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November 28, 2006 > More waste from

More waste from

by Steve Warga

There may be other public agencies wasting more time and taxpayer money than the Alameda County Waste Management Authority (ACWMA), but it’s doubtful. After years of wasted time and millions of wasted dollars trying unsuccessfully to establish a composting site in Sunol Valley, the Authority’s top management team cannot come up with an alternative. At this month’s board meeting in San Leandro, Executive Director Karen Smith and Senior Project Manager Brian Matthews repeated their October performance of “I don’t know, what do you want to do?”

This routine seems to work with politicians and community representatives charged with oversight of county waste management policy. Instead of demanding performance from senior staff, the board prefers to stumble from one vague suggestion to another. The entire effect resembles a high school sophomore civics class project where the teacher provides no leadership or direction.

Smith repeatedly asks the board for “some direction” although she is paid to provide direction and leadership. Mathews observes, ever ready to respond to questions, or to record tasks directed his way but this seems to be the extent of his contributions to the cause. Yet, a review of the brief resumes posted for staff at suggests of Mathews, “He brings over a decade of private sector experience managing large-scale composting facilities with expertise in material recovery facility operations, food-processing, organics processing and marketing.” Why isn’t he applying this stellar background to voter-mandated recycling goals?

There are others on staff with experiences and degrees similar to Mathews’. Where are they? And why did the board ignore this impressive array of talent, deciding instead to hire an outside consultant for advice and direction? In fact, this was about the only solid result of that November 15 meeting. They also approved the October meeting minutes; and managed to recognize one outgoing member. Credit the board as well for listening to a couple of extemporaneous presentations in response to an informal request for proposals sent last month. One of these overviews seemed quite promising, but it will be several months before this board gets around to seriously considering any of the ten or so proposals awaiting a hearing.

Garbage that could be recycled continues pouring into landfill dumps; every ton of which has a fee levied that will go into ACWMA coffers. From there, the money mostly goes into the pockets of Smith and company. In return for what? So far, the answer to taxpayers is, “Nothing.”

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