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.”

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.”

Fresno call center isn’t the only target in B of A’s layoff crosshairs

Bank of America’s plans to close its Fresno customer-service call center by next August represent another step in the company’s overall downsizing.

The company didn’t say how many workers will lose their jobs at the Fresno location on North Palm Avenue, but the call center opened in 2000 with about 475 employees. Some social media posts say the number of employees working there now, and who will lose their jobs, is closer to 700.

The company will eventually have to file mandatory notices with the state Employment Development Department detailing the number and types of jobs to be lost.  But that notice isn’t required until 60 days before the layoffs take effect.

Jennifer Darwin, a bank spokeswoman, told The Bee in a statement that the work done at the Fresno call center will be shuffled “to other centers across the country.” But there are rumors and rumblings among workers that the jobs are destined to be outsourced to other countries, perhaps in the Philippines.

The Charlotte Business Journal reported last week that B of A is continuing to put a new efficiency program in place in an effort to reduce its annual expenses by about $8 billion a year. The “Project New BAC” expects to slice nearly 30,000 employees from the company’s payroll.

Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Bank of America planned to cut about 16,000 jobs by the end of this year.