Cincinnati, OH

Cash from the trash business hauled all over the county found on eve of vote to impose rules to regulate the industry

The Cincinnati Post

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Poster created by C.A.R.E. which is being circulated on social media.Child Advocacy for Rights & Equity, Inc., 2021

Commissioner Denise Driehaus promised that the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners will vote on whether or not to impose rules on the solid waste industry operating in Hamilton County on Thursday at 1 pm at the Todd Portune Administration Building at a cram-packed board meeting.

The commissioners have been inundated with more emails and calls on this issue than any other issue in recent history. It's a big deal. Over 2000 people have signed a petition by Ditch the Dump begging the commissioners to stop the expansion of a landfill in Whitewater Township. Several government bodies have sent letters encouraging the board to pass the rules immediately. Among them, the cities of Harrison, Cleves, and Mt. Healthy, as well as, Crosby Township. More are expected to pass a motion tonight, dozens of elected officials have sent emails. Additionally, 5 nonprofit organizations have been relentlessly attending the Rules Subcommittee meetings, charged with reviewing the rules and drafted the single rule proposed by a majority of the subcommittee, and the Solid Waste Policy Committee, which reviewed the referred rule onto the commissioners for immediate adoption. The nonprofits encouraging passing of the rule are Child Advocacy for Rights & Equity, Inc., who proposed the rule-making initiative back in April, Rivers Unlimited, the Sierra Club, Oxbow, Inc, the League of Women Voters, and a grassroots organization called Ditch the Dump. Over 20,000 citizens of Hamilton County have come forward supporting rules through the various government bodies and organizations.

That is a significant outpouring of support.

However, Rumpke, who operates a monopoly in Hamilton County in the garbage landfill and hauling industry, is calling in political favors and threatening lawsuits if the county commissioners pass the rule that provides local oversight of landfill operations by the commissioners, particularly, the gives the commissioners to act on behalf of residents' concerns and veto the construction or expansion of any landfill within the county.

The law firm representing Rumpke was found to have donated $10,000 to County Prosecutor Joe Deters campaign after Deters issued a statement warning commissioners against passing any rules before his office reviews it saying, "it will be very, very costly" when lawsuits are filed and told the commissioners he wouldn't represent them if sued, that they would " acting at "their own peril." As Commissioner Stephanie Dumas said, "I think it's odd he (Deters) just referred to expert legal counsel" because Deters refused to issue a legal opinion to the board on their powers and authority for nearly 6 months then stepped aside because they lacked subject matter knowledge to issue an opinion. Now, Deters comes forward after the expert attorney in this field advised the commissioners to move forward.

A month prior, Rumpke had sunk thousands into the campaigns of Dan Unger and Kathy Ulrich for the Colerain Township trustee race. With Rumpke financing almost their entire campaigns, they were able to unseat "Raj" Rajagopal, incumbent, which removes Rajagopal from the Solid Waste Policy Committee. He was the only Colerain trustee who voiced opposition to Rumpke's continued expansions of the landfill. All 3 trustees collected a total of $23.5K - about $8K each.

On Wednesday, it was learned that a call was made to Mayor John Cranley's office requesting the termination of Sue Magness, Recycling Coordinator for the City of Cincinnati, off the Solid Waste Policy Committee, as well. Rumpke donated $25K to Cranley's campaign the same month C.A.R.E. first made their proposal to the solid waste staff. It was later found in a public record request that Rumpke was sharing "opposition research" against the director of C.A.R.E. with staff in that department to disparage and discredit the rule-making initiative. .C.A.R.E. calls the tactics employed as a "deny and delay" campaign to stop, or at least slow the initiative down so Rumpke would have time to get permits for expansion filed prior to rules being passed and falling under the commissioner' standards. Ousting Magness was a twofer for Rumpke, she sat on both the Policy Committee and the Rules Subcommittee. She is only 2 years from retirement and has been employed by the city for over a decade in their sustainability department. At this important time, the city of Cincinnati has no representative for residents on the rule-making matter. Cincinnati has no voice - until the mayor-elect takes office on January 4th.

Rumpke's been spending a lot of money to quell the demand for a vote passing rule-making. The Rumpke family has spent nearly $200K in recent years to stave off regulatory oversight in Hamilton County. Hamilton County is the only county in the region that does not have rules or a siting strategy for the solid waste industry. This is why the other counties don't have landfills and dump all their trash on Hamilton County. Because the county doesn't have rules, Rumpke operates unimpeded except for the menial oversight of the Ohio EPA. The only ones who can end Rumpke's unfettered reign in Hamilton County are for the County Commissioners to pass rules that protect the county residents and environment.

Thursday, we find out if the commissioners have the courage to disregard the prosecutor's "the sky is falling" fear-mongering and push the county forward to having the same standards as our county neighbors for the first time in over 20 years.

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