HOUSTON — Houston City Council voted Wednesday to approve a new 15-year, $37 million recycling contract filled to the brim with controversy.
The deal allows for the recycling of glass and plastic bags -- and went to the same firm, FCC Environmental -- twice for bidding before the company won the contract.
But Ecohub, which has been a vocal competitor, was left out of the crucial second bid.
And that's left a cloud of controversy hanging over the deal.
Ecohub even filed a lawsuit to expose city emails over the deal, claiming these messages are being illegally withheld from the public.
Consequently, three council members voted against the deal, and another was absent.
"Everyone is going to fight and compete until the end, until this is done. That's the nature of business," Mayor Sylvester Turner said. "I mean, it's a business deal. So, what has clouded this is we have mingled things together."
"So, is this process picture-perfect? Nah," Councilman Dave Martin of District E said. "Are there some improvements we can make? Heck yeah!"
But according to Ecohub's consultant Wayne Dolcefino, "the mayor has chosen secrecy over transparency. You got to ask yourselves, 'Why?'"
Who would ever think something as simple as recycling could be such a political hot potato in the Bayou City?
Even with the newly-approved contract, the mayor says it will be 14 months before FCC Environmental hits the streets.
However, the swirling questions surrounding this deal are likely to continue, and no amount of recycling is going to clear the air over this controversy anytime soon.