THE CONFLICT HEATS UP
First up was her plan to privatize the city-owned commercial trash service. Two companies – Allied and Mid Valley – would each get half of the city in return for millions in annual fees. Those fees would go into the general fund.
A divided council approved the plan in 2011. Henry T. Perea by this time was in the state Assembly. Andreas Borgeas, council member representing District 2, was among the Mayor’s supporters.
The city’s unions were incensed when the commercial service was privatized. They vowed to fight harder should a “next time” come.
Henry R. Perea, long a supporter of labor, watched from the Hall of Records.
Next up came Swearengin’s effort to privatize the residential trash service. That one ran into a buzz saw of opposition. I think I can safely assume Measure G, the June 2013 referendum on residential privatization, remains fresh enough in the civic consciousness to dispense with all the messy details.
It’s enough to note that 1.) Henry R. Perea actively campaigned against privatization, even walking precincts on one particular Saturday morning; 2.) Council Member Lee Brand, even then entertaining visions of the mayor’s office, supported privatization; 3.) the anti-privatization forces, led by blue-collar union leader Marina Magdaleno, won at the polls; 4.) the margin was close, less than 900 votes out of nearly 60,000 ballots; 5.) Swearengin was personally crushed by the defeat.
Then came 2014. The Great Recession began to fade even in Fresno. Elected officials across the town looked for places to spend money. That’s always No. 2 on their list of favorite things to do. No. 1 is angling for their next elective office. How powerful is the pull of No. 1? So strong that Swearengin, who was easily re-elected in 2012 with a promise to give Fresnans another riveting four years of service, decided to run for state controller in 2014. She lost, but polished her statewide image along the way.
As 2014 melted into 2015, we found Borgeas sitting on the supes’ dais. Henry R. Perea was comfortable in his third term at the Hall of Records. Brand had stopped being coy – he was busy building a foundation (campaign organization and policy-making resume) for a mayoral run. And District 5’s Sal Quintero, fresh off his fourth successful City Council election since 1996, was casting serious looks at Perea’s supervisorial seat.
Quintero knew what everyone else with an ounce of political curiosity knew – Supervisor Perea wants the same mayoral seat that eluded his son.
Oh, yes, and there was trash.
City Hall by October 2015 was ready to revisit the green waste/recyclables contract issues that had caused such turmoil some 15 years later. Contracts were expiring. Time to cut new deals with new companies.
No need here to go into the nitty-gritty of what the Swearengin Administration presented to the City Council on Oct. 8.
The lineup of companies is different. For instance, Sunset is now part of Mid Valley, the same company that played such a prominent and generous role in support of Swearengin’s Measure G privatization efforts.
There’s been some huffing and puffing between the council and Administration. “That’s my turf!” “Bull, I’m in charge here!” “Oh, the humanity!”
And there are numbers everywhere. All involved in this issue are soon mumbling “cost per ton” in their sleep.
But the lunchtime chatter among some haulers Tuesday at the Hall of Records was that City Attorney Doug Sloan is close to hammering out separate deals for residential green waste and residential recyclables. In both cases, the city would be split between two haulers. A proposal could come to the council by the end of February.
Brand is up to his eyeballs in all these maneuverings. Don’t forget – everything he does these days can affect his spring run for mayor.
And Supervisor Perea is keenly interested in all this, too. The June primary is some four months away. If he’s going to take the mayoral plunge, he’s got to take the public jump soon.