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In search of Mayoral bid, Perea looks to garbage

GeorgeByline

A majority of Fresno County supervisors has put that bully Henry R. Perea in his place.

That spot may be the springboard to a Fresno mayoral run by the veteran District 3 supervisor.

It all has to do with trash.

The supes met Tuesday at the Hall of Records to tackle a full agenda. The last action item was a Perea proposal: Ask any and all local trash haulers to bid on an exclusive contract to serve the Mayfair neighborhood, a county island in the middle of town.

In the end, the board sent Perea and his idea packing on a 3-2 vote. The actual motion is a bit complex, and we’ll get to that in a minute. But it’s enough now to say Board Chairman Buddy Mendes, Debbie Poochigian and Andreas Borgeas were on one side while Perea had only Brian Pacheco in his camp.

To tell you the truth, it wasn’t just the motion that made the audience’s noggins hurt. The politics and economics of trash have been knocking Fresno for a loop for decades.

Just for the fun of it, let’s return to the 2000-2001 era to begin our review of the necessary context.

You know how humans are – we’re always making a lot of garbage while struggling through the day. And we’re always worried about fouling our own nest. Back when the millennium changed, we were just getting past the nationwide hysteria over the prospect of landfills overflowing with disposable diapers.

The politicians got involved in a big way. The age of mandated recycling was upon us. That meant lots of laws, lots of regulators, lots of new policies at the local level. And, it should be added in a positive way, lots of opportunities for trash haulers, be they privately owned or publicly operated.

So, the Jim Patterson epoch at Fresno City Hall concluded at the end of 2000 and the start of the Alan Autry epoch arrived in January 2001. The city got serious about its recycling program. You’ve got green waste on one hand, stuff like lawn clippings. On the other hand, you’ve got recyclables, stuff like aluminum cans, glass bottles and cardboard.

Perea was the City of Fresno’s District 7 council member at the time. And he was a powerful voice on the seven-person body. He would serve two consecutive years as council president in this period, a feat that drove future councils to change the way council president is elected.

Early in this century the city made a deal with Sunset Waste to handle the recyclables collected by city workers. Other haulers wanted the business, and delivered strong bids. But Sunset promised to build a processing center in West Fresno if it got the contract.

Putting people to work in West Fresno was mighty important to City Hall at the time.

There were a couple of hiccups along the way. Critics said the city was essentially giving the recyclables to Sunset (after all, things like processed cardboard and cans become commodities worth real money on the open market). And critics said the length of the deal (five years, as I recall) meant that Sunset would soon return to City Hall to ask for a contract extension in order to recoup the considerable expense of building the West Fresno processing plant.

The processing plant got built. Sunset did seek the contract extension, and got it. Life moved on.

Council Member Perea was an early Sunset supporter. He wasn’t alone.

George Hostetter
George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.

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