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Measure to repeal San Diego's no-fee trash pickup for single-family homes trailing by slim margin

San Diego Union-Tribune - 11/8/2022

Early election returns Tuesday night showed similar numbers of voters supporting and rejecting a ballot measure that would end no-fee trash pickup for single-family homes in San Diego.

Two other initiatives — one that would allow child care facilities in city recreation centers, and one that would end a city ban on union-friendly project labor agreements — appeared headed for approval.

Each initiative needs support from a simple majority of voters. Measure B is the trash initiative, Measure D would end a city ban on union-friendly project labor agreements, and Measure H would allow child care facilities to begin operating in city recreation centers.

Measures D and H led by wide margins in early returns, while Measure B was trailing by a very slim margin.

Supporters say Measure B is all about fairness, stressing that the city's two-tiered trash system forces businesses and residents of apartments and condos to pay private haulers to pick up their trash, while single-family homeowners pay nothing beyond their property taxes.

Critics of Measure B generally don't dispute that the two-tiered system is unfair, but they say a better solution than a new fee for single-family homes would be expanding no-fee service by the city to condos and apartments — allowing them to stop using private haulers.

The financial analysis of Measure B in voter guides lists a cost to residents of $23 to $29. But monthly bills would almost certainly be somewhat higher than that range.

That's because an analysis by the city's independent budget analyst didn't account for increased service levels, such as free trash bins and more frequent recycling pickup.

A new state mandate requires San Diego to extend green waste service to all households and to pick up recycling once a week instead of once every two weeks. And Measure B would guarantee free trash bins, which the city does not currently provide.

If Measure B ends up getting enough votes for approval, the city will hire a consultant to analyze how much monthly trash bills should be and which services the city should provide.

If Measure B fails, supporters have said they might try another ballot measure in 2024.

On Measure D, supporters say it is crucial to helping San Diego avoid losing state construction funding, stressing that the city has received more than $800 million in such money in just the last two fiscal years.

Opponents stress that San Diego's ban on project labor agreements, often called PLAs, hasn't cost the city any state funding since it took effect in 2012. That's because the voter-approved ban has a specific exemption for projects where state funding would be at risk.

Project labor agreements are comprehensive deals on major construction projects that determine labor standards and which kinds of workers can perform which kinds of tasks, typically giving preference to unionized workers.

Opponents of Measure D also say it doesn't do enough to help Black people, Asian Americans and women land high-paying construction jobs.

Labor leaders spearheading the measure say they're working hard to make the local construction industry more inclusive. They also say anti-union contractors are dishonestly using race to fight a measure that threatens profits.

Supporters and opponents, each armed with more than $1 million in campaign funds, have flooded San Diego residents with mailers in recent weeks.

Measure H would amend the San Diego city charter to make it legal for city recreation centers to offer child care services.

Supporters say the fit could be ideal, because rec centers are mostly empty during the morning and early afternoon hours when care centers typically operate.

San Diego officials have been scrambling in recent years to address a shortage of local child care options for city workers and many residents, some of whom can't work due to lack of care.

A comprehensive survey last winter of 1,100 city facilities found that only 72 are viable candidates for child care services and that 42 of those are recreation centers in city parks where child care is not a legal activity.

Critics say the measure would give the city's mayor too much power over the use of parkland.

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.

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