Letter from Mike Honda’s Staff

Hello everyone, 
I work for Congressman Mike Honda in his Washington DC office on Federal Environmental Policy. I also support his work as a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, specifically in his role on the Energy and Water subcommittee. While I currently live and work in Washington DC, I grew up in Fremont, and am very familiar with the odor issue. 
My role in joining this group is to provide information to the group on Rep. Honda’s past and current actions relevant to this issue, and to provide insights on the Federal government, its agencies, and what it is capable of doing on this issue. I am also working closely with members of Rep. Honda’s district office staff: District Director, Lenine Umali, and Director of Constituent Services, Cathy Ming-Hyde.
Last week, I was in California and had a great meeting with some of the members of your group to learn more about your interactions with the governmental offices who should be leading the way in acting on this issue, since all of the primary decision makers are at either the state or local government, and I have reported to Rep. Honda about the meeting. 
I will now outline in detail, Rep. Honda’s relevant work on this issue. Briefly Summarized: 
1) Working to ensure federal agencies are aware and involved – Both the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency. 
2) Using his position as a leader on the Appropriations committee to allocate funds to the above agencies and to the Bureau of Reclamation. 
As a Member of Congress, Rep. Honda has authority to work with Federal Agencies. With respect to the odor issue, the two of relevance are the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which manages the nearby Wildlife Refuge and Salt Ponds, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 
Rep. Honda personally asked the Director of FWS to have his agency be involved in the odor discussion, and they joined the odor stakeholder group. Right now, Rep. Honda is working with the EPA to bring a workshop on their new ‘Managing Waste Streams Tool’ to the district in August. However, these agencies are limited in the action they can take on the odor issue. 
FWS only has authority over the wetlands and salt ponds, and while they allowed sensors to be placed on those lands, not much else can be done in their domain. The EPA regulates hazardous waste, but not municipal (household) waste, and while they do regulate air quality under the Clean Air Act, odors are not included. This is because when the Clean Air Act was drafted in the 70s there were (and still are) many factories or facilities across the country, particularly in the South, that create nuisance odors, and are vehemently opposed to such regulation.  
Today, the GOP has a supermajority in the House, and a majority in the Senate. This means that they essentially control all legislation that comes up for a vote. Every piece of environmental legislation that has come up in the House since they took control has focused on gutting the EPA, reducing environmental regulations, and allowing polluters to pollute more. Rep. Honda has consistently voted against these bad bills, and has been recognized for doing so and for his environmental leadership by the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, and Defenders of Wildlife. 
In Congress, Rep. Honda sits on the powerful Appropriations committee. While each of the 435 members of the House of Representatives can submit ‘requests’ for how to fund our federal programs, the 50 members of the Appropriations committee are the ones who actually make the decisions. Rep. Honda is the lead Democrat of the Commerce, Justice, Science subcommittee, which funds science research and agencies like NASA and NOAA, and he is a senior member of the Energy and Water subcommittee, which funds the Department of Energy, Army Corps of Engineers, and Bureau of Reclamation. 
It took Rep. Honda over a decade in Congress to gain the seniority necessary to be placed in these positions of influence.  With the GOP in the majority, and with their ban on earmarks, which used to direct funds to specific projects within a member’s district, positions of influence in the appropriations process are far more important than before. 
With regards to the odor issue, Rep. Honda has consistently requested and succeeded in increasing funding for the Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART and Title XVI program.  These programs support grants for improving water efficiency and recycling. Milpitas has already benefited from these programs, as this money was used to fund the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center(SVAWPC), which is on Zanker Road, close to the San Jose-Santa Clara Waste Water Treatment Facility.  The SVAWPC takes water that has been treated by the waste water facility, and brings it to near-distilled water purity.  
Rep. Honda will be working this year to further increase Title XVI funding so that the SVAWPC can undergo an upgrade to expand their capacity. However, I must note, that water recycling projects do not actually solve the problem of the ‘sludge’ collected from the primary water treatment process, they instead make treated water re-usable and re-drinkable. 
As a final note, my posts here are done in my official capacity as a member of Congressman Honda’s staff, and as such, I do not have any affiliation or contact with any campaign. 
Laurie Chong
Laurie Chong, Ph.D.
Office of Congressman Mike Honda
1713 Longworth House Office Building 
Washington, DC 20515  

June 7th City Council Meeting (Garbage Disposal Contract on Agenda)


Thanks to the people who showed up last night and spoke on behalf of the community! Last night, the Milpitas City Council unanimously voted to put the referendum on the Nov ballot.  This means that the Waste Management disposal contract is suspended (put on hold) until the voters cast their votes in Nov. As the City Council stated, they believe that the Disposal RFP (Request for Proposal) process is competitive, open and transparent.  However, with Republic Services having enough signatures for the referendum, their only option was to place the item on the ballot. This strategic move by Republic Services will cost taxpayers at least $53,000 for the item to be placed on the ballot, remember that initially Republic didn’t even participate in the RFP process for disposal contracts. Republic wanted to bundle both the disposal and collections services which would then lead to less competion for the collections contract since many collections providers do not have a disposal site.

We are still waiting for the exact text of the referendum that will be placed on the ballot before taking our next action. Of the two choices the city council had the alternative being to rescind the decision of awarding the contact to Waste Management, placing it on the ballot is a good decision by City Council.  Now it will be up to the voters and we will be trying to get our message out to them.

This move by Republic undermines the City of Milpitas competitive, open and transparent process for disposal & collections bidding process.  Republic is trying to maintain their 30 year monopoly over disposal & collections in Milpitas.

Read more in this Milpitas Post article.

You can watch last night’s city council meeting online at the link below:
[ the agenda item is #17, and it is the last item on the agenda, so jump to near the end of the video]
Tuesday, June 7th @7pm Milpitas City Hall

Milpitas City Council will decide on whether to rescind a resolution awarding Waste Management with the disposal contract OR place on the Nov ballot a referendum sponsored by Republic to overturn the resolution.

The entire bidding process was competitive, open and transparent. Republic decided NOT to submit a bid on the disposal contract and therefore lost the disposal contract. Now it is seeking to reverse the Milpitas City Council decision which will cost the City at least $53,000 to place this item on the ballot.


The following was pasted from the Meeting agenda…

ITEM 17 on the June 7th agenda:
Consider Action and Adopt a Resolution Calling for a Ballot Measure Following Receipt of Petition for Referendum on Award of Contract for Solid Waste Services to be Placed on the Ballot for the November 8, 2016 Election (Staff Contacts: Mary Lavelle, 408-586-3001 and Chris Diaz, 408-586-3050)

Background: Proponents filed a referendum petition with 3,777 voter signatures in the City Clerk’s office on April 14, 2016. The City Clerk certified to the City Council on May 17, 2016 that 2,541 signatures were found sufficient and that number was more than required to qualify June 7, 2016 Milpitas City Council Agenda Page 17 this matter to go on the next election ballot. The referendum seeks to overturn Resolution No. 8532 adopted by the City Council on March 15, 2016. The Resolution awarded a contract to one of two bidders, Waste Management Inc., for the City’s solid waste disposal services. Because the referendum petition was filed within the required 30 days timeframe, the contract award is currently suspended.
Two options are possible on this matter. If the City Council chose to rescind the resolution, then the matter would not go to the ballot. If the City Council adopts a resolution calling for the ballot measure to go onto the November election based on the voter petition, then Milpitas voters could vote to ratify the Council-adopted Resolution (maintaining the contract award) or not.

Based on the report received from the City Clerk on May 17, 2016, the City Council must take one of the following actions, per California Elections Code §9237:
a) Move to rescind Resolution No. 8532; or,
b) Adopt a Resolution calling for a Special Election for Milpitas voters to consider the referendum on Resolution No. 8532 to be consolidated with the municipal election scheduled
on November 8, 2016.

Fiscal Impact:
If the City Council calls for this measure to go on the ballot, the City of Milpitas will have to pay unbudgeted election costs of approximately $53,000 in FY 2016-17 in addition
to budgeted amount for the scheduled municipal election on November 8, 2016.

Adopt a Resolution calling for a ballot measure following receipt of Petition for Referendum of Resolution No. 8532 awarding a contract for Solid Waste Disposal Services to Waste Management Inc. to be placed on the November 8, 2016 election ballot, consolidated with the scheduled municipal election on that date.