Note: This is my take on the landfill public hearing that took place Monday, Nov. 22 at the DeKalb County government complex at 2550 Annie Glidden Road. I am a registered objector to the landfill expansion plans and a founding member of Stop the Mega-Dump.
The public hearing on the appeal of the County Board’s decision to approve the siting application for a major expansion of the landfill in Cortland was attended by more than 150 residents. Many of those made public comments against the expansion. None spoke in favor of it.
After a full day of testimony and public comments, Amy Antoniolli, an attorney with Schiff Hardin who was representing the DeKalb County Board, opined that the Stop The Mega-Dump group didn’t really object to the board’s conduct in the proceedings. She said the group took exception to the state’s rules for the siting application process. She thought the whole process was very fair and that the county board took their jobs seriously.
Waste Management’s attorney, Don Moran, also maintained the proceedings were fundamentally, even bent over backwards, fair. No one was denied access to the hearing, according to Moran. Nor did he feel that anyone was denied the opportunity to present information. He said that those who thought the siting application was a done deal were deliberately misinterpreting comments board members made, or taking them out of context, to further their agenda.
George Mueller, attorney for Stop the Mega-Dump, argued that the process was procedurally and substantively unfair because certain members of the board had, in their hearts and minds, spent the host fees before voting on the landfill expansion. He cited the jailhouse expansion as an example. He said that certain members of the county board and Waste Management employees got too cozy on bus tours. He took exception to pre-filing procedures conducted by Waste Management and consultants hired by the County Board. Mueller said that evidence submitted will be argued to prove that the siting application did not meet the nine criterion required and that the manifest of evidence was not met.
A decision on the appeal from the Illinois Pollution Control Board is due March 3.
Personal notes and observations:
Don Moran is WM’s hired hand and he’s good at what he does. He tries to get the witnesses to interpret their own words to suit his Waste Management perspective. I thought Stop the Mega-Dump’s witnesses — Paulette Tolene Sherman, Danica Lovings, Dan Kenney and Mac McIntyre (muah) — avoided his tongue twisting attempts.
Lovings testified to her difficulty in obtaining the siting application. Getting copies of the nine thick notebooks of 7,000 pages plus exhibits was never really an option. Lovings was told she would have to review the application at the library. Moran thinks that is good enough. Lovings thought such an arrangement was not workable due to parental responsibilities and that put her at a disadvantage informing herself in the time allowed before the siting application Public Hearing.
Dan Kenney, chair of Stop the Mega-Dump, testified that board member Julia Fauci told him the landfill expansion was a done deal shortly after the Host Fee Agreement had been reached. Moran tried to get Kenney to concede that Fauci meant the Host Fee Agreement was a done deal. Kenney maintained that Fauci had pre-judged the application.
Background: The Host Fee Agreement was approved in March 2009. Kenney’s conversation with Fauci was in August 2009. The siting application was filed Nov. 30, 2009 and the Public Hearing was held in March 2010.
The attached file (click on thumbnail image) is a digital copy of an email Fauci sent to a constituent on Feb. 22, 2010. This date is important for two reasons: 1) it is one week before the Public Hearing and 2) it is the day that Fauci read County Administrator, Ray Bockman’s email to all board members informing them that they could not discuss anything related to the siting application or the landfill with their constituents.
The first sentence of the email states: “This was not an easy decision to make until all the facts were in…” The rest of the email explains why Fauci had decided, a week before the public hearing, why the landfill expansion was necessary.
Fauci might have received the email from Bockman when she hit the send/receive button. Three minutes later she sent her constituent another email with instructions to destroy the previous communication because she just found out she wasn’t allowed to talk with anyone for or against the landfill expansion.
Paulette Sherman gave strong testimony regarding board member Riley Oncken’s behavior and statements made at the siting application hearing. Oncken was on the Pollution Control Facility committee. During a break he allegedly told Sherman that Clay Campbell was tanking his campaign for State’s Attorney by signing up and participating as an objector. According to Sherman he allegedly said something to the effect that the people objecting to the siting application had too much time on their hands and they were wasting it because “they” had their minds made up.
Moran would probably disagree that Sherman’s testimony was strong. But Antoniolli, representing DeKalb County, called Riley Oncken as the County’s only witness to rebut Sherman’s account.
Oncken testified that he never made any such comment to Sherman about any of the board or committee having their minds made up. He said to a room filled with a lot of residents of his county board district that if he would have voted on the issue as a legislator he would have voted no but in his quasi-judicial role he had no choice but to vote that the manifest of evidence met the nine required criterion. He also said that when he said that there were people objecting to the siting application with too much time on their hands he was referring specifically to Mac McIntyre (muah) and Grace Mott.
Message received, Mr. Oncken.
After my testimony I had several people say they thought I did a good job. Others said I looked as pale as a ghost. I don’t think Caitlin Mullen over at the Daily Chronicle was the slightest bit impressed. Frankly, I’ve been playing coulda, woulda, shoulda ever since.
When Moran asked me to name names of those who were denied access to the Public Hearing or had difficulty obtaining or accessing siting application info I should have told him that he had in his possession all of those names and that if any one of the 150 or so people in the room had any such difficulty I’m sure they would speak up. Instead I froze because I’ve never been good with names. I could see faces in the audiences of those who complained about various fairness issues, including information access. But I couldn’t remember the names of those faces who asked for confidentiality. I knew Janet Johnson’s never afraid to let her opinions be known.
I saw Cortland’s mayor, Bob Seyller, out of the corner of my eye. He probably wishes I hadn’t. Fundamental fairness? How about Waste Management paying the Town of Cortland $1 million plus a few extras to not object or to help anyone who might object? I think that arrangement prevented the Cortland trustees and probably even the mayor from attending the public hearing.
Many in the audience gave public comments and some sworn public statements. I know Dan Kenney and I were both taken back and proud that so many took time off from work, school and/or family to attend an all day hearing that started at 9am on a Monday morning the week of Thanksgiving.
The fight continues.