Tomorrow the Williamson County Commissioners Court is scheduled to vote on the new landfill contract with Waste Management, Inc. (WMI). The agenda is here [.PDF], the landfill is #27 for those scoring at home. An interesting aside, #28 is a presentation by NASCO.
There are several interesting points in the new Hutto Citizens Group newsletter, Will Tuesday be a day of disaster for Williamson County? [.PDF].
Click “Read the rest..” for full story.
First, it appears that county judge Dan Gattis, Sr. and members of the commissioners court, believe that not only does the new contract make the county the owner of the landfill, but they believe that Williamson County is the sole operator as well. County officials will not answer the question of why WMI continues to be listed on the contract as the “operator” and not the “contractor”. Having WMI listed on the contract as the “operator” is an important distinction that is detrimental to the county in the long run. It will allow WMI to take total control of the operations of the landfill if this contract is approved. WMI, under the new contract, would operate and expand the landfill as most benefits their corporate profits, without regard for what may be best for the county and its citizens.
The second is county attorney Jana Duty’s previously mentioned brief filed with the Attorney General’s Office, regarding the commissioner’s ability to use outside counsel without the approval of the county attorney. Contrary to EOW’s earlier speculation on this issue, it appears that Duty may be taking issue with the use of outside counsel to keep the commissioners court from finding out, no matter what WMI has said to them, that WMI is aware of and wants to make sure they stay an “operator” on the new landfill contract. The newsletter points out that the court may not be aware of the fact that WMI is pressing so hard to stay on the contract as an “operator”. As quotes from the depositions show, Gattis believes that the county is the “sole permittee” (for purposes of this post permittee and operator are interchangeable). The newsletter goes on to show that keeping that information from the county officials may be what WMI’s representatives intend to do. This fact may come to the commissioners’ attention if outside counsel, which Duty opposes, was able to vet the contract for the county.
The third point the newsletter makes is probably the easiest one to understand. The contract, when compared to similar deals, is a horrible deal financially for the county.
A scenario where a county attorney is working with the lawyers of a corporation to keep key information from other county officials would help explain why county officials continue to approve of such a bad deal for the county.
Keep in mind that while the county is attempting, and failing, to get a better deal on the landfill. WMI’s main goals are to be able to remain as an “operator” on the contract and gain clearance from the state to expand the landfill as it benefits WMI.
This part of the newsletter is particularly interesting (emphasis added):
The tragedy for taxpayers and citizens if this contract is approved is that WMI will have gained total control of a public asset worth at least $40 million, and that’s a conservative estimate. The royalties paid to the county off of revenue derived from the landfill operation will be significantly less than what the return on investment (ROI) should be on a value of $40 million, $50 million, or $60 million dollars. On the other hand, WMI’s investment ends up being very small in comparison to the asset it would control. For WMI, it could end up being the best of all worldsâ€”control of a multimillion-dollar landfill asset without having to buy the property or pay the property taxes. The result is a business operation in which a private company gets a major taxpayer subsidy. It amounts to major corporate welfare, a strange circumstance in a county where the ideologies of Reagan Republicanism, free enterprise and market competition are held in such high esteem. It is very surprising that the substantial Republican influence in Williamson County would tolerate such a welfare policy which is adverse to competition in the open market.
This paragraph goes to the heart of the game that’s been played on Americans since the “Reagan revolution”. Republicans have never believed in the “free market” they believe in a system jiggered in favor of corporations. There is absolutely nothing new about what our Republican-controlled government is doing right now in Williamson County.
“Conservatism” or Reagan-”ism” has always been based on a philosophy that government is bad, corporations can do everything better. It is redistribution of wealth from everyone else to the rich that is now showing itself in the utter decay of our infrastructure – be it transportation, education, health care, sewers, and energy, to name few. The saddest part of it is that it’s taking so long for the American people to realize it.
“Reagan Republicanism” was always a sales job. From voodoo economics to deregulation, the majority of the American population has been paying for it ever since. It shouldn’t be shocking to anyone that Republicans are governing in a way that benefits corporations, the rich and powerful. That’s what they believe in. They’ve been saying it and governing that way for years.