Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Measure G media battle heats up as pro and con forces hit the airwaves

The Measure G media battle is heating up.

Backers of the ballot measure, which seeks Fresno voter approval to privatize the city’s residential trash pickup, began airing television and radio ads Wednesday featuring Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer, who casts the issue as one of public safety.

“There’s a lot of good reasons to support Measure G, but for me the most important is the funding Measure G provides to keep police officers and firefighters on the job,” Dyer says in a 30-second television ad.

In the radio spot, which is a minute long, Dyer adds: “The funding is essential to our police department, and without it, we could lose an additional 20 to 30 police officers.”

Yes on G consultant Tim Clark said another ad featuring Fresno businessman and Republican activist Michael Der Manouel Jr. will debut Thursday.

As the Yes on G campaign ramps up, Common Sense Information — an independent political committee formed by local Republican businessman Tal Cloud — is doing the same.

Actually, the Common Sense Information radio advertisement that also started Wednesday never mentions Measure G, though it’s clear that’s the target since a special election on the proposal is fast approaching.

On June 4, Fresno city voters will be asked to approve privatization of residential trash pickup.

“Now the City of Fresno has decided to give a contract to one company to privatize over 100,000 residential accounts with claim that rates will be lower once the contract is approved,” the radio ad says. “Can you really trust the mayor and City Hall to do what’s in the best interest for the people of Fresno or to do what’s best for their political future?”

In fact, the ad feels more like a broad-based attack on Fresno City Hall, which currently is occupied by Mayor Ashley Swearengin. The minute-long spot does eventually get around to the trash issue.

Already, Yes on G supporters are crying foul.

Clark, the Yes on G consultant, said he will file a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission, which is the state’s political watchdog.

Clark said Cloud’s organization “is acting as a political committee for the defeat of Measure G, even though they haven’t filed as such.”

He pointed out a $4,000 contribution to Common Sense Information from the City of Fresno Professional Employees Association, which was reported to the Fresno city clerk as being against Measure G.

“The law states that if you are an organization that receives funding for the purpose of making political expenditures, then you must register as (a political action committee) and file campaign finance disclosure reports,” Clark said.

Common Sense Information is no stranger to controversy.

Last year, George Whitman, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for the Fresno Unified School Board Area 6 seat, complained about a CSI ad that talked about a foreclosure and a bankruptcy.

And in 2010, Rep. Jeff Denham — who was making his initial run for Congress — complained about a Common Sense Information attack ad. But he never filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission.

Cloud welcomed the complaint.

“That’s good,” Cloud said. “I’m perfectly legal doing what I’ve done. That shows their incompetency.”

Cloud said the City of Fresno Professional Employees Association did give money to Common Sense Information, but it was wrong in filing a report because his ad does no advocate for or against Measure G.

As the forces for and against Measure G battle on the airwaves and behind the scene, a political mailer from the Fresno Police Officers Association landed in the mailboxes of “high-propensity voters” in the City Council districts of Lee Brand, Steve Brandau and Paul Caprioglio.

The mailer highlights what the FPOA says are millions of dollars in contract concessions to help the city’s finances.

But the timing — and who received the mailers — makes it appear like the FPOA is weighing in indirectly on Measure G, some political watchers said. The FPOA opposes Measure G and has given money to fight it.

FPOA President Jacky Parks said that isn’t true.

He said the mailer — which features quotes from Assembly Member Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, and former Mayor Alan Autry — is a direct appeal to council members and city residents because City Manager Mark Scott and other members of the Swearengin administration have stopped talking to the police union.

“We’ve lost confidence in the administration,” Parks said. “So we’re taking it to the council.”

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.”

More cash for campaign to privatize Fresno’s trash pickup

Donors continue to beef up the bank account for the campaign that wants Fresno city voters to support privatizing residential trash pickup in a June 4 special election.

The account — Yes on G. It’s Good for Fresno. Sponsored by Fresnans for Responsible Government and Mayor Ashley Swearengin, With Major Funding By Mid-Valley Disposal — picked up several donations over the past week.

They are $10,000 from Valley Wide Beverage; $2,550 from Best Way Disposal, based in the High Desert town of Hesperia; $2,500 from E.M. Tharpe Inc.-Golden State Peterbilt in Porterville; $1,000 from Utility Trailer Sales of Central Calif., based in Fresno; and $1,000 from James Maxwell.

All those donations are still dwarfed by Mid Valley Disposal’s $100,000.

Swearengin last year said the city needed to outsource its residential trash service to balance the budget. A deeply divided City Council in turn gave Mid Valley Disposal the trash pickup contract for all of Fresno.

Fighting Swearengin and her allies is “Taxpayers for Good Government — No on Measure G. A bipartisan coalition of taxpayers, businesses and employee organizations.”

It’s latest donor is from Assembly Member Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, who gave $10,000 from his Perea Reviving Jobs and the Economy Ballot Measure Committee. That same committee earlier gave another $10,000, bringing to $20,000 the total donated.

The only other donor so far is the Fresno, Madera, Tulare, Kings Counties Central Labor Council, which gave $25,000.

Fresno city manager won’t foot bill in lawsuit vs. outsourcing foes

Last week, Mark Scott made news when he sued opponents of Fresno’s trash-outsourcing law — not as city manager, but as a private citizen.

But, even though it might read that way, don’t think for a second that Scott is waging this political battle with funds from his own bank account. He’s not.

The bill will either be footed by the Yes on G campaign — which wants Fresno voters on June 4 to approve the city’s effort to outsource its residential trash pickup — or by the campaign’s sponsoring non profit, Fresnans for Responsible Government.

Fresno City Manager Mark Scott

“Either way we’re going to make sure it gets covered,” Tim Clark, the political consultant working to pass Measure G, said of the legal bill for Scott’s lawsuit.

To date, the sole publicly known donor to Yes on G is Mid Valley Disposal, the trash firm that was awarded the contract to pick up all residential trash in Fresno in return for a $1.5 million signing bonus and about $2.5 million a year in franchise fees.

Mid Valley on March 22 gave $100,000 to the Yes on G committee.
Scott’s lawsuit targets some statements made by outsourcing opponents that will be accompany a sample ballot scheduled to be mailed next month to Fresno’s registered voters.

The opponents, Scott said, make several false statements in their ballot statement. He wants a judge to force outsourcing opponents to rewrite or remove the alleged false statements.

Matt Rogers, who is principal officer for the outsourcing opponents, said the lawsuit shows desperation on behalf of Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin and outsourcing supporters.

“If the mayor so confident, I don’t think she’d have to file a lawsuit, but she has,” Rogers said. “I wish her the best, but she’s going to lose.”

Whatever the outcome, Scott’s lawsuit could build up a hefty legal bill, depending on how much litigating is done.

That’s because Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, one of the state’s most prominent election-law firms, has been retained. Charles H. Bell, Jr., a former general counsel to the California Republican Party, is the firm’s senior partner.

Bell and his firm don’t come cheap.

Not to be outdone in the Scott lawsuit, outsourcing opponents have hired their own heavyweight legal firm, Olson Hagel & Fishburn. The law firm has long has done work for the California Democratic Party. It also won’t likely come cheap.

Rogers said the firm was already treasurer for the opponents, so it made sense to retain them to oppose Scott’s lawsuit.

“For us it’s an important issue,” Rogers said. “For them, I think they feel equally as passionate about it.”

Opposing sides start collecting cash ahead of Fresno trash vote

It’s two months until Fresno’s June 4 vote on privatizing its residential trash service, and the money is coming in to both sides as they prepare for the upcoming political battle.

Not surprisingly, the sole donor backing a “yes” vote on the ballot — which would approve the city’s proposal — is Mid Valley Disposal. The company gave $100,000.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin last year said the city needed to outsource its residential trash service to balance the budget. A deeply divided City Council in turn gave Mid Valley Disposal the trash pickup contract for all of Fresno.

The committee collecting pro-privatization push is called “Yes on G. It’s Good for Fresno. Sponsored by Fresnans for Responsible Government and Mayor Ashley Swearengin, With Major Funding By Mid-Valley Disposal.”

On the other side, “Taxpayers for Good Government — No on Measure G. A bipartisan coalition of taxpayers, businesses and employee organizations” has picked up a total of $35,000 from two donors.

The Fresno, Madera, Tulare, Kings Counties Central Labor Council gave $25,000 and Assembly Member Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, gave $10,000 from his Perea Reviving Jobs and the Economy Ballot Measure Committee.

More donors will almost certainly add to the money pot for both sides. Swearengin herself, for instance, had almost $100,000 left in her mayoral campaign account as of Dec. 31. Will she commit any of that?

New fundraising committees could emerge as well.

But for now, this appears to be it.