Repulsed by Recology's tactics, Kopp strikes name from Adachi initiative


Who knew that a bunch of garbage could get a taxpayer watchdog like former supe/state senator/judge Quentin Kopp threatening not to endorse Public Defender Jeff Adachi's pension reform initiative? But that's what happened according to Kopp, who adds that he was “personally insulted’ by a signature gatherer outside the West Portal post office last week, after he struck his name from a petition he had signed in support of Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s pension reform measure.

Adachi, who has reportedly been paying up to $5 per signature, also came under fire this week from opponents of his measure, who are threatening legal action after an undercover video showed four signature gatherers for Adachi’s measure soliciting signatures while making misleading statements about the proposal.

But this misbehavior had not been made public when Kopp encountered a signature gatherer last Friday, who asked if he would sign the Adachi petition. "I wrote my name and has just started to print it, when he said, how do you feel about Recology?” recalled Kopp, who is backing a ballot initiative that would require competitive bidding and hundreds of millions of dollars in franchise fees from firms who seek to win San Francisco’s garbage collection and recycling contract.

As such, Kopp’s initiative threatens to up-end the terms of an 80-year old charter amendment that resulted in Recology (formerly Norcal Waste Systems) gaining a contractless monopoly on San Francisco’s $226 million-a-year garbage and recycling stream. 

When Kopp asked the signature gatherer, who identified himself as Tim McArdle, why he was asking about Recology, McArdle said he had another petition on hand, which referred to the allegedly satisfactory service that Recology is providing.

At which point, Kopp began to strike his name from Adachi’s $5-a pop petition. McArdle allegedly interrupted, saying, “No, that’s not the same petition as Recology’s.” And when Kopp kept scratching out his name, McArdle allegedly began swearing at him, even allegedly employing the time-honored F-word. “A woman walked by and was shocked,” Kopp said.(So far the Guardian has been unable to locate McArdle, but when we do, we'll be sure to update this post.)

When McArdle grabbed back his clipboard, Kopp said he was able to see that on its backside was what Kopp describes as ‘Recology’s phony petition.”

So, why is Kopp so repulsed by Recology? According to Kopp. Recology recently signed up the city’s top signature-gathering firms to work on their petition thereby preventing Kopp and his associates from hiring these firms to collect signatures for his competitive bidding initiative. "And they are doing so from our rates, the money we pay, its legalized misappropriation of our money,” Kopp claimed

So far, it seems as if Recology’s strategy is paying off, at least in the short term. This week, sponsors of the competitive bidding initiative announced that they will turn in their signatures by December 11 to qualify their measure for the June 2012 ballot—and not their original target of November 2011.

Their decision followed less than three weeks of signature-gathering, a tight squeeze that occured, in part, because the City Attorney’s Office  took the full 15 days allowed by law to review the language of the Kopp initiative, which was first submitted June 3.

Even so, and despite an extensive Recology-financed media campaign that included push polls and network and cable TV ads against competitive bidding,  proponents and volunteers with Kopp's campaign managed to gather the 7,168 signatures they needed to qualify his initiative by the city’s July 11 deadline for submitting petitions for the November election. But some signatures could prove invalid, hence the decision to delay the competitive bidding initiative until June.

And the Guardian learned today that the Board’s Budget and Finance Committee has scheduled a July 20 hearing on whether to award Recology the city’s $11 million-a-year landfill disposal contract, with the full Board set to vote on the issue on July 26 and August 2. In other words, the Board is rushing to make a decision on the landfill, which would further consolidate Recology’s monopoly on the city's waste stream, before the Board’s summer recess.

The Guardian has also learned that the Budget and Finance Committee will hear a resolution July 20 concerning Recology’s existing agreement with the city over garbage. Rumors are swirling that this hearing will allow Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, who sits on the committee, is running for sheriff and has allegedly been meeting with Mayor Ed Lee and Recology president and CEO Mike Sangiacomo behind closed doors, to insert a clause to allow for the payment of a $4 million franchise fee. But insiders assure the Guardian that Mirkarimi has no such plans, although Mirkarimi himself could not be reached.

Either way, as Kopp points out, the alleged proposed $4 million fee would only amount to 2 percent of Recology’s annual revenue from San Francisco ratepayers. 'That’s almost an insult,” Kopp said, noting that Oakland, whose population is 340,000, (42 percent of San Francisco’s daytime population) gets a franchise fee of $30 million.

Now, in a recent report to the Board’s LAFCO committee, Recology claimed it provides $18 million annually in “free services” to the city. But the report did not include an independent analysis of Recology’s estimates, and therefore these claims raised the hackles of Kopp, Kelly and other competitive bidding proponents.

Kopp predicts a $4 million franchise fee would allow city leaders who oppose his measure to claim that one of the two objectives of his proposed initiative have been addressed.

In an interview with the Guardian earlier this year, Mayor Ed Lee said he felt that Recology “has justified its privilege to be the permit holder in San Francisco because of the things that it has been willing to do with us.”

Kopp said Lee repeated this position in June, and that Board President David Chiu recently said that he is opposed to monopolies in concept, but felt that any effort to allow competitive bidding on garbage services would tear the city apart.

“Chiu spoke in such draconian terms I thought I was in Iraq or Afghanistan,” Kopp said.

But these latest developments have strengthened Kopp and Kelly’s resolve to push ahead with their effort to give local residents a chance to decide whether competitive bidding would be better for San Francisco rate payers. As they point out, such a vote doesn’t mean Recology would be ousted from the city because they stand an excellent chance of winning any competitive bid. But it could mean that Recology is ousted from its current cost-plus arrangement with the city that allows them to make an estimated 10-20 percent profit.

And whatever happens, the upcoming battle threatens to shed light on Recology’s business model, which is based on vertical expansion into other counties and states, and the knowledge that, unlike the competitive bids it submits everywhere else in California, it has a guaranteed annual revenue of $225 million in San Francisco. In its 1996 filings with the Securities Exchange Commission, NorCal Waste and its 45 subsidiaries (now known as Recology) reported that San Francisco accounts for 50 percent of its annual revenue. And while those public filings are 15 years old, it’s clear Recology continues to rely on San Francisco for a large and guaranteed chunk of its income.

Or as one insider put it, “When you have a cost-plus contract, you can start buying things—like the Pier 96 development, and the recycling facility. And you can move profits to a different part of the company. You’re not competitively bidding the composting. And you can shift your profits out of San Francisco. And with a cost-plus contract, you put everything in the rates. For instance, the city says it wants composting. Ok, here’s the cost, here’s the bill. But you take the profit from the composting and invest it in San Jose, or San Bernardino, and use it to advance your other objectives, like buying two large landfills in Nevada and financing political campaigns.”

Meanwhile, Kopp says he plans to take Adachi to task for hiring the same signature gathering firm that is trying to undermine his petition.

“And I’m not planning to sign his petition now, and I might not endorse it,” Kopp said.



Sound reasoning,

And, when the Giants lose a game you can blame it on Adachi.

4 minutes til game time!


Posted by Guest h. brown on Jul. 14, 2011 @ 6:05 pm

Adachi's campaign was totally busted lying to the public to get enough signatures to get on the ballot.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 15, 2011 @ 8:36 am

Why can't the billionaires pay in taxes the money they're giving to the sig gatherers and firms? $5 to the gather and how much for the firm? That's the kind of uncontrolled spending that is only okay to screw working folks, not to help us.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 15, 2011 @ 8:48 am

Were you as concerned about what the POA paid for sigs?

The POA paid a few hundred thousand for sigs to put the DROP program on the ballot. Their claimed "cost-neutral" double dipping proposal has yielded an investment return of $52,000,000 thus far. I don't even think "billionaires" generate those kind of investment returns.

(The sig firms just take a slice of the per sig take and you don't have to pay $5 until the last couple of days prior to deadline to get the surge of sig gatherers.)

Posted by Guest on Jul. 15, 2011 @ 10:32 am

Of course, and I regularly vote against everything that the POA and firefighters put on the ballot, not to mention that I comanaged Prop H in 2003 that opened the door to reforming the SFPD in which we were outspent 6:1 or so.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 15, 2011 @ 5:10 pm

Well done. That might have been the last ballot measure to rein in Police or Fire in any way. They are simply out of control now.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 15, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

blah blah blah

Posted by Guest on Jul. 15, 2011 @ 10:19 am

What planet does this guy live Kopp live on? All of these signature gatherers carry multiple clipboards for various initiatives because they get paid by the sig for each. They're not investment bankers - these folks are trying to make a living. Read the ballot summary and sign or not sign...Geez, when did it this get so complicated.

Can I get those three minutes of my life back?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2011 @ 8:26 pm

It really breaks down what this Recology stuff is all about. I've encountered these petitions too, and I find some of these signature gatherers to be really shady in the way they operate. I didn't really get a good sense of what it was about, but the guy's explanation sounded fishy enough that I didn't sign it. Now I'm glad.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 14, 2011 @ 9:09 pm

This makes no sense.

Posted by The Commish on Jul. 14, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

So Kopp is complaining that the signature guy was a scumbag AND that he wouldn't work for Kopp.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2011 @ 10:45 pm

You make him sound like a hypocrite! Oh wait, he is.

Posted by Raelalt on Sep. 06, 2011 @ 10:18 am

It seems like Kopp is complaining that the signature gatherer is a scumbag AND that Kopp is upset that he wasn't able to hire him too.

This guy is a Judge right?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2011 @ 10:37 pm

Who is counsel for Norcal Solid Waste dba Sunset Scavenger/Golden Gate Disposal aka Recology?

Willie Lewis Brown Jr.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 15, 2011 @ 8:38 am

Hasn't been for over a decade.

Posted by Raelalt on Sep. 06, 2011 @ 10:20 am

I petitioned for the competitive bargaining intuitive and I know first hand that re-ecology is organized to harass petitioners. I was followed and interrupted while talking to people about the issues….I have never seen so much energy and money spent to keep the voters from having a choice. Great article!!! I just want to know why they have a choke hold on the city. Sounds like a "Good ole Boy Arrangement"

Posted by Guest on Jul. 15, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

Suhr is quoted in the Exam today as actually telling the Police Commission that he needs to tell his troops that signature gatherers have a constitutional right to petition voters after a petitioner complained about being Does the corruption ever end?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 15, 2011 @ 1:38 pm

Especially considering that The Guardian opposes open and transparent bidding for city services currently contracted out to Non Profit Inc - as well as opposing ANY standards WHATSOEVER for measurement of the effectiveness of the services those non profits provide. We're always hearing how "the bottom line" cannot be the sole determiner of how we decide who is awarded these contracts, that nebulous values like how "progressive" a company is ranked are most important.

How then is trash collection, of all city services, all of a sudden the subject of a burning obsession at The Guardian. Sarah and Tim are literally obsessed with making sure city trash collection is given over to a competitive bid - the SINGLE service The Guardian believes should be subject to that process. Who exactly did Recology piss off in The Guardian's newsroom to merit this jihad? Tim - did Recology issue you a warning for failing to compost your leftover soy milk properly?

We can always award a Chinese company a low-bid contract who would be happy to ship San Francisco's garbage over to China and bury it all. If you're looking for low-bid I can guarantee you there's a company out there which would be happy to do just that.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jul. 15, 2011 @ 1:46 pm

It's simple, Lucretia: why wouldn't a city in the 21st century, amid the worst recession in history, be interested in putting its contracts out to bid?

Posted by sarah on Jul. 15, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

Now that you've stated your position why don't you support bidding and standards measuring for city services like at-risk youth and homeless? If it's good for garbage to be subject to the vagaries of the capitalist market then it's good enough for homeless services.

And don't whine when a Chinese company wins the bid and proceeds to ship SF's garbage overseas and bury it.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jul. 15, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

That is an interesting capitalist perspective for the SFBG to take. If it's "simple," shouldn't we also contract out a lot of city services and/or tasks that city employees perform?

I realize that there is always a backlash when there is a suggestion that SF General Hospital security be contracted out, but there are a lot of job functions that could be performed well by contractors.

Posted by The Commish on Jul. 15, 2011 @ 8:41 pm

Here's the formula - when The Guardian has a beef with the company holding an exclusive contract on a city service, then it's opposed to exclusive contracts and wants the contract put out for public bid.

When The Guardian is in bed with the company holding the contract, like it's in bed with Non Profit Inc and its subsidiaries - it doesn't think those contracts should be placed out for bidding or subject to proficiency/results measurement.

See how that works? It's sorta like The Guardian's definition of "progressive." When The Guardian supports something it's progressive, when it doesn't it's not.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jul. 15, 2011 @ 9:09 pm

Another great article by Sarah Phelan. In the mean time, on other fronts, Recology continues to lose friends and deploy questionable tactics. Humboldt County, Nevada County Commissioners opted NOT to extend the 3-yr conditional use permit for a 20,000 ton a week landfill of non-recycleable CA waste for 95 years, (no environmental impact statement required) on the BlackRock Desert, that Recology did not fulfill.

Recology then opted to sue not only the county; but the commissioners as individuals as well. The original Judge in the mediation for the case strongly advised the commissioners to settle with Recology. Settling included another 5-year conditional use permit time frame. Come to find out, this Judge was a former law partner with Recology's lawyer.

Currently, Humboldty County awaits the outcome of the court decisions (different Judge now involved). A review of the allegations finds Recology blames everyone but themselves for not being able to complete the conditonal use permit.

San Francisco: See the other side of Recology. Aside from tactics, no one I know in SF wants to brag on recycling when you're dealing with a company that is wanting to throw other SF unmentionables over the fence to Yuba County, and other CA waste to Nevada.

Tracy Austin

More information at
-Nevadans Against Garbage facebook group
-Follow DesertPlaya on twitter
-Read Tracy's Blog at Friends of BlackRock:
-Information on the lawsuit Recology has against Humboldt County and the individual commissioners can be gleaned at The case number is 3:10-01-00257-RCJ-VPC.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 15, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

as a result of us putting your concerns above ours. We appreciate that brotherly spirit.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jul. 15, 2011 @ 5:36 pm

Given public information available, it is improbable there would be any extra fees for San Franciscans as a result of anything that occurs or does not occur between Humboldt County, Nevada, and Recology.

-Recology would like to ship San Francisco waste to Yuba County, California, not Nevada
-Recology has noted they are looking to ship waste to Nevada from unspecfied California communities. The communities are allegedly unspecified because you cannot sign a contract to use a landfill that doesn't exist yet.
-Recology has publicly stated they would not ship San Francisco waste to Nevada. "Asked if there was a connection between the proposed Nevada dump and San Francisco's trash, given that the city is only proposing a ten-year contract with Recology in Yuba County, Alberti said the landfill Recology was pursuing in Nevada is a "speculative effort" and that San Francisco "prohibits its waste from being taken out of state." Article this quote is taken from:

Again, while San Francisco and Recology have done great things together and lead us all in recycling, I encourage all to look at the other side of Recology, which is less than positive from an environmental and business tactics side in Yuba County and Humboldt County, Nevada. Citizens near the Recology Lent transfer station in Oregon are also raising some concerns. Competitive bid processes, and knowing, in full who you are doing business with are healthy business processes.

Thanks for the opportunity to clarify the fee comment. Regards.


Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2011 @ 10:34 am

The only entity who could underbid others is Waste Management, and that's the Mob.

Posted by CRS on Jul. 15, 2011 @ 8:56 pm

The crucial point that people seem to be forgetting is that Recology may well win any competitive bidding process. What would change, however, is that they wouldn't be able to take advantage of the city. All this stuff about Chinese companies and such is beside the point. Sounds like the most likely outcome of a competitve bidding process would be that we'd get the very same services -probably from the same company -for a lot less.

As for the mob... well, if it's the mob vs. Willie Brown... that's a really tough choice.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 15, 2011 @ 11:23 pm

It is totally amazing that only Sup. Avalos will endorse the idea of competitive bidding in San Francisco. ... All the other Supes duck the issue, or use "double talk" like Board President Chiu who "likes competitive bidding, in theory". Such verbal gymnastics should be banned....

Judge Kopp is amazing. His gumption and acuity are as strong as ever....along with his "tell it like it is" bluntness..

If the scavengers had gotten their way, back in the 1970s, they would have signed SF to a 50 year contract, forcing the burning of all the garbage, as their solution to landfill "shortage". SF's Richmond Environment Action and the HANC recyclers won that battle, and encouraged the creation of "curbside recyclilng".. (Now HANC is being evicted by the City, so the Rec Park folks can put in a garden center, when the current HANC recycle center is ALREADY a garden center.. This city is a living sequel to "Alice in Wonderland".!!!

Any who like economic efficiency, honest accounting, and community recycling: Now is the time to speak out.

Thank you, Bay Guardian, for doing what you can.

Jack Barry, former head of
Richmond Environment Action, 1973-1996.

Posted by Garbage Reform Needed, Now. on Jul. 16, 2011 @ 10:05 am

I have spoken to Quentin about this issue this evening and he assured me that you are misrepresenting the facts of the encounter.

Posted by Stanley James on Jul. 16, 2011 @ 10:13 pm

"an undercover video showed four signature gatherers for Adachi’s measure"

The shill Nathan Ballard, a pay-to-play hack who has worked for (1) Union Carbide in its two-decade legal battle over paying Inidan peasants murdered in the Bopal disaster, and (2) Gavin Newsome was behind this.

The pay-to-play rent boy will do anybody's work (just show him the $$$). Adachi's amendement got over 80,000 signatures . Ballard uncovered five people in his shill video raid.

But he's got Quentin Kopp aboard now! Congratulations to the hack! Another victory!!

Posted by Ballardputz on Jul. 17, 2011 @ 4:46 pm

Stanley, you need to be a little more specific...

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

Stanley, you need to be more specific: who is misrepresenting what?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2011 @ 7:05 pm

After encountering a number of paid signature gatherers over the last few weeks, I will never again sign a petition circulated by a paid petition gatherer. I have been volunteering my time gathering signatures for John Avalos recently and all of those paid petition gatherers are territorial, nasty, and manipulative monsters.

Posted by Guest Jim Simmons on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 1:30 pm
Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 4:17 pm


paid signature gatherers SEIU

comes up with some interesting links

Posted by matlock on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

What a joke of an article. This sounds like yet another familiar, but pathetic attempt to cast a negative light on Adachi's measure. How can this be called journalism when it only implies that a signature gatherer was rude when trying to obtain signatures for multiple initiatives?

Would you refuse to go to a Giants game because you dealt with a rude scalper outside the stadium who was also trying to peddle Nickelback tickets (a band you disliked)? I wouldn't think so, and I certainly wouldn't think it would be a "newsworthy" issue.

Posted by SanFrustration on Jul. 23, 2011 @ 3:36 pm