EDITORIAL: Measure G passage is right choice for Fresno's finances

Ashley Swearengin took on a tough job when she became Fresno mayor. With the real-estate bubble bursting, municipal revenues plummeting and bond debt piled high, she has been forced to make deep and painful cuts in City Hall services and personnel.

But none of her decisions has been as controversial or faced more pushback as the proposed outsourcing of residential trash collection. We understand the reasons for the uproar that resulted in a successful petition drive taking the decision out of the mayor's and City Council's hands and giving it to the voters in a special June 4 election.

More than 100,000 residences are serviced by the city's garbage-collection crews, and people often are resistant to change. In addition, outsourcing trash pickup has galvanized unions representing city of Fresno employees; previously the unions had fought individual battles with little regard to what might happen to workers in other units. Finally, a portion of the populace doesn't trust City Hall because of costly mistakes made by the previous administration.

All this said, passage of Measure G is Fresno's best chance to to balance City Hall's ledgers, replace retiring police officers and firefighters and begin restoring our parks and community centers to health. Transferring the responsibility of residential trash collection to a private company, Mid Valley Disposal, will bring the city a one-time $1.5 million signing bonus and about $2.5 million in annual franchise fees, and it will reduce rates.

Opponents say the deal will backfire. They predict soaring fees after early rate cuts. But there are multiple protections in the contract against such an event, including the loss of the franchise by Mid Valley Disposal.

Measure G opponents also have failed to offer ideas -- other than floating a public-safety tax -- to get Fresno off the bankruptcy watch list. Fresnans already pay an additional yearly property tax for public safety. They pay extra sales taxes for the county library system, transportation and the zoo. The last thing the Fresno economy needs is a tax hike.

Measure G has been vetted and found to be a sound proposal that will raise revenues and reduce rates without costing any garbage-collection employees their jobs.

We recommend its passage on June 4.