Fresno approves special trash privatization election

FRESNO, Calif.

Mayor Ashley Swearengin said the city's projected budget deficit is smaller than previously thought. She admits privatizing solid waste won't put the budget in the black right away, but she said it's needed.

The special election that would make it happen could cost Fresno nearly a million dollars. The council voted of 5 to 2 to allow for a special election in June.

Mayor Swearengin acknowledged the difficult decision to pursue laying off city workers and bring in a private company to pick up trash from homes in the city. But she said, at a projected payoff of more than a million dollars a year, the city has no other option. "When I look at next year and the following year and I consider the cuts that would come in we don't see the franchise revenue," she said. "I know that is not in the best interest of our community."

Council member Oliver Baines still opposes the plan, especially since new budget projections show the franchise fees won't solve the city's fiscal issues. "Whether or not the franchise wins an election is really irrelevant, as was pointed out in our budget today," Baines said. "We would still need more revenue."

As for solid waste workers, they had hoped the Council would just repeal its original decision. But with the support they received in their petition drive, they think the mayor's plan will be trashed.

"That's fine, we're going to go," said the solid waste workers' union representative, Marina Magdalleno. "We went out and did the petitions because that was the only way that we could fight this. That was the only option."

If privatization passes, Mayor Swearengin said franchise fees will close the budget gap in five years.

The election will take place June 4. If the petition drive and the mayor's push for support are any indication this could be a costly and heated campaign.

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