Last-ditch effort to overturn Fresno's trash outsourcing

January 4, 2013 12:28:37 AM PST
Opponents of Fresno's residential trash privatization are making one last-ditch effort to keep hundreds of city workers from potentially losing their jobs.

A referendum campaign is underway to gather signatures to put the issue to a public vote with a special election.

As Mid Valley Disposal prepares to take over the city's trash service this March, a petition drive is underway to put the brakes on privatization. "We now have taken this to the streets. We have taken it to the public because from our perspective, this is what the public wants," said Marina Magdaleno, Union Representative for Local 39.

Opponents of garbage outsourcing gathered in front of Fresno City Hall Thursday morning to kick off their campaign to collect enough signatures to force a public vote on the mayor's controversial residential trash plan. "I think this is a decision that's too important to the city of Fresno. Our residents need to decide this, not politicians," said Magdaleno.

In a 4-3 vote last month, the council granted the exclusive franchise contract to Mid Valley Disposal ? netting $2.5 million a year. "This proposal is the least onerous thing that we can come up with because rates come down, services stay constant, the employees have jobs," said City Manager Mark Scott. "All of the other alternatives employees go on unemployment."

City officials have maintained the decision was the best option on the table ? even putting a full page ad on Thursday's Fresno Bee. But a special election would delay the plan. "If we were to be delayed in implementation for whatever reason, every month we don't receive this revenue from the franchise fee it causes about a $200,000 per month delay," said Scott.

And a special election could cost the city up to a million dollars if the incoming council doesn't repeal the decision from the outgoing council. "I would be making a motion to rescind our vote and get into a budget discussion and do what we have to do," said council member Blong Xiong, who voted in the minority. "If the majority still chooses to move forward with this, then take it out to the people and let the people vote on it."

Organizers have until January 18th to gather more than 21,000 signatures to hold a special election. So far, they say they've collected thousands.