I wonder if even TDS’ allies on City Council are growing weary of its obstructionism. As I wrote in the Monitor today:
On Thursday, City Council put an end to two and a half years of squabbling over a lucrative contract to manage biosolid waste generated by the city water utility.
Council voted 10-1 to award the contract to Synagro of Texas-CDR Inc., which has been providing the service to the city for years. The contract is for an initial term of five years with five possible one-year extensions, for a total of $19.3 million. Only Council Member Ellen Troxclair voted against.
The process has been delayed due to fierce opposition from Texas Disposal Systems, a competing waste management company whose landfill in Creedmoor has a 40-year contract to receive residential trash collected by city garbage trucks.
I’m not going to recount the whole history here, but TDS for the last few years has been challenging the city’s anti-lobbying ordinance, which it claims unconstitutionally restricts its ability to communicate with city staff about its bids. For some reason, none of the other garbage/recycling/compost vendors in town have a problem with the rules, but Council responded to TDS’ concerns last year by suspending the anti-lobbying ordinance on waste contracts and convening a working group to consider changes to the ordinance. In the end, Council approved a revised ordinance that TDS says is unsatisfactory.
In addition to the charismatic father-son duo who run TDS, the garbage company is also represented at city hall by Michael Whellan, one of Austin’s top lobbyists, and progressive political puppet master David Butts. I’ve never seen Butts actually speak on behalf of TDS at Council meetings; usually he just sits in the audience, letting all the Council members who he helped elect know that he’s watching.
Butts wasn’t at City Hall though yesterday. Nor was Texas Campaign for the Environment, the advocacy group that other environmentalists and City Hall insiders quietly accuse of shilling for TDS, which donates an undisclosed amount of money to the nonprofit. The nonprofit insists that whatever TDS gives, it’s only a small percentage of the group’s revenue and hardly enough to buy their loyalty. Sadly, it’s impossible to verify.