Politics

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin targets garbage, again

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fresno's Mayor is once again after the city's commercial garbage collectors. Ashley Swearengin is still trying to turn their jobs over to two private companies, who will pay the city more than two million a year in fees if she succeeds.

"I believe that's the best option for the city and that's why I'm bringing it back to the table." She told a morning news conference at City Hall.

A privatization measure failed to pass the City Council last January. But the two private companies are now offering to hire all of the nearly 100 drivers in the department for one year, after they take over. But Marina Magdalena, the drivers union representative says it's still a bad deal because she believes most will be let go after a year. "It's a bribe. It's a bribe to the city. They are bribing the city by saying this so it just sweetens the deal for them."

But the Mayor says the $2 million in fees from garbage, combined with 3% pay cuts from City employees and other cuts could help balance the city's budget deficit, currently projected at around $18 million. But if the employees don't accept the cuts council doesn't agree to privatize, then the Mayor says cuts will follow. Those include a program that helps the elderly by providing hot meals. Community centers and Swimming pools, used primarily by children would be closed. One or two fire stations could be closed. Another 100 workers city would be laid off, park employees would be furloughed for three months.

City Council Member Clint Olivier was considered the swing vote in the last garbage privatization vote. It failed on a four to three vote. He's not sure how he'll vote now. "I have to fully study the budget to determine how I want to go this time." He said.

Council Member Blong Xiong told us by phone he still has concerns the privatization effort is not honest or transparent enough to gain his support. The Mayor's Budget proposal will be presented to the Council on Thursday. A budget is expected to be acted on by the end of June.

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Tags:
budget cuts, ashley swearengin, fresno, fresno county, politics, gene haagenson
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