San Francisco's trash measure makes political mess 

Trash talk is intensifying over a proposed November ballot measure that would open up Recology’s San Francisco garbage-hauling monopoly to competition for the first time in decades.

Tony Kelly, who is leading the effort, accuses the garbage company of retaining two signature-gathering firms just so he couldn’t hire those companies for his own petition-signing effort. He also said suspected that agents of Recology offered to buy signed petitions from the signature gatherers he did hire. Finally, he suspects Recology set in motion a city enforcement action against the initiative’s backer.

“It’s more dirty tricks and sleaze than anything else,” Kelly said.

He also said Recology has waged a television and Internet advertising campaign asking San Franciscans, “Why mess with success?”

Nonetheless, Kelly said the initiative was on track to qualify for the ballot with a push for signatures over the weekend. Supporters must submit about 7,000 signatures to the Department of Elections by 5 p.m. today for the measure to qualify for the ballot.

Recology spokesman Sam Singer dismissed Kelly’s suggestions that his client is interfering with the signature collection.

“These guys are full of conspiracies,” Singer said.

Singer sought instead to focus attention on the initiative’s backer, San Francisco Bay Railroad President and CEO David Gavrich, who operates the rail transport line and Waste Solutions Group, which he said hauls “between 100,000 and 200,000 tons a year of waste.”

“This is a competitor that wants to try to disrupt and ruin San Francisco’s world-class recycling program,” Singer said. “They’re looking to make money for themselves.”

Gavrich, who so far has contributed $20,000 to the campaign, said profit is not his motivation. He said there is “an outside chance” his company would gain anything from a competitive bidding process.

“This is another classic case of San Francisco giving away the store,” he said. “I have a whole lot more to lose than gain.”

As evidence, Gavrich said he received notices of violations last month from the Port of San Francisco for the condition of his leased property and for locating goats on Port property that he was not leasing. 

“It could be just a coincidence,” Gavrich said, adding that he hasn’t had any such problems with the Port in 20 years.

A Port spokeswoman said the notices have nothing to with politics. An employee was in the area and noticed the conditions before any complaints came in, Port spokeswoman Renee Dunn Martin said. Yet Dunn Martin did confirm that Recology, which leases an adjacent parcel, complained about the goats’ shelter.

“While there may be friction between these two tenants, the Port’s reaction has nothing to do with S.F. Bay Rail or Recology’s political issues,” Dunn Martin said. “These violations are well-documented by Port staff.”

All this and the measure hasn’t even qualified for the ballot.

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