Petitions turned in to fight trash outsourcing

FRESNO, California

The City Clerk's office has received a nearly 40,000 signature petition calling for the issue of privatized residential trash pickup to be brought to a vote.

If at least 22,000 of those signatures are certified the city says a public vote and a delay in outsourcing will cost millions.

Seven boxes full of signatures are now in the hands of the Fresno City Clerk's office. Opponents of the Mayor Ashley Swearengen's plan to outsource home garbage pickup spent the past month collecting the signatures throughout the city.

Each signature in the boxes will be counted by the City Clerk and then sent to the Fresno County Clerk to be verified, before a ballot measure can be set into motion.

Fresno's City Manager Mark Scott says that will be costly. The outsourcing plan is expected to bring in $200,000 a month in franchise fees starting March 4th. An election would put that on hold.

"Presumably if this took 6 months to get to the ballot, we would lose $1.2 million while we waited for the election," Scott said.

The trash fight has been a messy one. Solid waste employees are hoping to keep their current jobs.

"Thanks you residents of Fresno, for sending a message to city hall that you can't balance the budget by dismantling city departments," said former city council member Les Kimber.

The city is hoping for a budget fix. If it doesn't get one with the privatization plan Scott says cuts will be made elsewhere, and everything is on the table.

"We're not going to stop on implementation until we're told we have to, because frankly we don't have enough time to fool around," Scott said. "If this does go forward on an election, we're really quickly going to have to make cuts."

Another option if the petition is verified, the council could repeal the garbage pickup outsourcing.

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