By Buddy Nevins
A deal involving the fetid Mount Trashmore collapsed Tuesday when county commissioners dealt a rare defeat to one of Broward’s über lobbyists.
Sometimes the good guys win.
Commissioner Mark Bogen: Tuesday’s hero
Broward Commissioners rejected the waste deal after hearing from critics, who argued that it would result in environmental problems and could conceivably result in higher disposal costs for residents.
The deal’s defeat was a thrashing for Mike Moskowitz, a leading Broward Government Center lobbyist. In addition to the landfill, Moskowitz currently represents the Florida Panthers, airport leasees and a firm doing paratransit, among others.
It was Moskowitz who proposed the deal to county officials.
Moskowitz’s client was Mount Trashmore owners Waste Management, which paid beaucoup bucks in fines due to the landfill’s environmental problems. Neighboring communities complained about the smell for years.
The deal would have shut down one of two Broward incinerators. And it would have also allowed construction of a trash transfer station at the landfill.
Commissioners objected to both closing the incinerator, which some critics say could eventually add waste to the landfill.
A Waste Management competitor’s take on the now-dead deal:
Disposing of waste in a landfill cost less than burning it in an incinerator. Closing the incinerator would add to Waste Management’s bottom line.
Opponents to the deal included:
* Coconut Creek, whose residents are plagued with the landfill’s smell. They objected loudly to commissioners and vehemently oppose any expansion of the landfill.
“The city has been frozen out of the negotiations,” complained an attorney for Coconut Creek. The deal “doesn’t pass the smell test,” quipped Jack Shifrel, a long-time Democratic activist in the city.
* Various garbage collection competitors to Waste Management, such as Sun-Bergeron.
Competitors feared the new agreement would allow Waste Management to use a new pricing scheme wedged into the agreement to push them out of business.
A Sun-Bergeron representative said the new pricing scheme could have made it unprofitable for Waste Management competitors to dispose of waste. Once competitors left the county, Waste Management would have Broward waste to itself and could charge anything it wanted.
Sun-Bergeron hired its own lobbyist Bernard “Bernie” Friedman and former County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman, who along with the firm’s General Counsel Aleida “Ali” Waldman urged commissioners to stop the deal.
* Other cities in Broward. City officials also questioned whether shutting down the incinerator and expanding the landfill would affect future disposal costs.
The hero at Tuesday’s meeting was newly seated Commissioner Mark Bogen.
Tackling his first highly controversial issue since taking office in January, Bogen, a lawyer, prepared for the debate like he was entering a courtroom.
Bogen’s research turned up two audio tapes. They were the Smoking Guns.
On the tapes, the disembodied voice of a Waste Management lawyer made promises to two different government bodies a few years ago – Coconut Creek and a county regulatory agency. The lawyer appeared to pledge that the landfill would not increase the amount of waste it accepted.
Contrary to that promise, Waste Management has been increasing the amount of trash being funneled to Mount Trashmore.
Bogen drilled Moskowitz relentlessly, focusing on the promises made on the tapes.
Moskowitz defended himself. He insisted that the promises were worthless because they were not contained in a legal document.
To emphasize the point, Moskowitz made what I consider a major political faux pas.
He said something like, “They (Waste Management) are bound by the document they signed, not the statements they said.”
He seemed to be telling commissioners:
Don’t believe what I say. Just believe what I put in writing.
Based on that statement, can commissioners rely on any promise Moskowitz made during Tuesday’s meeting?
Maybe that’s what commissioners were thinking when they rejected the Moskowitz deal and sent negotiators back to the table to decide the future of waste disposal in Broward County.