Measure G: Fresno city voter's decision due Tuesday

The Fresno BeeJune 3, 2013 

Fresno voters head to the polls Tuesday to decide once and for all who picks up the city's home trash.

Then again, probably nothing is forever with Measure G.

A year in the making, the special election features a one-question ballot: Should the ordinance outsourcing the city's home trash service to Mid Valley Disposal be adopted?

Both sides on Monday brought out their biggest celebrities for one last appeal to the electorate.

Vote no on G, said police union President Jacky Parks at a downtown news conference, because "something smells at City Hall -- and it's not the trash."

Vote yes, Mayor Ashley Swearengin said at a City Hall news conference two hours later, because "we have to stop the bleeding when it comes to public safety, and Measure G helps us do that."

To which Fresno's 220,000 registered voters can only reply -- Let's finish this!

Search a database of Measure G campaign contributions

Tuesday's election concludes a fight that began at last spring's budget hearings when Swearengin first raised the specter of outsourcing to fix yet another general fund budget gap.

It was a rare City Council meeting since then that didn't include at least a reference to trash.

Public hearings and community meetings on trash became a habit.

Hundreds of pages of trash contract, trash background and trash explanation were printed and distributed.

All that occurred before outsourcing opponents gathered enough signatures to take the decision out of the council's hands and put it in the voters' laps.

The result over the past three months was to add political passion to bureaucratic complexity.

As she's done dozens of times already, Swearengin on Monday stood outside the council chamber in front of TV cameras and reporter microphones to list what has become her Big Four of outsourcing's benefits:

-- Rates drops while service remains unchanged.

-- Affected city workers get a job at Mid Valley.

-- The deal brings in millions ($1.5 million signing bonus, a net $2 million-plus boost to the general fund in the first year).

-- Mid Valley's money means no further cuts to strained public safety services.

Measure G, Swearengin said, is a "good deal" for Fresno.

Outsourcing's opponents have their own Big Four:

-- There's nothing wrong with the city's award-winning, low-cost service.

-- Mid Valley's reduced rates are a for-profit company's insincere teaser.

-- Hard-working city employees will see lower wages at Mid Valley.

-- There are better ways to fix the city's money woes.

Parks on Monday emphasized the last one, saying his union is offering as much as $9 million in contract concessions yet getting only Swearengin's cold shoulder.

Parks dismissed Swearengin's talk of a fiscal emergency should Measure G fail as a "scare tactic."

The campaign's final week has been busy.

The No on G folks clearly were having the better time.

The Fresno Light Brigade, a performance-art group with a political bent, anchored two street corners in the heart of the Tower District on Friday evening.

"Vote June 4," said one row of signs.

"No on Measure G," said the other row.

A handful of singers calling themselves the "Raging Grannies" were there. They belted out pro-labor, anti-outsourcing songs.

The light brigade on Saturday evening moved to the corners of Blackstone and Nees avenues near River Park shopping center. No On G Man -- an outsourcing opponent dressed like a comic book super hero, complete with cape and make-believe sword -- replaced the grannies as primary eye-catcher.

The No on G folks on both nights shouted their message to passing motorists. Many motorists honked and shouted back their support.

The Yes on G folks took a more measured approach. They've always been the "just the details" crowd. By design, they don't want voters to confuse their somber message with a toe-tapping tune.

Top executives at three chambers of commerce -- Al Smith of the Greater Fresno Area Chamber, Tate Hill of the Fresno Metro Black Chamber and Dora Westerlund of the Fresno Area Hispanic Chamber -- gathered outside fire department headquarters on Wednesday.

Measure G, Hill said, "is really critical for the financial health of our community."

The defeat of Measure G, Westerlund said, "would be devastating" to Fresno.

Swearengin spent part of Friday at the Yes on G phone bank.

"Most of the people I talked to are in full support of Measure G," she said.

Voters get the final word.

Measure G

What: Special Fresno election to decide whether the residential trash outsourcing ordinance should be adopted

Election Day: Tuesday

Drive-through sites: The Fresno County elections office will have seven sites open on Tuesday for drive-through ballot drop-off. The sites will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. The sites: Fresno County Clerk/Registrar of Voters, 2221 Kern St.; First Missionary Baptist Church, 1195 E. Shepherd Ave.; Northpointe Community Church, 4625 W. Palo Alto Ave.; College Church of Christ, 1284 E. Bullard Ave.; Southern Baptist Church, 2405 N. Cornelia Ave.; St. Anthony Mary Claret Catholic Church, 2494 S. Chestnut Ave.; and First Church of the Nazarene, 6758 E. Butler Ave.

More information: Fresno County elections web page or (559) 600-VOTE

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6272 or ghostetter@fresnobee.com. Read his City Beat blog at news.fresnobeehive.com/city-beat.

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