Call to investigate Mayor Swearengin media campaign

January 11, 2013 12:42:57 AM PST
As a new Fresno City Council is sworn in, the issue of trash privatization stays prevalent.

As Mayor Ashley Swearengin was sworn-in for a second term, opponents of the mayor's garbage outsourcing plan gathered to announce they had sent a letter to the state's attorney general, calling for an investigation on a media campaign promoting the city's new franchise service.

The city's department of public utilities began running print, radio and television ads telling people the agreement with Mid Valley Disposal lowers your rates by 17.6 percent.

Opponents kicked off a petition drive to gather signatures to force a public vote on the trash plan. Opponents said the city is using taxpayer money on what they call politically motivated ads.

Opponent Marina Magdaleno said the mayor has been trying to hide the ads to make it look like they are a public service announcement.

"When we look at the timing of things, we feel this is directly related to our efforts in our petition campaign that we have going right now," Magdaleno said.

Swearengin said there's absolutely nothing wrong with reaching out to customers and helping make sure they understand what's going to happen on March 4.

The mayor says the latest opponent effort is just another tactic to halt the implementation of a plan meant to save the city millions of dollars.

"I understand they oppose the franchise, they will do everything they can to try to stop it and unfortunately that means more cuts to public safety, and more cuts to employees who do not have jobs to go to," Swearengin said.

The mayor said the ads are not political but informative, and she welcomes the scrutiny of the attorney general's office.

The city says it has budgeted $57,000 on its messaging campaign and will continue to run ads periodically until March 4.

Opponents of trash privatization said they have until Jan. 18 to collect more than 21,000 signatures to hold a special election.