UPDATE: City Attorney has postponed this hearing at the Rules Committee for tomorrow (see below)
CPI: Landfill privatization vote postponed after City Attorney addresses legality and liability
Tomorrow’s scheduled vote on privatizing operation of Miramar Landfill has been canceled at the 11th hour, after the City Attorney said part of the privatization plan was illegal and that it would leave the City with full financial and environmental liability.
The Mayor’s office pulled the issue from the Rules committee agenda this afternoon, after seeking the committee’s approval in May. Serious concerns raised by CPI and others in the community led the committee to delay its vote at that time to get more information.
It is unknown whether the push to privatize the landfill will be back at the next Rules committee meeting on July 13. Clearly, a more thorough investigation is needed of all the risks, including the Sierra Club’s unanswered questions about environmental requirements under state and federal law.
In a Memorandum of Law, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the enforcement of hazardous materials laws is a governmental function that cannot legally be outsourced. Hazardous materials inspection is one of the crucial landfill services that CPI has argued, most recently in an op-ed today, are too risky to turn over to private operators.
The City Attorney also concludes that under the lease of the land from the Navy, the City remains liable for any penalties, fines or lawsuits resulting from problems caused by a private contractor.
In a point noteworthy for all future considerations of privatization, the memo describes good reasons why a public function like code enforcement cannot be outsourced:
“(I)ndividuals who perform sovereign functions act as an agent of the public and act only on behalf of the public. Conversely, an employee of an external service provider would have a duty to act on behalf of his or her employer first and the public second.”
In a nutshell, that’s why public services should stay under public control.
Join us at the Rules Committee hearing on
June 22 June 22nd is one of the last chances to speak out on the proposed outsourcing of San Diego’s only public landfill, up at Miramar. Join a broad coalition of community, civic and environmental groups at the Rules Committee hearing on the landfill outsourcing.
Last month, in response to public concerns, the City Council Rules Committee voted to have the mayor’s staff address a number of concerns about safety, environmental and financial issues before the outsourcing moves forward.
Join us at the next Rules committee hearing to ensure that these questions were answered:
When: 9am, Wednesday, June 22
Where: Rules Committee, 12th floor
San Diego City Hall, 202 C St.
The outsourcing of the Miramar Landfill through the managed competition process poses serious issues and concerns for San Diegans including:
- What are the environmental safeguards required of a private operator?
- How will greenery services including free or reduced cost compost and mulch for city residents be affected?
- Will service quality levels be maintained?
- How much is the outsourcing process costing taxpayers? The city just wasted $500,000 on consultants in a failed effort to sell off Miramar Landfill.
- How will strong contract oversight be ensured? The city has a history of contract mis-management. Recent examples include contracts for ambulance service, computer and IT systems, and fire debris removal.
If you are interested in giving testimony or attending this meeting, please contact Norma Rodriguez, firstname.lastname@example.org or at (619) 584-5744 ext: 62
More Info on Miramar Landfill
May 18, 2011. Saying serious questions haven’t been answered, a San Diego City Council committee put the brakes on the Mayor’s plan to put Miramar Landfill out to bid. The Rules committee voted 4-1 to send the outsourcing plan back for revision.
Before the vote, the committee heard testimony from dozens of community leaders, students, city residents, neighborhood associations and environmental organizations. Every speaker opposed outsourcing landfill operations, at least until more information and safeguards are provided.
Councilmember Sherri Lightner said she is concerned the landfill operation may be “inherently governmental” – and not appropriate for outsourcing at all – because of the risks to public health and safety. Among those risks are potential methane gas buildup and toxic fluid leakage into canyons and Mission Bay.
“CPI had found that the proposal lacked critical protections for citizens and the environment,” said CPI Executive Director Clare Crawford. “We’re glad to see the Rules committee took its role very seriously, and that these councilmembers will make sure we maintain the same high standards and service levels now in effect at Miramar Landfill.”
Miramar Landfill: For the Public Good
Like many budget-squeezed governments, the City of San Diego is seeking to privatize public services and assets, in hopes of saving money. But the privatization track record shows it’s a poor gamble. Turning the public’s business over to private operators puts quality and safety at risk and often costs the community much more in the long run.
The Center on Policy Initiatives, the San Diego Sierra Club and other local organizations have warned of serious risks if Miramar is privatized, including:
- Environmental harm to water and air quality as well as endangered species and habitats on the 1400-acre site
- Loss of revenue from the landfill, which funds many community services
- Loss of control over how waste is handled in San Diego and the costs to residents and businesses
The community services jeopardized include trash collection from public trash cans, litter and recycling enforcement, canyon and illegal dumping cleanup, community cleanups, dead animal pick-up and safety monitoring at 16 closed landfills.
Landfills contain many potentially toxic substances and produce explosive methane gas. City staff have run Miramar safely and efficiently for 50 years, turning the methane into electricity that powers city water plants and earning the highest international certification for environmental standards.
Oppose privatizing the Miramar landfill
Download Miramar Landfill: A Public Asset, a 4-page report on the benefits for San Diego residents and businesses
Download What’s at Risk , a 2-page factsheet on standards and services omitted from the contractor requirements
Download Sierra Club letter to City on environmental risks of privatizing Miramar Landfill
For more information or to request a presentation for your group, contact Normita Rodriguez, NRodriguez [at] onlineCPI.org