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Cypress City Council approves solid waste rate adjustment over strident protests by residents

At the end of a public hearing that stretched longer than most entire regular Council meetings due to the number of angry residents expressing their opposition, the Cypress City Council voted to approve a solid waste rate adjustment to the franchise agreement with Valley Vista Services of Orange County.

The vote was 3-1-1.

Mayor Pro Tem Anne Hertz-Mallori recused herself after receiving a protest from Cypress resident George Pardon that her position as CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Anaheim-Cypress represented a conflict of interest because Valley Vista has donated in-kind services to the Boys and Girls Club. The Mayor Pro Tem firmly denied that the past donation and possible future donation of in-kind services would influence her vote. She had earlier consulted City Attorney Fred Galante, who agreed. However, she left the dais in order to remove herself as a source of controversy.

Councilmember Frances Marquez voted against the rate increase.

Mayor Paulo Morales, Councilmember Jon Peat, and Councilmember Scott Minikus voted in favor.

Background of the issue

It is important to note that the evening’s vote was limited to the rate increase. A prior vote last November had approved a franchise contract extension with Valley Vista. That extension brought the projected length of the solid waste franchise agreement to 22 years from an original length of 10 years.

The large number of residents speaking against the rate approval brought up several points:

  • The contract should have been put out to bid.
    Response: The contract could not be put out to bid without the City breaking its existing franchise agreement with Valley Vista and opening itself to a lawsuit for breach of contract.

  • From Councilmember Frances Marquez: the process used to extend and amend the contract did not align with provisions of the City’s Charter (pdf) that require public works contracts to go out for bid [Article X, Section 12 – Contracts on Public Works].
    Article X, Section 12 – Contracts on Public Works

    Unless subject to an exception set forth in another subparagraph of Section 1012, every project involving an expenditure of more than Three Thousand Five Hundred Dollars (or such other amount as may be prescribed by ordinance) for the construction, improvement, repair or maintenance of public works shall be let by the Council by contract to the lowest responsible bidder after notice by publication occurs at least once and in the official newspaper by one or a manner consistent with Section 420. If publication under this Section 1012 occurs more insertions, than once, then the first of which publication shall be occur at least ten days before the time for opening bids. [Amended November 3, 2020]

    Projects for the maintenance or repair of public works are excepted from the requirements of this paragraph if the Council determines that such work can be performed more economically by a City department than by contracting for the doing of such work.

    The Council may reject any and all bids presented and may readvertise in its discretion.

    The Council, after rejecting bids, or if no bids are received, may declare and determine that, in its opinion, based on estimates approved by the City Manager, the work in question may be performed better or more economically by the City with its own employees and after the adoption of a resolution to this effect by at least four affirmative votes of the Council may proceed to have said work done, without further observance of the provisions of this section.

    Such contracts may be let and such purchases made without advertising for bids, if such work shall be deemed by the Council to be of urgent necessity for the preservation of life, health, or property, and shall be authorized by resolution passed by at least four affirmative votes of the Council and containing a declaration of the facts constituting such urgency.

    Response: City Attorney Fred Galante said that the section of the Charter cited by Councilmember Marquez did not apply to franchise agreements, which do not fall under the category of “public works” but rather under the following article on franchises [Article XI – Franchises].

    Article XI – Franchises

    Section 1100. Granting of Franchises. The Council may grant a franchise to any person, partnership, corporation, or other legal entity capable of exercising the privilege conferred, whether operating under an existing franchise or not, and may prescribe the terms, conditions, and limitations of such grant, including the compensation to be paid to the City therefor. The Council may prescribe by ordinance or resolution the method or procedure for granting franchises, together with additional terms and conditions for making such grants. In the absence of such provision, the method provided by the general laws of the State shall apply.

    Section 1101. Term of Franchise. No franchise shall be granted for a longer period than twenty-five years, unless there be reserved to the City the right to take over at any time the works, plant, and property constructed under the grant at their physical valuation and without compensation for franchise or good will.

    Section 1102. Eminent Domain. No franchise or grant of a franchise shall in any way or to any extent impair or affect the right of the City to acquire the property of the possessor thereof by purchase or condemnation, and nothing therein contained shall be construed to contract away or to modify or abridge, either for a term or in perpetuity, the City’s right of eminent domain with respect to the property of the possessor of any franchise. Every franchise granted by the City is granted upon the condition, whether expressed in the grant or not, that such franchise shall not be given any value before any court or other public authority in any proceeding of any character in excess of any amount actually paid by the grantee to the City at the time of the grant.

    Section 1103. Procedure for Granting Franchises. Before granting any franchise, the City Council shall adopt a resolution declaring its intention to grant same and stating the name of the proposed grantee, the character of the proposed franchise, and the terms and conditions upon which it is proposed to be granted. Such resolution shall fix and set forth the day, hour, and place when and where any person having an interest in or objecting to the granting of such franchise may appear before the Council and be heard thereon. Said resolution shall be published in a manner consistent with Section 420 at least once, not less than ten days prior to said hearing, in the official newspaper. After hearing all persons desiring to be heard, the Council may by ordinance deny or grant the franchise on the terms and conditions specified in the resolution, subject to the referendum of the people. No ordinance granting a franchise shall be adopted as an emergency ordinance. [Amended November 3, 2020]

  • Inadequate notice was given of the public hearing, of the extension of the franchise agreement, and of the State-mandated organic waste recycling program.

    Response: All legal requirements for informing the public were taken advantage of, both ahead of last November’s approval of the franchise extension and ahead of the consideration of the rate change. Further, Valley Vista has been sending out mailers to its Cypress customers since Spring 2021. However, the Council has been and remains open to specific recommendations from residents on how to improve notification procedures and communication channels.

  • The franchise extension was pushed through during the week of Thanksgiving 2021, when most residents would not be paying attention due to the holiday season.

    Response: The City was already late in responding to the State mandate to organize an organic waste recycling program. Postponing the vote would have opened the City to the possibility of State-imposed penalties.

  • Valley Vista had already been granted a rate increase, requiring amendment of the franchise agreement. The City should have held the company to the original agreement. If the company couldn’t meet its obligations under that agreement, the contract could have been voided and put out to bid again.

    Response: The prior rate increase was granted because of changed circumstances: general recycling had changed from a revenue generator to a cost after overseas recycling collapsed. It would have been unreasonable to hold the company solely responsible for such an unforeseen circumstance. Similarly, the unforeseen circumstance of a State-mandated organic recycling program would increase costs that could not be covered under either the original franchise agreement or the later amended agreement.

  • Cypress Council members do not listen to residents’ complaints. Emails go unanswered.

    Response: Council members do listen. Specific Council members (for example, Mayor Morales) do respond to emails and phone calls and letters.

  • Cypress Council members and staff do not respond to residents’ questions at Council meetings.

    Response: Policies and procedures for decorum and conduct at City Council meetings, and the Brown Act, do not allow Council or Staff to respond to questions during public comment, either in-person or online. If you want a direct response, contact City staff about your questions by visiting City Hall; calling the main City phone number; writing a letter to the Mayor or another City Council member; sending an email; or commenting at the City’s website.

    Visiting City Hall: Cypress City hall is located at 5275 Orange Avenue. Park in the City Hall lot and enter through the doors on the north side of the west end of the building. (The east end of the City Hall building houses the newly renovated Police Department.) Turn left to visit the Planning Department. Turn right to visit other departments such as licensing. Any City staff member will listen to your questions. If that person is not the right person to respond, he or she will direct you in the right direction. Note that City Hall has been secured. You will need to find and press a doorbell to get past the locked doors closing off the administrative offices from the central breezeway.

    Calling the main City phone number: The main City phone number is 714-229-6700. Explain your question or need, and the person answering the phone will direct your call.

    Writing a letter to the Mayor or another City Council Member: The members of the Cypress City Council and their current positions:

    • Paulo Morales, Mayor
    • Anne Hertz-Mallori, Mayor Pro Tem
    • Frances Marquez, Councilmember
    • Scott Minikus, Councilmember
    • Jon Peat, Councilmember

    Letters may be addressed to the Council member at City of Cypress, P. O. Box 609, 5275 Orange Avenue, Cypress CA 90630

    Sending an email: The links below may be used to send an email to the listed individuals.

    Commenting at the City’s website: The Contact Us page on the City’s website has a comment form following a lengthy list of phone numbers and email addresses for departments and staff positions. Scroll down past the phone numbers and email addresses in order to fill out the form.

2 Comments

  1. Not happy with our trash service

    1. Author

      Vic,

      Thank you for reading Orange County Breeze, and for taking the time to comment on this article.

      At the January 24 meeting, the City Clerk certified more than 600 signed written comments objecting to the rate increase — so you are not alone. However, that number was too low to block approval.

      Do you have something specific that makes you unhappy with your trash service? Something specific and actionable that the City can address with Valley Vista Services of Orange County?

      Again, thank you for reading Orange County Breeze.

      Shelley Henderson
      editor, Orange County Breeze

Comments are closed.