash service it would hold a vote. No other board member made such a statement. Had the board, acting as a board, decided that a second election should be held, the board would have passed a resolution. There is no such board resolution.

Director Ed Kennedy's decision not to stand by his earlier pledge to hold another election stems from his interest for promoting the best interests of Golden Hills and its residents.

The current effort to introduce competition into trash service is only of interest to those Golden Hills' residents who currently do business with Benz Sanitation. Furthermore, by becoming the franchisee of trash service, our community benefits from the franchise fees now paid to Kern County.

Our community benefits by having a source of income to utilize for trail maintenance, cleaning of drainage easements, and other non-water related duties of our CSD.

Meanwhile, it is appropriate to note that Mr. Kennedy does not get any personal benefit from his position on the board, nor from the position he espouses related to trash service. All board members have a duty to serve the interests of our community, so I would have to guess that Mr. Kennedy's change of heart on holding an election is motivated by his concern for the community and recognition that the current proposal differs greatly from that of 2011.

4. LAFCo's support of the CSD's demonstration that it has the active authority to manage solid waste service --a finding under review only because of the legal and political pressure exerted by Benz Sanitation on LAFCo and our Kern County Board of Supervisors.

Benz Sanitation's Sacramento law firm, Miller and Owen, presented an aggressive stance to LAFCo. In response, LAFCo, under the leadership of Supervisor Zack Scrivner, has chosen to review LAFCo's finding that Golden Hills CSD has authority over solid waste. This possible review does not suspend the original finding issued in March that the CSD does have authority over solid waste.

In addition, Benz Sanitation influenced the Kern County Board of Supervisors' Chairman, Mike Maggard, to intervene in this matter by writing a letter to LAFCo supporting the reconsideration of LAFCo's earlier recognition that Golden Hills CSD has authority over solid waste disposal. This letter was submitted to, and approved by the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 24.

So now the Friends of Benz want to recall our CSD board? For the sole purpose of preserving Benz Sanitation's monopoly over trash service to our community? At a potential cost to us of $24,000? And most of these recall proponents don't even live in Golden Hills! In fact, many are employed by Benz' varied business interests.

Please save our community from this expense and from Benz' monopoly -- don't sign the recall petitions. Our community won't have to pay for a recall election if less than 1,190 signatures are gathered.

ADRIAN MAASKANT lives in Golden Hills.

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2014/10/22
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