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Natural Perspectives: Rainbow isn't stealing our gold

March 02, 2011|By Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray

What has kept us from getting a fee increase has been the good work we've all done in sorting our recyclables and green waste from true trash. At Rainbow, recyclables are sorted and then resold. The commodity markets have been good lately, and that is why Rainbow has held the collection fees steady for the past five years.

"Rainbow has been entitled to rate increases since 2006, but we haven't taken them because sales of recyclables has compensated," Shenkman said.

At a diversion rate of 71%, Huntington Beach not only has the highest rate of recycling in Orange County, we tied with Fresno as the top recycling city in California. That was based on figures from 2006. The system of separate collection bins rolled out in 2007 and the amount of material diverted from landfills increased even more.

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With all the investment that Rainbow has made recently in environmentally friendly trash collection and recycling practices, it seems only reasonable that this employee-owned company should finally receive a fee increase after holding the line for five years.

But Vic and I didn't see how that translated to a fee increase for the city as well, so we called Travis Hopkins, director of public works. Turns out that the city is controlled by the same forces as Rainbow and is entitled to fee increases whenever the Consumer Price Index, landfill tipping fees or fuel costs rise. When we talked to Hopkins, he pointed out that the city's share of the fee increase would go to increased administrative costs and to raising the canopies of the city's 68,000 street trees so the trucks can get under them without breaking branches.

There is a mechanism in place to protest the fee increases, set into law by Proposition 218: Any property owner can protest the fee increase by writing a letter to the city clerk's office. Those letters can be mailed or hand-delivered, but they must contain a signature, identify the property and state opposition to the fee increase. These letters then become part of the public record. Maybe it's just me, but it seems pretty silly to spend 44 cents on a first-class postage stamp to protest a 64-cent increase in fees.

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