Shameless Rate Increases: Introduction


It’s awful hard to get people interested in corruption unless they can get some of it.

– Will Rogers

Last fall, Athens Services started sending out letters to its clients arguing it needed to raise rates, using recent closure of the Puente Hills landfill, which everyone has known about for years, as an excuse to raise resident’s trash bills. Many letters proposed something called the “Athens Solution,” which asked cities to approve a “one time” 10% increase in rates which would supposedly then be capped throughout the life of the contract. This is on top of normal Consumer Price Index (CPI) increases, which are determined by formula.

Not to pick on Athens Services, but this shameless request, which was also packaged with a plea to sign with the company for another decade without putting anything up for bid, is an excellent example of how the game is played: you underbid and promise the moon to obtain long term, lucrative government contracts. Once you get the contract, you use any excuse to ratchet up the price over time and secure an even more favorable, juicy contract that will go on indefinitely and then some before your initial contract expires.

If the city council or staff is incompetent enough – and, oh but they often are – you get what you want. If the city council and staff are corrupt enough – and, oh but they often are – you also get what you want.

What follows is the first part of a series examining various responses by southern California cities to Athens Services’s 10% increase request.

Some cities – especially those from more affluent areas, with better resources and more residents with the leisure time to watch what is happening at city hall, told Athens Services to take a hike or negotiated the increase down.

Other cities, especially those with more underprivileged populations, less resources, and more residents busy just trying to get by and therefore with more potential for corruption, simply accepted the increase and passed needless, massive rate increases without informing their residents or doing their homework – sometimes in return for up front cash infusions from Athens Services.

Any city council worth its salt, never mind staff who know what they are doing, knows that the Puente Hills closure is no surprise to anyone and is a worthless excuse to significantly raise solid waste rates to the gouging extent that Athens Services requested. But not every city council, whether they knew this or not, acted on this knowledge.

I’ll add to the table of contents below as I write each post.

Table of Contents

Chapter I: “A Tale of Two Cities: Palos Verdes Estates & Bell Gardens”

Chapter 2: “A Tale of Two Cities: Glendora & San Gabriel”