California Local Election Report: Three Cities Seek Voter Approval for Home-Rule Charters

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Today’s www.CalWatchdog.com (October 16, 2012) has a second article in a series about the 121 charter cities in California and the attempts of additional cities to enact charters and free their municipal affairs from the costly mandates of the California State Legislature. (See Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?) I am quoted in this article as well as in the first article.

Cities Vying for Local Control on November Ballotwww.CalWatchdog.com – October 16, 2012

But the biggest benefit, according to Kevin Dayton, CEO of Dayton Public Policy Institute, an employment and labor specialist and charter city expert, would be not having to pay prevailing wages on local public works projects. In a recent interview, Dayton said that labor union prevailing wage rates do not accurately reflect the actual industry rates, nor do they accurately reflect the construction industry in all areas within the state…

But the rational discussion about cost effectiveness has turned into an all-out assault. According to Dayton, unions have steamrolled right over smaller cities’ efforts to adopt charters. “Union leaders get very testy when someone points out that a charter city can establish its own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates,” Dayton said…

Also, see the first article in the series: Push for Charter Cities Enrages Unionswww.CalWatchdog.com – September 30, 2012

Three cities in California have proposed charters on the November 6, 2012 ballot for voters to approve. Two are medium-sized suburban cities and one is a small beach community. All three charters would give these cities the freedom to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates on purely municipal construction or private construction that gets any form of financial assistance from the city. Here’s the current status of each effort:

1. City of Costa Mesa (Orange County) – population 111,600

In November 2010, Costa Mesa voters elected a 4-1 majority on its city council that wanted to reduce the city’s budget deficit by cutting back on its workforce and contracting out services. Obviously this became a microcosm of the cataclysmic battle over the future of America: smaller government and lower taxes versus bigger government and higher taxes, or, to put it bluntly, free markets and minimalist government versus socialism. As the city council majority found its authority to manage municipal affairs continually suppressed by laws passed by the union-controlled California State Legislature, it decided to present a charter for voters to consider.

The city quickly earned national news media attention for taking on the public employee unions, which aggressively fought outsourcing. Its public meetings attracted every element of the Left intent on preserving and expanding the power and size of government. I have written about the Costa Mesa situation extensively; for more details, see Costa Mesa’s Bold and Meaningful Government Cost-Efficiency Plan on Hold Until November 6, When Citizens Vote on a Proposed Charter (Measure V) and for Three City Council Members.

2. City of Escondido (San Diego County) – population 146,032

Like in Costa Mesa, a 4-1 majority of the Escondido City Council wants to wrest the city from the costly mandates of the union-controlled California State Legislature and get more local control over the city’s budget issues. Opposing this move are unions and other leftist activists (see the Prop V section of the Escondido Democratic Club web site).

Unions tried a clever tactic to derail the charter proposal. As I wrote earlier, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California engineered a lawsuit against the city based on the California Voting Rights Act of 2001; for more details, see Escondido City Council Votes 4-1 to Approve Proposed Charter for Voters to Consider on November Ballot and California’s Voting Rights Act of 2001: A Weapon for Unions.

3. Grover Beach (San Luis Obispo County) – population 13,275

City councils for a cluster of beach towns on the Central Coast (Pismo Beach, Arroyo Grande, and Grover Beach) have toyed with the idea of passing charters, but Grover Beach was the first to jump. As seen in Costa Mesa and Escondido, unions and certain factions of the Democrat Party are opposing Measure I-12.

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