Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Money battle continues in Fresno trash outsourcing election war

The Measure G fundraising war continues, with both sides bringing in cash at a feverish pace ahead of the June 4 special election in which Fresno voters will decide on outsourcing the city’s residential trash pickup.

As of April 20, the Yes on G campaign, which is led by Mayor Ashley Swearengin and favors outsourcing, had raised more than $200,000. Since then, the campaign has picked up several additional contributions, including $49,000 from McDonald Aviation and $25,000 from Howe Electric.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin

The campaign has also found some success with the west-side farming crowd. Woolf Farming & Processing donated $25,000 and Don Peracchi, a west-side grower who is chairman of the Westlands Water District board, chipped in $5,000.

That pushes the Yes on G campaign past $300,000 — and it looks like it is spending just about every cent on various campaign efforts, including television commercials.

Outsourcing opponents look to be closing the gap somewhat.

The No on G campaign had only raised around $57,000 as of April 20.

Since then, it has picked up $100,000 from the International Union of Operating Engineers Stationary Engineers Local 39, $40,000 from the Service Employees International Union Local 1000 and more than $20,000 from the Fresno Police Officers Association.

That means No on G is well past $200,000 in its fundraising efforts. And, as with the Yes on G camp, it’s spending it as well.

A pair of donations to the No on G campaign that have raised eyebrows came from Perea Reviving Jobs and the Economy Ballot Measure Committee, a committee controlled by Assembly Member Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno.

On April 3, the committee gave $10,000, and on April 15 another $10,000 — a total of $20,000.

On April 5 — in between the two contributions — Sunset Waste contributed $20,000 to the Perea Reviving Jobs and the Economy Ballot Measure Committee.

Sunset Waste, City Hall’s longtime recycling partner, is suing Fresno. Sunset contends the city’s earlier decision to outsource its commercial trash pickup breaks a recycling contract between Sunset and the city.

Assembly Member Henry T. Perea

If privatizing residential trash pickup is approved, Sunset says is will sue a second time.

Bob Stern, a campaign ethics expert and former state Fair Political Practices Commission general counsel, said the Perea committee must disclose if the Sunset donation was directed to go to the No on G campaign.

Perea and Sunset officials didn’t return calls seeking comment. It is unknown if any such disclosure was made — or was even needed.

Dillon Savory, the No on G campaign manager, said in an email statement that “We truly appreciate the support that we are receiving from a broad range of supporters. Assemblymember Perea sent us a contribution and we said thank you.”

Political Notebook: Critics cry foul over Measure B mailer sent and paid for by Fresno County

A mailer that reads like a campaign brochure in support of Measure B — the one-eighth-cent sales tax that benefits local libraries — began landing in mailboxes today, courtesy of Fresno County.

In includes a “Dear Neighbor” letter from county Librarian Laurel Prysiazny and a question-and-answer section about libraries in general and Measure B in particular.

Given that Measure B is up for renewal in two weeks, the mailer caught the eye of some people in the community. Their question: Is the county paying for the mailer? Can the county use taxpayer money on such mailers?

The answer to both questions is yes, says campaign ethics expert Bob Stern.

“As long as it doesn’t say ‘vote for,’ a particular ballot initiative” he added.

A key part of the California Government Code reads: “An officer, employee, or consultant of a local agency may not expend or authorize the expenditure of any of the funds of the local agency to support or oppose the approval or rejection of a ballot measure, or the election or defeat of a candidate, by the voters.”

That means such mailers can even be slanted — and most are — as long as they are educational in nature.

One of the lines in the mailer says Measure B “simply extends the existing, voter-approved 1/8-cent sales tax for local libraries without extending the tax rate, and will continue to cost the average person about $12 a year.”

While that may sound like advocacy to some, it is simply educational to Prysiazny.

Measure B has been on the books for 14 years, but periodically needs to be reauthorized. It accounts for about half of the county library system’s total budget, paying for things like books, librarians and library buildings.

But when library officials did a survey in Marsh, Prysiazny said, 30% of those who participated didn’t know much about how Fresno County’s library system was funded.

“We knew we needed to do some education,” she said. “We are obligated to let people know what this money does for them.”

Prysiazny freely admits the mailer was paid for with library funds. She said she didn’t know the exact amount. But she also said library officials were careful to not advocate in the mailer — or in any other communication with county residents.

The mailer’s final layout, she said, was reviewed by the county counsel’s office.
“From my perspective,” she says, “we know it’s factual.”