Thu., July 7, 2011 3:39pm (EDT)

Recyclers Wield Rarely-Used Power
By Orlando Montoya
Updated: 3 years ago

SAVANNAH, Ga.  —  
Residents in the City of Savannah got curbside recycling bins in late 2008.  The City Council approved the program after a citizen-led petition drive came close to forcing a vote.  Such voter-initiated ballot measures are common in other states and but rare in Georgia.
Residents in the City of Savannah got curbside recycling bins in late 2008. The City Council approved the program after a citizen-led petition drive came close to forcing a vote. Such voter-initiated ballot measures are common in other states and but rare in Georgia.
Recycling advocates in Savannah's Chatham County say, they have enough signatures to force a vote on curbside recycling.

The petitioners are taking advantage of a rarely-used power in the Georgia Constitution.

The state allows citizens to repeal or amend certain local laws.

But the ballot initiative process requires 10% of a county's registered voters to sign up to force a vote.

One state political expert says, he's unaware of the process being used successfully in Georgia.

Chatham County recycling advocate Karen Grainey says, voters in Northeast Georgia's Elbert County and South Georgia's Evans County have tried and failed to pass muster.

"We have high hopes that we'll be the first group in Georgia to be successful at using this Constitutional provision," Grainey says. "We really felt like we didn't have any other option."

Grainey says, the Chatham County Commission hasn't shown much interest even in listening to the proposal.

County Commission Chairman Pete Liakakis says, while he's sympathetic to recycling, he also has to consider the county's strained budget.

"I know and many of the commissioners know how important it is for recycling," Liakakis says. "It's just a matter of being able to do it because the cost factors on these kinds of things if they're not handled properly can be a burden on the people in our community."

Recycling advocates followed the same process to force the City of Savannah to start a curbside recycling program two years ago.

But the City Council approved it before a vote could take place.

The recycling advocates now say they have enough signatures to force a vote in the entire county.