Predictably, the Pomona city council did not follow the overwhelmingly expressed will of the people, and voted in favor of the Valley Vista Transfer Station (with Freddie Rodriguez and Cristina Carrizosa casting dissenting votes). The "mayor" recused himself from the proceedings.
In the presentation of the project, the applicant made a number of concessions to public pressure. He said he would only allow CNG trucks only on the site (except for 50 diesel trucks); that he would reduce the tonnage from 1500 to 1000/day (but with possibilities for future growth); that he would pay for a code enforcer for the area; and that he would fund a green-up project in the industrial area around the site. He did not commit to Pomona-only trash.
Still, even with these concessions, the majority of the speakers spoke against the station. They clearly remained unconvinced that Valley Vista had Pomona's best interests at heart, or that the business would be good for the city. They cited the city's lack of investigation into the project's locale and its effects on the water and soil. They voiced concerns about exponentially increased truck traffic, noise, and pollution. They suggested that cash for trash is not a sustainable approach to waste reduction, because it relies on the production of trash. They noted that Pomona already has the highest rate of NO2 emissions in the state and that project still will generate 3 times the recommended thresholds. They argued that the city should only take care of its own trash and not become trash central. And they pointed out that the project disproportionally affects working class, people of color communities. They suggested that many more of the council should have recused themselves due to conflict of interest. Their arguments convinced many that the Valley Vista trash-for-cash model is a huge detriment to the city of Pomona and not in the interests of the people.
Proponents argued that allowing the Trash station would encourage businesses to come to Pomona, that all business is more or less equally polluting, and that opening the 9th street station would allow the open air 1st street station to close. The most tragically regressive argument was that the station was necessary because Pomona would economically revive and produce trash, just like back in the good old days of 1000+ tons/day. The argument that Valley Vista would bring money to the city was not mobilized, because it was revealed in the project presentation (thanks to Rodriguez's questioning) that the promised $1 million annual revenue would not cover the $1.5-2 million on repair for the damages to the roads that the project would inflict.
It was discouraging to watch the council's lack of deliberation. Atchley, who spent much of the meeting reading on his ipad, said immediately that he was in favor of the project. Escobar, who spent much of the meeting texting, had little to say. Carrisoza put a motion on the floor to bring the project to ballot, but it failed without a seconder. This lack of debate provoked an improptu protest, as a number of angry citizens chanted, marched and spoke out against the lack of democratic debate.
That moment was the small step forward, which could become a giant step in time. People in this city are angry. People are mobilized. People can make change, even if the council is bought and sold to unsustainable business and corporate models. People can take the city of Pomona back. There are community groups working on sustainability; on anticorporate living; on art; on democratic process; on stopping the erosion of the library; on health; on youth empowerment. People are saying no to the way that their democratically elected officials treat them. The people of Pomona can make this city a place for people. Let's do it. The government will have to follow...or maybe it will permanently recuse itself.