It mangles the streets with its large metal arms and leaves a grimy mess in its wake. It costs too much to operate. It encourages dog walkers to leave droppings where they don't belong.
"The Claw," it seems, has a lot of knocks against it, so many, in fact, that the city of Sacramento wants to curtail the number of trips the leaf-gathering machine makes during the year. But city officials can't make that change without the voters first granting their approval.
City residents will vote this November on Measure T, a proposal that seeks to reverse a 1977 ballot measure that prohibits the city from requiring the use of green waste bins for lawn trimmings. If the law is reversed, the city plans to do away with regular Claw service in all but the leafiest months and rely more heavily on bins.
The Claw would still be around the City Council just agreed to spend $762,000 to purchase seven of the contraptions but it would provide regular leaf pickup only from November through January. The service would be used on an appointment basis the rest of the year, as the city seeks to resurrect a once-popular bulky item collection program.
Should Measure T fail and city officials seem so convinced it will pass that no one has bothered to set up a political campaign supporting the cause those who use the Claw would likely see their monthly rates jump by more than $30 to continue the service, said Erin Treadwell, a spokeswoman with the city's solid waste division.
Less than 10 percent of city households use the Claw for their green waste collection; the other 103,000 or so use bins, paying about $3 less a month. Pro-bin residents say the choice is clear.
"I'm sick of the mess," said Brian Holloway, a development lobbyist living in east Sacramento who signed the ballot argument in favor of Measure T. "I'm constantly driving over the pile and spreading it. And it's incredibly nasty as it decays between pickups. You get this brown slime in the gutter."
Holloway admits the Claw is "a classic Sacramento, small-town, get everybody riled-up kind of an issue." And he doesn't have to look too far to witness those emotions.
"My wife loves the Claw," he said. "I'm going to be in such trouble for this. She doesn't know I signed the ballot argument."
Lisa Holloway has company in her love of the Claw. Among those fighting to defend the machine are a vocal band of advocates living in some of the city's older and leafier neighborhoods.
J. Bolton Phillips is among the leaders of that movement. Sitting in the shade of a cork oak in McKinley Park on Tuesday, Phillips questioned whether bins will get the job done of clearing Sacramento streets. We are, after all, a city of trees.
"This isn't about the Claw," he insisted. "This is about service."
Phillips, who has testified to the City Council on this matter many times, said one of the things that endeared him to Sacramento when he moved here in 1972 was the city's abundant tree canopy. He also appreciated that neighbors seemed to work together to keep their streets clear of leaves, an in-it-together attitude he fears will disappear if green bins are forced on the residents.
"There will be people beating each other in the street saying, 'Don't sweep your stuff my way,' " he warned.
Another opponent of the measure is Annette Deglow, the self-proclaimed "garbage queen" of the city. It takes just a mere mention of Measure T to get Deglow going; when contacted by a Bee reporter on the subject, Deglow spoke nearly uninterrupted for 32 minutes before pausing to ask, "Is there anything else you need to know?"
Deglow has followed this issue closely for years. Using her observations of the Claw from her front window in the College Glen neighborhood, she once put together an elaborate PowerPoint presentation for the City Council that provided her financial analysis of yard waste pickup.
Both she and Phillips criticized the city for a 2010 grand jury report that said officials had improperly redirected $21 million in utilities funds over the course of 12 years to pay for general government purposes, an apparent violation of Proposition 218. Solid waste rates are among those funds collected on utility bills.
"Why should you trust these guys (the city)?" asked Deglow. "Let's make them fix what they have."
City officials argue that's exactly why they want Measure T to pass.
The Claw has caused mass confusion in recent years, officials said, as some residents who weren't paying for the service were still getting their leaves picked up by the machine. The city has cracked down recently, and now Claw drivers are often seen carrying clipboards with lists of paying customers.
"We are proposing to deploy it better, in a fairer fashion," Treadwell said.
Solid waste officials said that if the measure is successful, rates for garbage, recycling and yard waste collection will remain stable until at least June 2015.
Bicycle advocates applaud the effort, saying it will make for clearer bike lanes. And environmental advocates are on board with the change, too, saying it could open the door to food compost being placed in green bins like it is in some Bay Area cities.
And then there's the dog poop element.
"(Dog walkers) somehow think that because it comes from their dog it's a natural product (and can be placed in leaf piles)," Treadwell said. "It's not. It's garbage. It needs to go in a garbage can."