Piedmonters received two mailers this past week, one auspicious-looking letter from the Alameda County Waste Authority, the other a graphic-friendly booklet from StopWaste. Both are from the same solid waste joint powers authority to which Piedmont is a member and were sent to inform you about proposed new solid waste fees.
First, the letter: because of declining landfill fees (thanks to San Francisco trash going elsewhere), the Alameda County household hazardous waste program is running out of money. This is the program in which residents can take paints, pesticides and other hazardous chemicals to county drop-off locations rather than dump these chemicals down the drain or dispose of them in the trash. This may be a service you don't use often, but when you do, you really need it. And Piedmont uses it more than any other municipality in Alameda County -- Piedmont has a 19.4 percent participation rate while the average for the county is 7.8 percent.
The authority is proposing to add an annual fee of $9.55 to your property tax bill to expand the service for 10 years. This fee will be used to expand hours of the service at the four drop-off locations (a 33 percent increase at the Oakland location, more Saturday hours) and operate 12 "parking lot" drop-off days around the county. The fee will be reduced if program revenues or cost offsets from other sources occur and will end on June 30, 2024.
Under Proposition 218, proposed new fees are subject to a "protest ballot" whereby residents can oppose adoption of the fee. The letter you received contains information about the fee and the ballot. Ballots can be returned by mail or delivered at public hearings on the new fee scheduled for Feb. 26 and March 26 in Oakland. To learn more about the household hazardous waste fee, go to www.stopwaste.org/proposedhhwfee.
The booklet "wheel" presents the results of a garbage container "benchmark" survey of the 17 Alameda County cities that are members of StopWaste. The study randomly surveyed garbage bins in each city and determined the percentages of recyclable and compostable materials that are being disposed of in the trash -- how much good stuff is going out with the bad.
The purpose of the study is to help cities divert more material from the landfill by showing cities where to direct their efforts through increased awareness campaigns and new programs -- basically to show us how to "sort better."
Piedmont has set a goal of diverting 75 percent of its waste from the landfill and 80 percent by 2020. The study showed that of Piedmont waste currently going to the landfill, 74 percent is garbage, 9 percent is recyclables and 17 percent is compostables (food scraps/containers and yard waste). This is an improvement from 2008 when almost 40 percent of Piedmont's trash was recyclable/compostable. Residential garbage accounts will be charged $1.81 annually to fund the study going forward.
Alameda County has set a recyclable/compostable trash percentage of 10 percent by 2020 so the fee will be revisited then to determine steps going forward. You can opt out of the survey by completing the form at www.stopwaste.org/benchmark or by calling 1-877-786-7927. If you do opt out, you won't get the annual survey but will still receive information from the city about how to improve your recycling. For more information about the survey and recycling, contact Jennifer Feeley in the Planning Department at email@example.com.
Acknowledgments: With the election this past Tuesday, this will be my last perspective as your City Council member, though I hope to keep at it as a member of the public. With that, I'd like to acknowledge some Piedmonters I've come to know while serving on council. Mayor John Chiang has been a stalwart council member, and I suspect he has served more hours than any council member in Piedmont history, what with his service on council and audit, advisory and hiring subcommittees. Our "Matrix Mayor" has a predilection for spreadsheets and sought to lay out all sides of an issue in a matrix so council could weigh all options. It turns out that this is a good metaphor on how to lead council and I advise future mayors do the same. See some of John's handiwork at http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/committees/ccasc/recommendation_matrix.pdf.
Two others I'd like to mention are Ryan Gilbert and Rick Schiller. These two citizens opposed some council decisions but did so with informed and principled positions, always respectfully offered. As the saying goes, "you get the government you deserve" and these two residents reminded me that council members need to do their homework in order to serve in the best interest of our town.
Garrett Keating is a member of the Pied- mont City Council.