Talking Trash

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After wasting a full hour watching New York Congressman Eric Massa on the Glenn Beck show yesterday there were two points he shared which, when combined with other data, leads me to this story. Eric mentioned the need for and influence of union or PAC money if you are to successfully campaign for reelection.

In searching for an unrelated flyer last night I came across an LA Times feature entitled “Dollar Politics: The Rising Cost of Garbage” where staff writer Jim Newton compared the cities of Anaheim and Mission Viejo.

The Orange Juice has previously listed contributions received by several office holders. This Times story, while dated, warrants further comments based on what we know today.

In their feature they mention the Times Reporting Methods. “Figures for this Dollar Politics series were developed as part of a two year Times Orange County Edition investigation using a computer to analyze contributions to candidates for elected offices in Orange County.”

The city of Mission Viejo is currently evaluating four bidders competing for our lucrative trash removal contract which is due to expire next year. They are Athens Services, CR&R, Ware Disposal and Waste Management. On the table is an opportunity to serve our 100,000 residents residential and our commercial waste removal for the next 10 years that will generate between 8 to 10 million per year.

Let’s look in our rear view mirror to the Times report before looking out our windshield.

“Mission Viejo. This quiet residential community hardly the place to host Orange County’s great garbage war, but that’s exactly what has happened.

City politics have been poisoned for nearly two years by a garbage contract dispute unlike any other in Orange County. Already it has been a factor in tossing one councilman from office, pitting two of southern California’s biggest haulers against each other and fueling a bitter battle among city leaders.

“I used to think that trash was boring,” Councilman Robert A. Curtis said in a recent interview, “I was wrong.”

While I do not have a link to the old Times story let me add one other paragraph before covering Mission Viejo 2010.

“In the fall of 1990. Western Waste Industries Inc., made several contributions to a pair of intertwined political action committees known as the Southern California Caucus and Supervisors’ Reception. Those PAC’s took that money, mingled it with other contributions and participated in political campaigns, including Mission Viejo council races. In Mission Viejo, Western Waste was fanning dissatisfaction with the existing residential trash hauler–Dewey’s Rubbish Service. Among the beneficiaries of the PAC money were three Mission Viejo council candidates and a PAC chaired by Councilman Robert A. Curtis. Curtis mingled those contributions with other money and funneled donations to his favorite council candidates, who joined him as critics of Dewey’s service.”

Gilbert Note: Recipients of said funds were Robert “Bob” Breton, Sharon Cody and Alan Gallup.

Since her election in 2008, Mission Viejo council member Cathy  Schlicht stands alone. She doesn’t take any trash and she surely has not taken any donations from trash haulers.

While there is a gag order in Mission Viejo wherein the council members cannot dialogue with any of the bidders let’s look at their 460 contribution reports to see who has taken money and from whom.

$1500 seems to be the universal limit for trash hauler contributions.

Let’s analyze the 460 filings of the Mission Viejo city council for the period covering July 1, 2009 through Dec 31, 2009. As he is history I am not including our former mayor. The four competing trash companies have kicked in as follows:

Athens Services. $1500 each to John Paul Ledesma and Frank Ury

CR&R   $1500 each to Trish Kelley, John Paul Ledesma and Frank Ury

Madison Materials $1500 to Ledesma and $750 to Ury

Ware Disposal (the parent firm of Madison) $1500 to Kelley &Ledesma and $750 to Ury.

Waste Management  $1500 each to Kelley, Ledesma and Ury

As stated above. Cathy Schlicht refuses to solicit or accept any contributions from city vendors.
To summarize. In the last six months of 2009 JP accepted $7500, Frank Ury $6000 and Trish Kelley $4500.

When you speak to city vendors they will generally tell you that they only give campaign contributions to incumbents which is yet another disadvantage for any challenger. And like some people at the track they place their bets on every horse in the race so they can go home bragging about being a winner.

While contributions don’t guarantee a Contract, they generally give you an audience with the decision makers. That’s life in the political arena.

One interesting contribution received by Frank Ury warrants our antenna going up. He accepted $250 from Withrow Consulting last October. While I cannot substantiate it I did hear a rumor that former mayor Susan Withrow, who has been MIA since being trounced in the 2002 revolution, was representing one of the current bidders.

Timing is everything. There is no way of discovering how much money these competitors have given to the current city council since Jan 1st in that the next 460 filing is not due until AFTER this contract is scheduled for a Public Hearing in the next 60 days. Hopefully we will know how much if any additional contributions they received before they cast their votes for a contract that could reach $100 million dollars. That my friends is not “chump change.”

Perhaps NY Congressman Massa was correct in promoting campaign finance reform yesterday. Simply look at Meg Whitman who is trying to buy the right to represent the GOP in this year’s race for governor. How much has she spent to date. We read that she gave her campaign $39 million which is peanuts for a billionaire.

About Larry Gilbert