“It’s a joke,” says Los Al council member of new state mandate

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Los Alamitos Council member Ron Bates

Cities like Los Alamitos across the state are potentially looking at significant increases to rates charged for waste pickup services as new regulations and associated deadlines passed by the California legislature inch closer to reality.

“It’s a joke,” said newly installed Los Alamitos city councilman Ron Bates, himself a former city manager.

At the most recent city council meeting, Bates expressed frustration with the state after the city’s consultant presented new deadlines and regulations that will likely give the city no choice but to eventually increase rates to accommodate the new regulations.

Given the fact that nearly 30 million tons of organic waste were put into landfills in 2017, the state has passed legislation that will likely force cities and counties to adopt new programs to recycle and, in some cases, redistribute food “organics” to prevent waste.
Bates had sharp questions for Mike Balliet, of MBC Consulting, who the city has hired to guide them through the new maze of regulations.

Balliet said the original legislation was passed in 2013 to reduce “short-lived climate pollutants in California,” while strict mandates in the law applicable for 2022 and 2024 in the law are now edging closer.

With the market for recyclables all but dead, Bates wanted to know what the state was doing to create new markets for all the materials mandated by the recycling law?

Balliet said cities and counties have put considerable lobbying pressure on the state, and while they are succeeding in delaying the guidance, final rules recently sent to the Governor Newsom for approval will mostly enforce the original legislative scope.

“More unfunded mandates,” replied Bates. “It’s a joke.”

Since the city, like most of the state, did not meet the 2020 target of 50 percent reduction, Balliet said 217 businesses or institutions were added to the compliance roles.

According to the consultant, 13 of these are large enough to meet the thresholds to have their own specific programs as required by the legislation.

More than likely, the new law is going to create significant disruption and waste increases for most waste customers in the city when they are implemented, said Balliet.

Asked by Mayor Pro-tem Shelley Hasselbrink about local business compliance, Balliet said the city cannot force those businesses that meet the guidelines to have a program, nevertheless the city is indeed responsible for monitoring them.

Republic Services, with whom the city has contracted for waste disposal services, has been a good partner, said Balliet, adding that 10 of the 13 required businesses have been brought into compliance.

He said the legislation’s scope changes dramatically in 2022, when the state will then have the ability to issue fines for not having programs in place and in 2024, the state will have the power to take action for noncompliance with the new law.

Balliet briefly summarized all of the model ordinances and other documents such as Requests for Proposals the city will likely have to develop and adopt.

The city agreed to continue developing a response.

In other action, the city heard from Howard Kummerman, Executive Director of the Cypress College Foundation, who gave them a brief overview of the upcoming 45th annual Americana Awards.

“Like everyone else,” said Kummerman, “we’ve gone virtual.” And, in another COVID twist, Kummerman said this year’s awards will honor the previous 44 Citizens of the Year from Los Alamitos (as well as those from other cities).

“This is our Reunion Year,” he said.

Kummerman said there will still be a silent auction, albeit online, and will include lots of special prizes, including two electric bicycles donated by Yamaha. He said more than 300 students from Los Alamitos currently attend Cypress College, and the foundation awards scholarships worth more than $400,000 each year.

Los Alamitos’ Mark Chirco said he has attended the event for the past three years. “It’s a great event,” he said, encouraging citizens to participate. Also, he paid tribute to Marilyn Poe, who was virtually attending the city council meeting, and who is a former recipient of the Los Alamitos “Citizen of the Year” honors.

Chirco said he looked forward to the event “honoring all of our past citizens of the year.”

“It’s a joke,” says Los Al council member of new state mandate