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Top Celebrities call for an end to gun violence in U.S. Featured

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Ricky Gervais doesn’t care if he’s ever asked back to host the Golden Awards Featured

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Benfica Striker Ola John has his mind on the clash with the Catalans Featured

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2012 Formula 1 season was one of the most exciting and eventful in history Featured

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Oscar Pistorius has never baulked at a hard challenge Featured

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Portuguese exports rose by 13.7 percent in August from a year ago Featured

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In Filing, News Corp. Says Publishing Business Showed $2.1 Billion Loss Featured

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U.S. economy grew faster in third quarter of 2012 Featured

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After losing to Obama, what should Mitt Romney do next? Featured

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EU’s new banking union will break the link between banks and public debt Featured

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Council members highly critical of trash-hauling companies

LOS ANGELES — Multiple Los Angeles City Council members trashed the city’s new commercial waste-hauling system last week, publicly grilling representatives of the companies that have been contracted to operate the six-month-old RecycLA program that has been rife with problems.

“I could not possibly care less how hard it is for you to make this transition. I could not possibly care less,” Councilman Paul Krekorian told some service provider representatives during a meeting of the Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee Feb. 6 after they repeatedly said that the transition to the new program had been challenging.

Before the six-hour-plus meeting, Councilmen Mitch O’Farrell and Mike Bonin held a news conference at City Hall to demand improvements to the program and shared the podium with some business and property owners who have been negatively affected by RecycLA and spoke of skyrocketing trash bills amid a plummeting quality of service.

“I was so stupefied that it was such a disastrous rollout,” O’Farrell said. “I was given assurances, I can’t tell you how many times I had meetings in my office, requesting assurances that this would be successful.”

The franchise waste hauling system was unanimously approved by the City Council in late 2016 and became operational July 1, 2017, with the goal of expanding recycling opportunities to thousands of businesses and apartment buildings while also cutting down on pollution by reducing the number of trucks on the street and requiring service providers to transition to low-emission trucks.

Seven companies handle an estimated $3.5 billion in commercial waste hauling in Los Angeles under RecycLA. Each company is assigned as the sole trash hauler for commercial sites and multi-family complexes in one or more of the city’s 11 zones.

Problems in the RecycLA system started shortly after it became active, including some customers reporting missed service calls and bills that doubled, tripled or quadrupled. O’Farrell said he did not think that contracts needed to be canceled or legal action needed to be taken yet, but suggested it could soon be an option.

“I am very open to having everything on the table to look at this contract. We’re not there yet, but we wanted to make a statement that this must be fixed,” O’Farrell said.

A long line of RecycLA customers told committee members horror stories of terrible service or rates that suddenly increased by hundreds or thousands of dollars.

At the end of the meeting, several pages of recommendations and requests for reports were issued by the committee that would deliver it a comprehensive analysis of the program, along with a request for advice from City Attorney Mike Feuer on legal options the city can take against companies failing the meet the requirements of their contract.

According to the Bureau of Sanitation, there have been more than 28,000 calls connected to missed service pickups from July 2017 through the end of January. But since each service provider has essentially been handed a monopoly, customers do not have a choice to seek out a better or cheaper service.

During the committee meeting, some representatives of the service providers said the transition was difficult in part because they ended up with many more customers than they had been told they would have.

“This is a huge undertaking that we have undertaken, in only 180 days to transition moving kind of quickly,” said Matt Blackburn, vice president of Universal Waste.

Blackburn, as did other providers, stressed that the number of complaints have been very low overall, with his company having a 99.5 percent success rate.

Susanne Passantino, a manager with Republic Services, said “there were a lot of challenges as it rolled out and every single day our goal is to optimize our services with our customers and work through billing disputes.”

However, the statements of the service providers mostly fell on unsympathetic ears on the committee.

“You have been granted an exclusive franchise in your areas. You were given five years to do the due diligence that you needed to do to prepare,” Krekorian said. “Yes it’s hard. Yes, this is a big city,” he added. “But you know what? You’re getting the revenues from a big city as well. You grabbed the brass ring and became the winning bidders on exclusive franchises in the second biggest city in America.’”

Councilwoman Nury Martinez said, “I heard a lot of excuses today and I am not interested in any more excuses. I’m here to simply say you will be held accountable for this contract. You are going to make a lot of money from this.”

Bonin and O’Farrell introduced a motion in December that instructed the Bureau of Sanitation to provide a comprehensive report on the problems with RecycLA, and the report was discussed at the committee meeting.

Two other City Council motions are also addressed in the report, including one from Councilman Paul Koretz and O’Farrell that directs the Bureau of Sanitation to report if certain RecycLA service providers have failed to fulfill their obligations, and whether to proceed with taking the necessary steps to terminate their individual contracts “for such substantial failure.”

The meeting came just days after the Feb. 1 deadline when service providers can be fined for poor service or have their contracts canceled.

While the report does not recommend canceling any contracts, it does note that service providers can now be fined for not meeting the obligations in their contracts, including $100 per missed collection and $300 per missed collection for the same customer within a 12-month period.

Many of the skyrocketing costs associated with RecycLA having come from service providers assessing extra fees for access and distance, including for having to open a gate or for a bin being located a certain distance from the street.

According to the Bureau of Sanitation report, 67 percent of customer have received no extra fees, but the rest — more than 18,000 customers — have received them for either distance or access, with 6 percent being charged for both.

Some customers were erroneously charged, the report said. For example, customers were being charged for access when their gates to solid waste bins were not only unlocked but removed.

According to the report, the Bureau of Sanitation sent a letter to six of the seven service providers on Dec. 15, requesting that charges be removed for distance on 298 properties, and the service providers have agreed to remove 214 of the charges so far.

The report also said a second letter was sent to all seven service providers last month requesting them to remove any distance and/or access charges from 723 customer accounts and that resolutions on these accounts are still pending.

 

Canadian leader hikes Griffith Park with Garcetti

LOS ANGELES — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrapped up his trip to the United States Feb. 10 with a stop in Los Angeles, where he and Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke with reporters at Griffith Observatory and went for a morning hike at Griffith Park.

“This is the largest collection of Canadians outside of Canada here in Southern California and we’re very proud of that,” Garcetti said. “It shows why these relationships are so important at a time when we need to have more bridges and more connections and not more divisions.”

The leaders — both dressed in walking shorts — touted the benefits of economic cooperation between the two countries, including the North American Free Trade Agreement among the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Trudeau was asked for his thoughts about immigration, one of the most controversial topics for all regional leaders in light of President Donald Trump’s prioritization of the issue in his 2016 campaign and in his administration.

“Canadians know that having a strong [immigration] process — where we ensure security, ensure that people coming are going to be able to be successful — is integral to keeping a strong system,” Trudeau said. “So that’s continuing to be my message on immigration, that we are an open and welcoming country, because it’s our strength. But we ensure that welcoming happens through a process that leads to people succeeding.”

The two men also expressed concern and appreciation for the California Highway Patrol officer who broke his clavicle in a traffic accident in Trudeau’s motorcade Feb. 9 after Trudeau spoke at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.

Garcetti said the officer is expected to make a full recovery.

Trudeau was concluding a West Coast swing that included a meeting with Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in San Francisco and a meeting with Silicon Valley tech companies.

 

West Hollywood installs meters to collect donations for homeless

WEST HOLLYWOOD — The city has installed four “homeless meters” to receive donations from the public as part of its homeless initiative.

In late January, the city launched its real change donation station program.

“There are four donation stations presently and if the program is successful, perhaps we can add more throughout the city,” City Councilwoman Lauren Meister said. “Folks can feel good about feeding these meters because the funds collected will go towards the city’s homeless initiative. It’s a great way for community members to support the city’s outreach efforts and services to assist people who are experiencing homelessness.”

The donation stations look similar to standard parking meters, but they stand out as different due to their unique bright purple domes and blue-and-yellow signage. The donation stations offer basic information about the West Hollywood Homeless Initiative and accept both coin and credit card contributions.

They are located at the West Hollywood Gateway on La Brea Avenue, at Plummer Park adjacent to the tennis courts), Santa Monica Boulevard at Robertson Boulevard, and West Hollywood Park.

The city’s homeless initiative was discussed as part of a study session on homelessness conducted by the City Council Feb. 5 at the West Hollywood Library.

The Study Session included a panel of experts in outreach to people who are homeless; social service delivery; safety and law enforcement; public policy and advocacy; and funding related to Los Angeles County Measure H, which is expected to generate millions of dollars annually for services to combat homelessness across Los Angeles County.

“Our study session on homelessness highlighted our approach of working with both social service agencies and law enforcement to address the issue in a collaborative fashion,” Mayor John Heilman said. “Homelessness is an urgent issue throughout the county and it won’t be solved overnight. We need to expand the capacity of shelters, create more supportive housing for those with mental health issues and continue to increase our efforts to ensure public safety.”

The study session included the debut of a three-minute public service announcement video that focuses on the city’s homeless initiative.

The video captures the story of Jake Weinraub, mental health clinician for the Los Angeles LGBT Center, who works to conduct coordinated outreach to connect people who are homeless with a continuum of services and programs.

The homeless initiative seeks to address homelessness with a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency, collaborative response.

It provides outreach and services at the West Hollywood Library as a strategic collaboration between the city, the County of Los Angeles Public Library, and contracted social services provider organizations that include Ascencia, Step Up on Second, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, Safe Refuge, Friends Community Center, and Tarzana Treatment Centers.

These organizations provide on-site weekday outreach hours at the West Hollywood Library, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd.

In order to increase awareness about the homeless initiative and to assist local businesses, residents and community members with information and resources, the city is distributing new informational materials. “Homeless Not Hopeless” cards contain detailed contact information for community members who have concerns or who are being impacted and “Help Is Within Reach” pocket guides are being used by outreach teams to help people who are homeless to access resources.

If you are concerned about a community member who is homeless, call the West Hollywood Homeless Initiative Concern Line at (323) 848-6590.

 

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