An idea that first emerged in 2005 out of Belmont may soon transform how the area’s top waste agency conducts its public business.
If three more agencies agree, the makeup of the South Bayside Waste Management Authority board will shift from being comprised of city staff to elected officials as recently endorsed by a Blue Ribbon Task Force comprised of the authority’s 12 member agencies.
Today, both the Belmont City Council and San Mateo County Board of Supervisors will vote on whether to amend the SBWMA’s joint powers agreement to change the board’s governance to elected officials.
Back in 2005, then-Belmont mayor Dave Warden sent a letter to each mayor of the cities on the JPA that urged them to consider putting only elected officials on the board so that they could make decisions regarding policy and the naming of the executive director.
The SBWMA is also known as RethinkWaste and its members include Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Carlos, San Mateo, San Mateo County and the West Bay Sanitary District.
“Only three cities at that time responded positively, some were even negative,” Belmont Councilwoman Coralin Feierbach wrote the Daily Journal in an email yesterday. “Most of the other mayors didn’t even respond. Finally now it’s coming to pass and I’m very glad it is.”
Feierbach said the SBWMA should be governed like the South Bayside Systems Authority is with elected officials. The SBSA is a JPA that deals with sewer issues for its south San Mateo County members.
Overseeing taxpayer money should be the job of elected officials, the Belmont City Council urged years ago.
“The ability of the SBWMA to commit public funds should be the responsibility of those of us who are elected to represent the citizens of our respective communities, not appointed staff as is the current structure,” Warden wrote to mayors back in 2005.
Today, both the county Board of Supervisors and Belmont City Council are expected to vote in favor of amending the JPA as Warden requested nearly eight years ago. If they do, that would be the sixth and seventh agencies to agree to change the board’s makeup.
San Carlos officials have offered their own slightly different amendment.
To change the joint powers agreement, eight of the 12 agencies must agree, which they are expected to do considering the Blue Ribbon Task Force recommendation for the change.
But switching the county’s solid waste board from senior city staff members to elected officials has no demonstrable advantage, according to a civil grand jury report released just last month.
The SBWMA negotiates waste rates for its member agencies and oversees the Shoreway Environmental Center in San Carlos, which provides recycling.
The civil grand jury concluded the SBWMA would not benefit significantly by doing so and that elected officials already have sufficient influence on major decisions such as contracts and rate increases.
Last year, RethinkWaste suffered a bit of a hiccup when one of its former employees accused its executive director of playing favoritism when awarding some contracts. The allegation prompted an internal investigation that also caused current state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, to bring back the idea of changing the board’s makeup.
He said last year that elected officials would be more accountable to the public.
The Belmont City Council meets 7:30 p.m. tonight, City Hall, 1 Twin Pines Lane, Belmont.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106