Panel allows new recycling petition

Feb. 13–A local resident plans to get an early start on a campaign to collect
20,000 signatures to get an initiative on the ballot to bring back weekly
curbside recycling to Chattanooga.

On Monday, the Hamilton County Election Commission signed off on allowing the
petition process to begin for the November 2008 election. Frank DePinto would
have to get signatures in by September 2008, said Charlotte Mullis, deputy
election administrator.

While looking toward the 2008 election, Mr. DePinto said he wants to affect
change before that. He said he and other volunteers hope to present a number of
collected signatures to city officials this summer in hopes of persuading the
city to go to a weekly or at least twice-monthly curbside pickup schedule.

"We have a benchmark, and that benchmark will be used for political impact," he
said.

The city went to monthly curbside pickup in January, but it has increased the
number of drop-off centers. City officials have cited a low curbside
participation rate and high fuel and vehicle maintenance costs as factors
leading them to change the policy.

After a month, Lee Norris, deputy administrator of Public Works, said a lower
volume of recyclables indicates a reduction in curbside pickup, but he added
that the volume of recyclables at convenience centers and the number of people
using the drop-off sites have gone up.

Michelle Michaud, spokeswoman for Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, said in a
statement that officials are encouraged by the number of residents recycling,
especially those dropping off recyclables. After six months, officials will
start adding twice-monthly pickup in neighborhoods that have the highest
curbside participation rates, she said.

"Our principal objective with the new recycling plan is to increase the net
amount of material being recycled with a very small amount of nonrecyclable
product going to the landfill," she said.

As Mr. DePinto pursues the petition drive, there’s a discrepancy between the
state requirement of more than 13,000 signatures for the petition and the city
mandate of more than 6,000 names. Attorney Jimmy Rodgers, sitting in for
Election Commission attorney Jerry Summers, encouraged Mr. DePinto to aim for
the state threshold.

When Mr. DePinto tried to get an initiative on the ballot last fall, roughly 30
percent of the signatures were deemed invalid, election officials said. So Mr.
DePinto said he’ll try for 20,000 signatures this time around to satisfy the
state requirement.

Meanwhile, election officials said Monday that there is a risk associated with
such an early collection of signatures. Election Commission Chairwoman Linda
Morris-Avila said some people could move or die before the petition deadline,
making their signatures invalid.

Hamilton County Election Commission Administrator Bud Knowles raised similar
concerns, but he said Mr. DePinto has the right to have the petition.

Mr. DePinto said there will be a meeting at 6 p.m. on Feb. 21 at the
Chattanooga/Hamilton County Business Development Center on Cherokee Boulevard,
and signature lists will be distributed at that time. He said people also will
be able to print petitions off the Internet.

Title: Panel allows new recycling petition
Authors: Davis, Michael
Source: Chattanooga Times/Free Press (TN); 02/13/2007

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