Fresno prepares for trash-service vote in June

FRESNO, Calif.

The City Council voted Thursday night to put the question of whether to turn the city owner operation over to a private company.

The council had two choices, reverse their earlier decision to turn residential garbage pick-up over to a private company, or put the question to a vote of the people.

The vote was 5 to 2 to let the people decide. The election will be held on June 4th. Opponents of privatization are confident the voters will kill the deal. Former Fresno City Council Member Les Kimberwill be among those urging a no vote.

"Once the residents of Fresno understand what's going on they are going to come out in droves to stop it."

Former Fresno County Supervisor Doug Vagim will also opposed privatization.

"From my standpoint a conservative point of view which is economics. Taking money out of the pocket books of ratepayers to fund City Hall and the mistakes made at City Hall, that got us here, is not the right thing to do."

Based on the overwhelming results of the petition drive that forced the city council to consider putting it to a vote of the people both are expecting a lot of support, and not just from the city employee unions.

Kimber believes "You will see the emergence of a citywide citizens group that is not tied in with the unions that will take the lead on this in terms of turning this thing around. Because again the future of the residents of Fresno is at stake, not the unions not just the unions."

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin says the city desperately needs the money the private garbage company will pay the city to take over. She is organizing to get support for privatization. In a written statement to Action News she said:

"Our campaign will involve a broad coalition of residents, small business owners and local leaders. All campaign activities will be managed outside City Hall although Mayor Swearengin and City Council members will play an active role in the campaign."

But the council is divided, 4 support the Mayor on this, 3 do not. Now the action is at the Fresno County Elections Office. County Clerk Brandi Orth says the ballot is being prepared and the complex process of this special election will cost the city between 750 and 950 thousand dollars.

" The cost is very expensive because it's the only issue on the ballot there's nobody else going to election on June 4th, so the city of Fresno is responsible for paying those costs. "

But the garbage vote in June will come after an expected May election to fill the seat of State Senator Michael Rubio, who just resigned.

"Oh my goodness ." Orth said, "I don't think in Fresno County we've ever had two elections this close together. "

And if there's not a clear winner in the Senate race, another election could be held in July, and then there's another election coming in November.

But the fight over who picks up the trash will be the big one for Fresno. Labor unions from around the state are expected to join the fight and the Mayor is expected to tap her supporters for money and votes.

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