Palo Alto City Council members, a developer and other residents are contributing their cash to two competing campaigns over a November ballot measure that could determine the future of local composting.
The two camps are at odds over whether the city should make a 10-acre portion of Byxbee Park in the Palo Alto Baylands available for a new waste-to-energy facility. The proposed facility, an anaerobic digester, would process local food waste, yard trimmings and, possibly, sewage sludge and convert them to gas or electricity.
One group, led by former Mayor Peter Drekmeier, believes the parkland should be undedicated to give the city an option of keeping composting local. The other group, led by former Councilwoman Emily Renzel, is arguing that an industrial facility has no place on Baylands parkland.
According to campaign-finance documents filed this week, Drekmeier's side has the early lead when it comes to campaign cash. The Committee in Favor of the Palo Alto Green Energy Initiative, as the group is called, has raised $7,861 this year and now has $8,765 in its campaign chest.
Renzel's group, known as the Save the Baylands Committee, has received $5,572 in contributions and has spent $412, ending the current period with a balance of $5,159.
Proponents of the ballot measure received a major boost from local developer Jim Baer, who according to the documents contributed $5,000 to their committee. Other top contributors include William Reller, owner of EWS Real Estate Investments, Inc., ($1,000); Cedric La Beaujardiere, member of the citizen task force that recommended the anaerobic digester as a top solution to the city's composting dilemma ($200); and local residents James Phillips, John Dawson and Norma Grench ($250 each).
Contributors to Renzel's campaign include two council members, Greg Schmid and Karen Holman, who donated $125 and $120, respectively. The campaign also received a $1,500 contribution from the group Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge. Other contributors include committee Treasurer David Bubenik ($600), residents Nat and Betsy Allyn ($300), land-use attorney Thomas Jordan ($250), Renzel ($250), former Councilwoman Enid Pearson ($250).
The initiative, which the City Council officially placed on the ballot on Aug. 1, was prompted by last month's closure of the local landfill, which included a composting operation. The landfill's closure has created a deep division among local environmentalists and on the council about the future of local composting -- with some calling for composting to remain local and others arguing that yard trimmings should be shipped out of town if that's what it takes to protect local parkland.
A citizen task force charged with exploring local composting options recommended that the city pursue an anaerobic digestion facility close to the Regional Water Quality Treatment Plant. With the landfill closed, the site is slated to revert to public parkland and would have to be "undedicated" by the voters before the city could use it for a new waste facility.
Voters will have a chance to undedicate the site on Nov. 8.