Still No Consensus at City Hall on Converting Refuse to Revenue -- Or How to Do It

Categories: City Hall

mccommasbluff.jpg
Waste as opportunity, or waste as the perpetuation of racial and economic inequality? Unfair interference in the trash-hauling free market or the forward-looking future of refuse? Both sides have been hashing it out for a while now, but the Dallas City Council's black members will get back to you on that -- nothing like a consensus emerged at a meeting at City Hall today.

Mayor Mike Rawlings, showing his cards for the first time on the issue of flow control, questioned sanitation services director Mary Nix's numbers and voiced the small-business concern over a "ghost tax" in the form of increased hauling fees that the industry says will result from forcing all trash collected in the city to remain in the city.

For the uninitiated, flow control entails sending all garbage collected in Dallas to the McCommas Bluff Landfill, as opposed to a number of privately owned landfills on the outskirts of the city. The idea, according to Nix, is that eventually a facility will process that waste -- the plastics, wood, aluminum -- and yield a revenue stream on top of nearly $20 million in tipping fees to the city. Schutze has his own issues with that.

No more than a million bucks would go to the Southeast Oak Cliff area as a smelly stimulus to a community struggling with anemic levels of economic development. What's not to love, right?

Well, for starters, the community surrounding the landfill has a legitimate NIMBY gripe that takes the shape of beat-up roads, air quality worries and the perception, as Vonciel Jones Hill put it, "that all trash goes south," away from the noses of white people.

"I continue to vehemently disagree with your position," she said to Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins, whose district includes the landfill and who seems to, at least provisionally, support the ordinance. "But I don't see this as a district issue. I see it as a South Dallas issue."

On the other hand, council member Carolyn Davis pointed out that her South Dallas district is a poor one and verbally shrugged: "[Trash has] been going there for 50 years and nobody said anything about it. Two of my swimming pools are about to get closed. I got pot holes. ... I think we need the money for this city."

Perhaps most skeptical of the cost and feasibility of the project was council member Scott Griggs, who noted the $100-million price tag for a plant that would create perhaps 500 jobs. Is there a plant than currently handles the projected 1.3 million tons McCommas will have to process? he pressed Nix.

"The way we're capturing landfill gas is bigger than anything that's been done before," Nix replied. Dallas, she added, could become a leader.

Angela Hunt forwarded the idea of unbundling the two ideas that have been proposed by Nix as inextricably linked -- the waste recovery and flow control. "I don't want to give up on that idea because flow control presents a challenge."

Long story short, nobody seemed terribly certain where this all is going, or, for that matter, how to get there. They're going to take the issue up again September 28.

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ForPetessake
ForPetessake

Prediction. Flow control, if it passes, will be an albatrose around the neck of the new Mayor and the city manager. None of the promises made in the presentations will come true and rather than focusing on his agenda the Mayor will be fending off allegations that he broke a promise not to increase costs to local businesses. "Dallas Mayor Votes to Raise Taxes on Business." That will be the headline. The Mayor has already called flow control a "ghost tax" in the last council briefing. Nix will not be able to keep any of her promises. The Southern council members will realize that the only jobs generated will be for sorting garbage if they ever materialize at all and the money they hope to get in their slush fund will be much less than predicted and take several years to come if it ever does. Why would the Mayor want to start his tenure with a divisive North/South issue. If there was ever a can that needed to be kicked down the road this is it. Pete I have no doubt you speak for Mary Suhm, heck you might even be Mary Suhm, but the bottom line here is this is a half baked idea and that Mary Nix has no idea what she is talking about. Some council members have already figured that out. Others will. If the Mayor backs this he will be in for a very difficult couple of years.    

Seenitallbefore
Seenitallbefore

Pete speaks like the former City of Dallas PR person he used to be. Mary Nix still has not closed the deal after 6 city council briefings.  She answered no specific question yesterday except that she agrees that most people who live in Japan are Japanese.Neither the Mayor nor many other council members trust her figures and most recognize that her opinions are backed by nothing but pretty pictures. Whether or not she knows how to run residential sanitation services is irrelevant. She is clearly out of her league when it comes to discussing commercial waste. Her last presentation had fewer specifics than any of the others. Her numbers don't add up and she has now admitted on the record that flow control will increase costs for some businesses. The Mayor said he doesn't want a ghost tax increase and I take him at his word that he will not back flow control now that it is clearly established that it will increase costs to businesses.

Pete
Pete

Prediction: Flow Control will get one more brieing on Sept, 19 and Mary Suhm will put it on the agenda either Sept. 21 or the 28 when it will pass with the mayor voting in favor of it.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I would tend to agree with you.  However, Suhm & Nix's idea of simply paying off the South Dallas politicians to ensure passage is pure evil genius.

If I were a broke, self-interested South Dallas politician tasked with representing a disengaged, relatively uneducated group of constituents, the prospect of having total  discretionary control over $1 million in fresh capital each and every year would sound quite appealing.

It doesn't require a lot of thinking to figure out how to channel some of that $1 million back into their own pockets by directing the funds to friends, close associates, supporters, etc.

You gotta' love Suhm.... she has really figured out how to work this Council.  I suspect she won't leave until she tees up some some of special woman-owned business enterprise to sponge off targeted city contracts (in the best tradition of Richard Knight, Willis Johnson, etc.)

Pete
Pete

Actually, the City Council will not only take up the issue, but will pass Resource Flow Control on Sept. 28. Mayor Rawlings is sold on the plan. He asked for that information yesterday just so he could provide it to the haulers who have written him opposing the deal. As for Scott Griggs, he is quickly becoming the biggest irritant on the City Council. All he has done to date is try to prove he is smarter than anyone else in the room and that act is quickly growing tiresome.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

You're right, Pete.  It really IS annoying and "tiresome" to have smart people on Council who actually try to look for their constituents.  I mean, really, what's the point of calling out Mary Suhm when she and/or her crew spew out falsehoods?

And who needs to point out her flawed logic in linking two independent subjects:  flow control and resource recovery-- when, in fact, they don't have anything to do with each other.  In other words, Dallas could pursue resource recovery without flow control and it could pursue flow control without resource recovery.

Griggs isn't out to "prove" anything; do YOU think Dwaine Carraway, Carolyn Davis, Pauline Medrano, etc. are intellectual giants, devoting their days to selfless and tireless service of their constituents?

Downtown_er
Downtown_er

Griggs doesnt haven't a tall wall to climb regarding proving his higher IQ versus the rest of the council. 

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

This is a great model for future consensus building: simply pay off opposing members by giving them a guaranteed, fully replenishing slush fund over which they can exercise exclusive, discretionary control.

AintNoSunshine
AintNoSunshine

"The Accommodation" written by JS is alive and well in City Hall!!!!! 

whodunnit
whodunnit

Well, Mayor Mike promised economic development for South Dallas...........here you have it.

AintNoSunshine
AintNoSunshine

Yeah, as Vonciel Hill said, "all the trash goes south." 

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

"ghost tax "- great buzzword for Halloween time in a pre-election year.  You can hear the chains rattling and spooky groaning.

Tom L (No, Not That L)
Tom L (No, Not That L)

Typo: "Is there a plant than currently handles the projected 1.3 million tons ..."

Anonymous Me
Anonymous Me

@Landfilman is correct. Mary Nix doesn't have a lick of business sense nor do the morons around her. She doesn't even know what due diligence means. Thoroughly enjoyed Councilmember Griggs tearing Mary Nix's numbers apart and exposing her to be the fraud that she is. If Mary Suhm has any sense left, she'll get off the Nix/flow control train fast. Surely, after several months of presentations and more unanswered questions, Suhm has to see that neither one of them can ram this proposal down everyone's throats. Poor Atkins and Davis are so drunk off a free trip to California and M&M punch that they can taste that $1M payoff to South Dallas. Really, how do these fools sleep at night? Oh yeah, that's right... they're all sleeping together. While it was wonderful to see Nix sweat like a whore in church while being questioned by Griggs, it was very disappointing to see a majority of the councilmembers just sitting there and not saying a word. Very suspect. So......thanks to Councilmember Griggs for doing your own homework, being prepared and not taking any of Nix's B.S. I bet he even taught Mary Suhm a think or two as Nix never bothered to tell her boss (Suhm) that the tipping fee at the plant in California is $68/ton -- 3 times the Dallas rate. And the annual revenue is only $6M for a plant that cost over $100M to construct. And, by the way, trash will continue to be buried so Nix is lying when she says there will no longer be a need for the landfill She forgot to show the picture of the landfill in California! Finally, Nix and Atkins need to spend more time practicing their Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis routine. Even Stevie Wonder saw what that was all about at today's presentation.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Mary Nix is the same woman who suddenly couldn't figure out how to pick up trash from the alley after it had been done twice weekly for decades (and happens in other cities til this very day!).

Pete
Pete

She also managed to lower the sanitation rate two years in a row, while all other city fees were increased, and hold the rate steady this year in part by going to once a week trash and recycling pickup. It was an absolutely brilliant move that has been applauded by the overwhelming majority of Dallas citizens. I just returned from a function in which Dwaine Carraway, who originally opposed the idea of onece a week service, said he endorses it wholeheartedly.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Well, you sold me, Pete.  If DWAINE CARRAWAY is impressed with something, it's gotta' be awesome!

Abby
Abby

I was there all day and I saw a passing ordinance by a wide margin. Y'all play your silly role as stirrer of the pot, but I'm afraid you're not very good at counting votes.

SaniMan
SaniMan

Hey insider, your cockiness will get the best of you in the end, as well as the rest of the people in the "system." The "system" is now broken and you don't even have a clue what is coming. Your cocky, but blind. Dangerous combination. 

Simba
Simba

Danielle is drinking again

Landfillman
Landfillman

Ms. Davis also stated that they gave her a tour of the landfill and that she didn't see any trash. Sounds like the city's web site where the landfill looks like a park. Nix made so many misleading or incomplete statements that it is amazing anyone is willing to listen to her. No specifics, a constant refrain of "I'll get back to you" on virtually every substanative question. There is no concrete proposal on the table for any specific project. Michael Sorrell was correct when he told the council flow control should be taken off the agenda until it can be studied in depth.  If the council doesn't insist on proof that any of the enviornmental plans will actually work the next briefing will be on the sale of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Ben
Ben

Actually, if viewed from a distance, it looks like a park. Watch the video below I shot last winter of deer in rut chasing after a doe. In the background, the Enchanted Rock looking thing is McCommas Bluff Landfill about 1/4 mile away. The deer were actually running through the landfill property, through large pecan groves and through hay fields.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

One is a 10 point buck the other a 4 pointer. In addition, the area was so overrun with feral hogs that the city operates a large live trap there. The city catches the pigs and sends them to a meat processor in Fort Worth. If you have eaten wild boar at The Mansion in the past year, it came from a pig that lived next to the McCommas Bluff Landfill. I don't think the pigs could even access the actual landfill trash since it's covered over with dirt daily.

That whole part of Dallas is just misunderstood.

Guest
Guest

Carolyn Davis has potholes.

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