Final hours in effort to stop Fresno's trash privatization

FRESNO, California

An effort is also underway to get some signatures taken off the petition. An organization called "Fresnans for Responsible Government Issues Committee" sent out mailers with a message from Mayor Ashley Swearengin. "When people find out that they were told things that were not true, now they're asking, 'How do I get my name off the petition?' There is a way to do that. But people need to take action right away because time is running out," said Mayor Swearengin.

The signature removal effort is just the latest chapter in the fight over privatization. In a deal approved by the city council, Mid Valley Disposal is set to take over residential trash pickup, netting the city $2.5 million dollars a year. But critics say hundreds of jobs are potentially on the line.

Just as the petition drive started, the Fresno Public Utilities department began running ads to educate the public about the coming change. This week, Mid Valley Disposal also hit the airwaves with an ad of its own.

While the petition effort wraps up, there have also been allegations of harassment and intimidation. "We just want to inform the public. They're saying that we're lying and as soon as we speak, the blockers speak in a very loud tone," said Shannon Taylor, a volunteer who was collecting signatures on Thursday.

Supporters of privatization say there's no harassment, just education. "People need to know the facts before they sign and the effort to get the facts out includes having people out on the street, meeting the efforts of the labor unions and making sure people have a form that lays out the case," said Mayor Swearengin.

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