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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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StopWaste strives to stay in business

Uploaded: Mar 25, 2014

Updating a February post, the Alameda County Waste Management Authority ( is poised to skirt the spirit of the law and establish a fee for hazardous waste collection for every household in the county.
The authority, which consists of council members from each Alameda County city, plus a supervisor and special district rep, held a hearing on the new fee on Feb. 26 and is poised to approve it at 3 p.m. tomorrow at its monthly meeting. The board concluded that there were not sufficient objections to stop the fee.
Contrary to what I wrote previously, the fee would have to be objected to by the majority of property owners in the county to be prevented (thanks to Leslie Strauss of Emervyille for pointing that out).
Clever lawyers have determined that the fee does not violate Proposition 218, a constitutional amendment passed by state voters in 1996 that required any new fee or increase in taxes be approved by a majority vote of the citizens. There will be no vote on this one—the board is poised to adopt it having determined at its Feb. 26 meeting that there is not a majority of property owners objecting. Leslie reports whether they will actually count the objections is an open question.
StopWaste sent letters out in January to all residential property owners informing them that the county waste authority (one of the two government bodies that comprise StopWaste) was going to institute a fee of $9.95 annually per unit for 10 years to operate its hazardous waste collection service. In its cash-flush days, the agency built its state-of-the-art collection centers such as the one in east Livermore off Vasco Road.
If you collect your unused paint, solvents, pesticides and pay attention to the calendar, it's a fairly efficient process to drop them off. The big challenge is that the center in Livermore is only open six days a month (Thursday through Saturday, twice monthly).
The proposed fee will raise $5 million annually—a big chunk of the overall budget. Currently the program is funded by a $2.15 per ton charge that is shrinking as the volume of waste declines.
As I wrote previously, for most government agencies and the bureaucrats they employ —as well as many other institutions—the No. 1 goal is to stay in business. For StopWaste, the reduction in tonnage at the dumps is a great victory. Instead of declaring victory and going out of business, the mission creeps or goals are revised upward so the agency stays around.
The core question remains: is there a cheaper and more convenient solution. How about contracting with the transfer stations—that operate seven days a week—to become drop-off centers. Instead of adding yet another fee for no improvement in service, the agency should ask the more fundamental question—how can we serve the residents more efficiently?
The local reps are council members Jerry Pentin (Pleasanton), Don Biddle (Dublin) and Laureen Turner (Livermore).
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Derek langer , a resident of Downtown,
on Mar 26, 2014 at 12:51 pm

I think it is incorrect to state that there will be no improvement in service. I believe they are proposing an increase in collection hours and several new community collection events each year. It seems like the reporting is a bit biased here.

Posted by daveg, a resident of Birdland,
on Mar 27, 2014 at 9:38 am

And if there is no improvement in service, what then is our recourse? Proposing and doing are not the same.

Posted by dbrower, a resident of Alamo,
on Mar 28, 2014 at 4:43 pm

"For StopWaste, the reduction in tonnage at the dumps is a great victory. Instead of declaring victory and going out of business, the mission creeps or goals are revised upward so the agency stays around."

How could they go out of business? Did reducing tonnage completely eliminate waste there, or the need for toxic disposal?

I can understand a complaint about fee with no vote, and that could prompt a suit to validate the claims, but I really don\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'t get wanting the agency to go away.


Posted by Jacoby, a resident of Amador Estates,
on Mar 29, 2014 at 8:19 pm

But there is a vote,- all property owners were sent a notification and ballot to cast a protest vote if desired. Fine if some do not want the service, but it is weak to try and twist this into a situation where the public agency is acting irresponsibly. If disposal is decreasing, so is the revenue available to provide hazardous waste drop off facilities. The funds need to come from somewhere, and I believe charging property owners, who generate the material, makes good sense. .

Posted by Pedal Power, a resident of Danville,
on Apr 14, 2014 at 9:53 pm

While there definitely needs to be a safe way to dispose of hazardous waste, the method used to push this through seems suspect as there is a world of difference between a majority voting positively and a majority not voting negatively. On the other hand, per my wife, fees are not taxes so stop complaining. Glad we live in Contra Costa, (unless we already got the increase and I didn't notice) :-P

Posted by Finally $1 Milion sneaky tax recinded, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on May 6, 2016 at 10:44 am

I am glad to see one sneaky tax was rescinded by the Alameda County Waste Management Authority Board.
The so called BenchMark Fee was added to everyone's garbage bill without a vote of the public in 2014. Much as Tim said they only offered an inconvenient and difficult way to opt out. And even if you did you still got charged for a year or two.
Even now after they determined it is not a worthwhile use of your money, you'll still pay the tax until June 30, 2017.
Bureaucracy at it's worst.
Why not be honest, and just cancel this corrupt, immoral, if not illegal tax?

See article:
At its April 27 meeting, the Alameda County Waste Management Authority Board unanimously adopted a resolution that phases out the Agency’s Benchmark service and fee in June 2017, saving close to $1 million each year for garbage ratepayers in the county. The service, funded by an annual fee to garbage account holders in Alameda County, was developed to increase the level of waste reduction in households and businesses in the county.

The service began in 2013 and has provided account holders with information on waste reduction performance, showing communities and businesses the amount of waste that they could have prevented. The idea for the program, based on academic studies, was that feedback to account holders on recycling performance would result in improved recycling habits.

The program includes data collection on the amount of recyclable and compostable material in garbage containers, analysis of the data, and a report of findings sent to account holders. After completing an evaluation of the service, the Agency determined that there are other approaches that can be used in the future outside of the Benchmark service and fee to communicate about recycling best practices.

“We value innovation and I appreciate the creativity of staff for developing novel approaches to stopping waste, including this service,“ said ACWMA Board President Jerry Pentin. “And I applaud the Agency for rescinding a fee and not trying to repurpose it for another use. That’s rare these days for a public agency.”

Account holders will continue paying for the fee (ranging from $1.74 to $20.68 annually depending on the level of garbage service) through June 30, 2017, with a final report going out to account holders in July, 2017. More information on the Benchmark service can be found at

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