The Crow's Nest

The Crow's Nest

Who will be the next deep pocket for Oxnard nonprofits?

By The Spotter 12/06/2012

Republic Services is the Grinch that stole Christmas in Oxnard. And the city’s nonprofits have to be wondering if they will suffer because Republic’s Santa Claus got the ax and no one knows if his replacement will be as generous.
Trash is a lucrative business in most cities and Oxnard, with its huge trash operation, was the girl everyone wanted to date.

There has been fierce competition among longtime Oxnard company BLT Enterprises, locally owned E.J. Harrison & Sons, and national giants Waste Management and Republic Services. BLT had the contract for a while in the mid-1990s, but sold its interest to Republic.

When the contract for operation of the city’s Del Norte Recycling Station went out to bid in 2009, BLT won the contract back, partly because Republic was doing a poor job of running the place. But then, the district attorney’s investigation of the city and its handling of contracts snared BLT and its president, Bernie Huberman.

The contract was placed on hold and Republic was allowed to continue operating Del Norte. At this point, someone at Republic apparently woke up and decided that Oxnard was worth fighting for. It started getting its act together and hired Santa Barbara’s “Trash Czar” Stephen MacIntosh.

He hit the ground like a tornado. MacIntosh joined groups, such as the Boys & Girls Club Board and the Chamber of Commerce. He made himself a familiar figure at all things Oxnard. But most important to the city’s nonprofits, he took Republic’s checkbook wherever he went and supported everything that ended in 501(c)(3). And for a while, it was working.

See, BLT had offered the same kind of support to the city’s nonprofits for years. (In fact, part of the DA’s investigation centered on a gift by Huberman to a nonprofit.) But Huberman and BLT never sought any credit for their giving. The company’s profile was so low that even the Oxnard Chamber director once asked publicly, “Who’s Bernie Huberman?”

But while the DA’s investigation turned up a big fat zero on BLT, the damage had been done. Power shifting on the City Council to Tim Flynn and Carmen Ramirez meant that the previous contract awarded to BLT was kaput. They wanted negotiations to start all over. Although Ramirez stated privately that MacIntosh’s check-writing was “pretty easy to see through,” it appeared the strategy had helped Republic.

Earlier this month, however, when Republic, in a cost-cutting move, laid off 200 middle managers, including MacIntosh. The Spotter understands it was unceremonious — one of those “Come in. Have a seat. Turn in your cellphone and laptop” meetings.

The dumping of MacIntosh infuriated many nonprofits in the city where he made a lot of friends with the company’s donations. And while his successor might be generous as well, no one in the city will ever feel quite the same about a national corporation, publicly traded, that dumps executives on a whim.

In truth, the donations have little to do with who gets the new contract. That is to be decided on who submits the best proposal. But the generosity of Macintosh with Republic’s money did a lot for the city’s nonprofits. They might be wishing the trash contract was always out for bid.


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