Mayor Sylvester Turner may actually be the one we can blame for a $500 million-dollar state of the art environmental facility NOT coming to Houston!
And this is the “green” mayor?
Last fall, Houston was in the final running for a huge 70-million-dollar federal energy grant for a state of art environmental facility at the old Champion Paper property. The CERI (Circular Economy Remanufacturing Institute) facility was to be centered around a planned recycling operation to be run by ECO-HUB, the Houston company which had been negotiating a contract with Houston City Hall. It is the same company that has now filed corruption complaints with the Houston City Controller, accusing the Mayor of making sure they couldn’t get the cities business.
Last September, Mayor Sylvester Turner signed a letter of support for CERI, and wrote Houston was finalizing their agreement with ECO-HUB. A few weeks later Turner instead announced a new recycling bidding process. ECO-HUB eventually protested to Houston City Hall and now has taken its complaints about the Mayor public.
When confronted by reporters last week, Mayor Turner claimed the letter from last year doesn’t say it endorses ECO-HUB or its recycling idea, and that, in fact, he never supported the ECO-HUB project. Turner says the letter was meant instead to just help the professor at his alma mater the University of Houston.
Apparently, the folks at CERI thought it was a very clear promise negotiations on the ECO-HUB contract were almost complete. Hard to blame him if you read the letter.
Now, another letter prepared by that very same professor shows Turner was warned that $650 million dollars in bonds for the CERI project would be jeopardized if the City did not sign the contract with ECO-HUB by last Thanksgiving and that it would be nearly impossible to win the DOE grant without the centerpiece of the project being finalized.
The City of Houston lost out on the DOE grant.
The ECO-HUB project was touted as a way to save Houston taxpayers 25 to 40 million dollars a year by mixing all trash and recyclables in just one bin, cutting the number of needed garbage trucks by two thirds, and ending the need for landfills. The waste would instead be separated and then resold into new products.
That was the idea.
ECO-HUB had been unanimously chosen by a nine-member evaluation committee during the Parker administration after the city won a one-million-dollar grant to pursue the idea. Ending the need for dumps seems like a green friendly idea, but Mayor Turner dumped ECO-HUB instead.
Last week the Mayor picked a European company to recycle Houston’s trash the old-fashioned way starting next year. The contract won’t save money, it will cost millions. Up until last Spring, Houstonians weren’t charged a penny for recycling.
Now we are beginning to see how much that recycling decision really is costing Houston’s economy, and how much explaining the Mayor should be doing.
We asked Mayor Turner to respond to the letter the professor told CERI partners he had sent him. City Hall ignored our request for answers, just like they did the bid protest filed by ECOHUB last December.
Tens of thousands of Houstonians have now watched Mayor Sylvester Turner lose his cool when questioned about the City of Houston’s new recycling deal.
No wonder there are questions.
The City of Houston was in the final negotiations on a contract with a Houston company that could have saved Houstonians 25 to 40 million dollars a year on recycling and ended the need for expensive landfills. Turner killed the deal and now wants a much more expensive contract with a European company.
Now the Chairman of the Houston company Eco-Hub wants investigations into possible bid rigging and ethics violations. At a Wednesday morning news conference, George Gitschel released a letter to the City Controller, Chris Brown requesting the probe.
The City Attorney ignored a bid protest from Eco-Hub filed in December of 2016, but used the corruption complaint to keep secret e-mails sent or received by Houston Solid Waste Boss Harry Hayes. Mr. Gitschel claims Hayes fought Eco-Hub to protect Republic Waste and their lucrative landfill contract.
Mr. Gitschel is also pointing a finger at Marvalette Hunter, Mayor Turner’s new Chief of Staff. Gitschel was using Hunter to lobby for his company, but now thinks she was playing him. Hunter never registered to lobby for Eco-Hub, a violation of City Ordinance. Mr. Gitschel is now calling on City Attorney Ron Lewis to probe Hunter’s possible ethics violations and require her to disclose who else she represented before becoming Chief of Staff so that taxpayers see potential conflicts of interest.
Mr. Gitschel wants the City of Houston to release all e-mails sent or received by Solid Waste Boss Harry Hayes. The Mayor has refused to release any e-mails, and not just on the current recycling bidding. The City of Houston won’t release records on Mayor Turner’s deal with Waste Management last year, that ended free recycling for Houstonians.
Mr. Gitschel is also calling on the European company FCC to disclose the names of any Houston based consultants or companies being hired as part of the recycling contract. If City Council approves the controversial new recycling deal, FCC stands to make more than 50 million dollars.
The City of Houston was awarded a one-million-dollar prize from the Bloomberg Foundation for the Eco-Hub idea. The company proposed reducing garbage trucks route from three to one and putting all trash and recycling in just one bin. The company would then sell the recycling materials for new products. Eco-Hub claimed the state of the art recycling facilities it would build would eliminate the need for landfills. Mr. Gitschel says that threatens the garbage industry. Houston has become a big headquarters for the trash industry.
Mayor Sylvester Turner doesn’t want you to see any e-mails he has sent since inauguration day.
Mayor Turner cancelled the bid for a lucrative airport insurance contract, but now wants to keep e-mails detailing possible bidding issues secret.
Mayor Turner was not even in office when the City of Houston awarded huge airport concession contracts amidst allegations of political influence, yet Turner is now fighting release of any e-mails about the contract, or the evaluation process used.
Mayor Annise Parker used her Council Liaison William Paul Thomas to communicate with elected officials about key votes, including the controversial airport contracts. Now the City of Houston does not want you to see what she said, or he did.
The city claims some of the e-mails they want to keep secret are about Rebuild Houston, the controversial Post Oak Blvd Bus Project, the union contracts, the airport concessions and insurance contracts and the Chasewood Community water supply.
Mayor Turner has the chance to be a transparent Mayor. This is not the way.
Mayor Sylvester Turner isn’t to blame for the funny business that went on in the bidding for lucrative airport contracts while Annise Parker was still Mayor.
He is to blame for the cover-up that continues. E-mails that could finally expose what happened are being kept secret by the Turner administration. The big question is simple. Whose political hide is Mr. Turner trying to protect?
The City of Houston Legal Department is now refusing to release e-mails sent between the Mayor’s Office and Council members while the airport deals were being cut, including the lucrative concessions contract.
At least some of the e-mails were sent by William Paul Thomas, Parker’s council liaison. None of the e- mails being withheld are confidential by law. Every one of these e-mails could be released by the City in the interest of taxpayers. And Dolcefino Consulting believes some of the e-mails will expose the political games played during the contracting period.
Sylvester Turner has a chance to be the Mayor who ends Houston’s reputation as a pay to play City. Dolcefino Consulting stands ready to help him, but the first test he is clearly failing.
Let the Airport Director and his Atlanta friends face a full investigation into what happened and why. The investigation may be embarrassing to top City of Houston officials, but that’s life.
Two City Controller’s refused to sign off on the last round of airport contracts the deal was so suspicious.
Dolcefino Consulting recently asked for all e-mails sent by the Mayor since his inauguration relating to the business of taxpayers. The City is now trying to keep all those e-mails secret.
That’s not transparency. E-mails sent by people paid by taxpayers, about their business should be public unless there is a real good reason to keep it secret.
Stop playing games. Most companies in Houston just want a level playing field on government contracts, and just want government business to go to them first.
Seems simple. Here is your chance to prove it Mayor!