Archive for Changing How California is Governed

An Early Shot of a California Unionist Against Calexit

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UPDATE! Here are the 39 comments submitted to the California Attorney General about the Calexit initiative:

Public Comments to California Attorney General on Calexit Secession Initiative


The average person in California seems to regard the California secession movement (#Calexit) as an amusing novelty or an interesting intellectual argument. But history is unpredictable and often full of surprises.

Who would have guessed at the beginning of 2003 that Governor Gray Davis would actually be recalled before the end of the year and replaced with Arnold Schwarzenegger? Who would have predicted at the beginning of 2015 that Donald Trump would be elected President of the United States in 2016?

It’s best to take disruptive and potentially-destructive ideas seriously and reject them with valid arguments before they gain momentum. I have no idea if anyone has submitted legal arguments against “Calexit: The California Independence Plebiscite of 2019.” On December 20, 2016, I submitted my own argument to California Attorney General Kamala Harris to ask for a court order to relieve her of the legal duty to provide an official title and summary. The text is below.

December 20, 2016

The Honorable Kamala Harris
Attorney General of California
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244

Dear Attorney General Harris:

I urge you to commence a timely and appropriate legal action seeking to be relieved of the duty to prepare a circulating title and summary for Initiative 16-0011, informally titled “Calexit: The California Independence Plebiscite of 2019.” The measure is invalid.

The Calexit proposal is unconstitutional on its face. It is clear that states do not have the legal authority to sever or separate from the federal Union. Circulation of the petition would deceive some people into falsely asserting that secession from the United States is actually permitted under the federal constitution. In addition, submission of an illegal measure to the voters would serve no legitimate purpose, but would be a useless waste of resources and create emotional community divisions.

Nothing in the United States Constitution provides for the secession of a state or states. A previous attempt in the 1860s of several states to acquire federal assets and secede from the United States was not recognized as valid by President Abraham Lincoln and the Congress of the United States. Your office should seek advice from credentialed historians and carefully analyze the documents related to this failed secession movement to determine its constitutionality.

In addition, the Calexit proposal would create emotional divisions, starting with civil unrest as residents of California considered whether to flee the potential rebellion, join it, or undermine it from within using various legal and even illegal means. “Brother Against Brother” is a figurative and sometimes even literal description of the four years of civil war in the United States during the 1860s secession movement. More than 750,000 individuals were killed or died because of this civil war, according to the latest revised estimates, and large swaths of United States territory were devastated. Your office should seek advice from credentialed historians and carefully analyze the emotional divisions caused by credible secession movements.

There is recent precedent for you to be relieved of the duty to prepare a circulating title and summary for an unconstitutional measure. On March 25, 2015, you requested a order from a court to relieve the office of the Attorney General from issuing a title and summary for a proposed initiative (15-008) because it “patently violated the Constitution on its face.” A judge agreed and declared on June 22, 2015 that circulating petitions for signatures would be “inappropriate, waste public resources, generate unnecessary divisions among the public and tend to mislead the electorate.”

You have also acted in other ways to derail unconstitutional actions initiated by the people. On March 26, 2013, you declared in a statement that “I declined to defend Proposition 8 because it violates the Constitution.” This was an initiative that voters had actually enacted in a plebiscite.

Finally, your decision not to circulate this initiative would NOT deprive discontented individuals of their human right to free themselves from the authority of the United States government. Those who consider the United States to have a tyrannical or unjust government can exercise their rights and powers under the United States Constitution to petition for redress of grievances. If still not satisfied, they can also choose to immigrate from the United States to other nations that provide or have the potential to provide the degree of liberty and justice they seek for themselves and their progeny. For other discontented individuals who seek to live under the authority of a tyrannical and unjust government, they can immigrate to other nations with a proven history of exercising such authority.

Please terminate this unconstitutional proposal.

Sincerely,

Kevin Dayton


Public Comment Against Circulating Calexit Petitions

Public Comment Against Circulating Calexit Petitions

Automated Attorney General Response to Public Comment Against Circulating Calexit Petitions

Automated Attorney General Response to Public Comment Against Circulating Calexit Petitions

As Vote Nears on Binding Term-Sheet for Sacramento Kings Arena, Sacramento City Council to Repeal an Open Government Policy for Contracts

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UPDATE: The Sacramento City Council ended up keeping the 10-day posting requirement for contracts greater than $1 million. Here’s an excerpt from the editorial Don’t Pull Back on Open Government in the March 12, 2014 Sacramento Bee:

Safeguarding open government is a constant struggle. Backsliding can happen easily if people aren’t vigilant…Yet there was a proposal before council members to kill the 10-day rule for big contracts – at least until The Bee’s editorial board starting nosing around and a local watchdog group raised a stink.

Tuesday night, the council said it would keep the “sunshine” rule, and several members spoke in favor of transparency. But even the prospect of backtracking was disturbing, and the timing was curious, to say the least. It only fed suspicions that the city is trying to ram through the downtown arena deal.

As watchdog group Eye on Sacramento pointed out in a Monday letter to council members, next month they are to consider the final financing agreement for the planned downtown arena. It’s a deal that could use as much public and media scrutiny as possible, given how important the project is for the city and how much taxpayers have at stake. Last March, the council was criticized for making a mockery of transparency by approving the current arena “term sheet” only three days after it had been made public.

The group Eye on Sacramento probably prevented the Sacramento City Council from repealing the policy without controversy. See the group’s alert letter, below.


One week before the annual “Sunshine Week” to recognize and promote open and accessible government practices, the Sacramento City Council has an item on its March 11, 2014 meeting agenda to repeal its policy that all agreements greater than $1,000,000 shall be posted on the city’s website and be made available to the public at least 10 days prior to council action (unless waived by a 2/3 vote of council).
See the staff report: Council Rules of Procedure.

The item is disguised on the city council meeting agenda as the innocuous-sounding “Pass a Resolution approving the Council Rules of Procedure.” I’ll admit looking at the agenda on Friday, March 7 but not recognizing this as anything significant. They fooled me.

The City of Sacramento did not fool Craig Powell of the watchdog group Eye on Sacramento. He sent this email to the city council and other Sacramento leaders this afternoon:

From: Craig Powell
To: Sacramento City Council and Others
Sent: 3/10/2014 3:38:40 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time
Subj: EOS Objects to Repeal of the 10-Day Sunshine Rule on $1MM+ City Contracts

Dear Mayor Johnson and Members of the City Council,

We are writing to express our strongest possible objection to the proposal before you tomorrow evening to gut the current city council rule that requires that all city contracts involving more than $1 million be posted on the city’s website and be made available to the public at least 10 days before the council takes action on such contracts.

This 10-day posting/disclosure rule is commonly known as the city’s “Sunshine Rule” and was adopted to assure that the public and the media have adequate time to review and provide feedback to you on the terms of major city contracts before you vote on them (Council Rules Chapter 7, Section E-2-d; http://sacramento.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=21&event_id=2435&meta_id=412675 ).

The council’s adoption of the Sunshine Rule has been the single most important upgrade in city government transparency in the past 20 years.

Had the Sunshine Rule been in place when the city was considering approval of its 20-year exclusive, no-bid prime garbage contract with BLT Enterprises (now Waste Management) in 2010, it is unlikely that such an unfair and grossly burdensome contract would have been imposed on hapless city utility ratepayers.  Because the Sunshine Rule was not in place at the time, the egregious city/BLT Enterprises contract was jammed through late at night during the final session of the term of the city council with zero public or media awareness or analysis.  The Sacramento County Civil Grand Jury has castigated the city for both the atrocious terms of the BLT contract and the shady circumstances under which it was approved (Grand Jury, 2011-2012 Reports, page 39; New Tab).

The proposed draft of the new council rules proposes that the Sunshine Rule apply in the future only to city labor contracts – which are already covered by the current Rule since every city union contract involves more than $1 million.  Gutting the Sunshine Rule would return us to the council’s bad old days when it all too often provided de minimis notice to the public and the media of the terms of large contracts that have a lasting and major financial impact on the city.  That is simply unacceptable.

How can you expect the citizens of Sacramento to trust the city council and city government when you are taking active steps to hide from them the details of major city contracts?  When you intentionally change the rules so you can provide inadequate public notice of the terms of major contracts you only breed public cynicism and suspicion over what it is you are trying to hide from the public.

For example, is it sheer coincidence that this move to gut the council’s Sunshine Rule is occurring just three weeks before you are set to approve a massive public subsidy of a new sports and entertainment facility, set for April 1st?  Somehow we doubt it.

There has been no showing whatsoever of any need to water down the Sunshine Rule.  The council already has a relief valve in place in cases of exigent circumstance: the council, by a 2/3rds vote, can choose to waive the 10-day posting requirement.

We can only surmise that some council members are seeking to gut the Sunshine Rule now in order to deprive the public and the media of a reasonable opportunity to review the several hundreds of pages of legal documents that will comprise the “arena deal.”  We can only conclude that you don’t want the public and the media to have adequate time to review the documents, determine the impacts and provide citizen feedback to you, their elected representatives.

If you approve this rule change tomorrow evening you will be sending a clear signal that you want to keep the public and media in the dark for as long as possible about the final terms of the arena deal and deprive them of the time needed to adequately review the final deal and provide informed feedback to the council. No council member voting to gut the Sunshine Rule could ever again creditably claim to be supportive of transparency and openness in city government.

We beseech you: please show a higher level of respect for your constituents and reject this misguided effort to gut the city’s Sunshine Rule.  Thank you.

Very truly yours,

Craig Powell, President
Phone: (916) 718-3030
cc:  Mr. John Shirey, City Manager
Ms. Shirley Concolino, City Clerk
Mr. James Sanchez, City Attorney
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Five Winning Issues for a Republican Candidate for California State Treasurer – My Article in www.FlashReport.org

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San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders began her January 15, 2014 column “Who Wants to Lose to Gov. Jerry Brown?” with the following observation:

How near death is the California Republican Party? It’s this bad. Democrats hold every statewide office. Term limits have opened up a few offices; still, no serious Republican plans to run for attorney general, lieutenant governor, treasurer or controller this year. If the lead Democrat for any of those offices dies in September, there will be no Republican in the race to win in November.

Saunders identified two Republicans “fighting over the honor of losing to Gov. Jerry Brown,” (Tim Donnelly and Abel Maldonado, who dropped out two days later), a state senator running for Insurance Commissioner (Ted Gaines), and a public policy institute director running for Secretary of State (Pete Peterson). She also pointed out the lack of Republican candidates to challenge the weak Democrat incumbents for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General and to run for the open seats for Controller and Treasurer.

This column inspired me to write a commentary posted on www.FlashReport.org today (January 20, 2014): “It’s Winnable! Conditions Are Ripe for a Republican to Get Elected in 2014 as California State Treasurer.” I provide five issues “for a libertarian populist-style Republican who can credibly argue to The People against crony capitalism and build a majority coalition of support from voters on the Left and Right.”

Are you such a potential candidate?

Planning for 2014: Two Recommendations in www.FlashReport.org to California Supporters of Economic Freedom and Fiscal Responsibility

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It’s too early to predict if Californians will elect more supporters of economic freedom and fiscal responsibility to Congress, statewide office, the state legislature, and local offices in 2014. It’s also too early to know if Californians are getting sick of accumulating yet more public debt through state and local ballot measures.

In the meantime, I’m trying to promote grassroots activities that might encourage Californians to do the following:

1. Consider electing government officials with a different philosophy of government than the tax-and-spend model prevalent in much of the state.

2. Better understand and scrutinize bond measures before approving educational districts to borrow money for construction (and other expenses authorized by Proposition 39, such as iPads).

See my December 6, 2013  article California Supporters of Economic and Personal Freedom Can Plan for 2014 by Thinking Locally in www.FlashReport.com.

Sources for Claims That One-Party Control and Government Taking More Money Triggered a California Comeback

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Prominent “Progressives” identify a simple way for governments to ease economic and social problems: take more money from people as tax revenue and spend it on programs and projects. And in 2013 they can cite an example that seems to conform with their ideas.

Yes, it’s California.

Below is a fairly comprehensive list of sources for this claim. Notice that many of these sources are based on the East Coast.

Reporters and columnists for the New York Times seem to be particularly knowledgeable about the political and economic circumstances of California. They have even personified the claim through Governor Jerry Brown, as if one heroic, enlightened man alone engineered a “comeback” for the state. (Governor Brown doesn’t do much to dispel the myth.)

I’m guessing that the interest of the New York Times in California’s economy and budget is based primarily on needing to tout an example that the federal government should emulate. The nation’s intellectual elite continues to be frustrated that the “New New Deal” that Progressives were envisioning for America after the November 2008 election never came to fruition. The “Tea Party” has exploited outdated structural checks and balances of the republican model of government and permitted the thinking of the Reagan Era to linger, hindering Progress.

California Comeback:
One-Party Control and Higher Taxes as a Model for Success
  1. California Beaming – commentary by Tim Egan – New York Times – March 28, 2013
  2. Lessons From a Comeback – column by Paul Krugman – New York Times – March 31, 2013
  3. California Faces a New Quandary, Too Much MoneyNew York Times – May 25, 2013
  4. California’s New ‘Problem’: Jerry Brown on the Sudden Surplus, and the FilibusterThe Atlantic – May 26, 2013
  5. The California Comeback: How Progressives Stopped California’s Decline – video of panel discussion at 2013 Netroots Nation – June 22, 2013
  6. California Shows the Country How to Overcome GOP Dead-EndersNew Republic – July 1, 2013
  7. California Resurgent Under Brown, But Spending a Worry – Associated Press – July 5, 2013
  8. California Economy is on the Comeback Trail. Can America Follow?Christian Science Monitor – July 23, 2013
  9. Brown Cheered in Second Act, at Least So FarNew York Times – August 16, 2013
  10. Jerry Brown’s Tough-Love California Miracle: The 75-year-old governor rescued the Golden State from financial ruin – and is reshaping a national progressive agenda – Rolling Stone – August 29, 2013
  11. New Rule: Conservatives Who Love to Brag About American Exceptionalism Must Come Here to California – commentary by Bill Maher – Huffington Post – September 27 2013
  12. Jerry Brown Calls Washington Gridlock Dangerous, ‘Really Sick’Sacramento Bee – October 2, 2013
  13. Sacramento Not as Dysfunctional as Washington, D.C. – column by Tim Rutten – Los Angeles Daily News – October 11, 2013
  14. California Sees Gridlock Ease in GoverningNew York Times – October 18, 2013
  15. Gov. Jerry Brown’s Advice for WashingtonLos Angeles Times – October 24, 2013
  16. California, Jerry Brown Enjoying Rave Reviews, but Comparisons Are TrickySacramento Bee – October 25, 2013
  17. While Congress Stalls, the Golden State Moves Forward – commentary by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D) – Santa Barbara Independent – November 5, 2013
  18. California Governor Brown: A Great Power Has To Find Some Unity – NPR – November 6, 2013
  19. California, Here We Come? – column by Paul Krugman – New York Times – November 24, 2013 (praise of Covered California)

After November 23, 2013

Jerry Brown’s Revenge – commentary by Tim Egan – New York Times – March 6, 2014

Palmy Days for Jerry – commentary by Maureen Dowd – New York Times – March 22, 2014

Jerry Brown’s 4th Act – Politico – October 28, 2014

 

California Public Agencies Revert to Closed Session When Construction Unions Have a Spat Over Who Gets Taxpayers’ Money

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UPDATE (November 13, 2013): At its November 12, 2013 meeting, the board of trustees for Rancho Santiago Community College District voted unanimously to continue a practice adopted in August 2013 not to discuss its Measure Q Project Labor Agreement negotiations in closed session until the college chancellor gets legal clarification from California Attorney General Kamala Harris. An opinion from the Attorney General is not likely to be produced for several months.

Speaking in support of having the discussions in open session was Dave Everett, Government Affairs Director for the Southern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, and Craig Alexander of the Pacific Justice Institute. On behalf of trustee Phil Yarbrough, Alexander wrote a November 5, 2013 memo to the board explaining why discussing Project Labor Agreement negotiations in closed session was not legal.

The head of the Los Angeles/Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council was at the meeting but didn’t speak. Also silent was board member José Solorio, who is running for California State Senate in 2014 and appears to be the impetus for the Project Labor Agreement.

During his public comments, Dave Everett asked the college to identify its source for the list of local governments that have discussed Project Labor Agreements in closed session. The chancellor responded that staff obtained the list, but Mr. Everett then asked if those governments had indicated their closed session discussions on public meeting agendas. The chancellor did not know. Mr. Everett then expressed concern that the list was provided by a union lawyer based on personal experience and knowledge – not a reliable source of information for making decisions concerning a $198 million bond measure.

In addition, when the board president asked Mr. Everett if he assumed the construction plan would not move forward while the college and unions were negotiating a Project Labor Agreement, Mr. Everett responded by asking “Are they planning the projects with or without a PLA?” The board president replied “I’m not going to tell you that”  and then the Chancellor declared the exchange to be out of order.

Thank you to elected trustee Phil Yarbrough for being a champion of the people on this issue.


There are always a few “people on the fringe” who stubbornly fight for what is right after most people choose to acquiesce to the prevailing culture for their own good and the alleged “common good.” I’m told that a few aggressive opponents of the construction union political agenda are spoiling negotiations for “peace in our time” and making California’s political, corporate, and union leaders very angry.

Construction trade union lobbyists and lawyers are continuing to advance legislative strategies that will neutralize these people, described as “radicals” by one union official. These union strategies eliminate or circumvent structural checks and balances that advocates of fair and open competition use to expose and derail Project Labor Agreements and other union initiatives.

In my September 17, 2013 article in www.UnionWatch.org (California Construction Unions Circumvent Public Scrutiny of Project Labor Agreements), I reported on “the end of public deliberation and votes for Project Labor Agreements in the legislative branch of state and local governments. Instead, backroom deals are made in the executive branch to give unions control of the work.”

Now, in my November 9, 2013 article in www.FlashReport.org entitled Smoothing Over Project Labor Agreement Disputes in Closed Session: The Latest Union Scheme for “Progress” in California, I report that “In order to evade public scrutiny of government-mandated Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) for construction contracts, union officials are implementing a strategy to redirect certain discussions of this controversial issue into ‘closed session’ at board meetings of government agencies.” The board of trustees for the Rancho Santiago Community College District will discuss the legality of the practice at its November 12, 2013 meeting.

The public learned about this abuse of “closed session” through my July 23, 2013 article in www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com entitled Project Labor Agreement Negotiations Fail, Government Transparency Is Restored, Ferry Agency Resumes Fair and Open Bid Competition, followed by a July 27, 2013 article in the Vallejo Times-HeraldVallejo Ferry Hub Accord in Jeopardy.

It’s not hard to figure out what’s happening. Ultimately, the negotiation and execution of Project Labor Agreements for government projects will always occur administratively through backroom deals, without unpleasant and embarrassing public discussions and votes. The perspectives of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, Associated Builders and Contractors, certain districts and chapters of Associated General Contractors, the Western Electrical Contractors Association, and local business and taxpayer groups will be moot.

Evading Public Accountability: Four Recent Project Labor Agreements on Government Projects Without a Vote

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In the past 12 months, government officials in California have helped to arrange backroom deals with building trades unions to require construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of working on four publicly-funded projects.

  1. California High-Speed Rail Initial Construction Segment
  2. San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion
  3. New Sacramento Kings Arena
  4. New San Diego County Central Courthouse

Project Labor Agreements imposed on these four projects were developed under the pretense of being independent decisions of private parties within a design-build contract or public-private partnership. Elected or appointed officials of the government agencies did not deliberate or vote on these labor agreements. Yet in all four cases listed above, representatives of the applicable public agency played a key role in arranging the union deal.

For more information, see my September 17, 2013 www.UnionWatch.org article California Construction Unions Circumvent Public Scrutiny of Project Labor Agreements.

Union Operatives Infiltrate Office of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner to Push Costly and Burdensome Prevailing Wage Mandate for City Contracts

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As of today, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner says he will remain in office despite women accusing him of sexual harassment. For the mayor, this is the most damaging of several recent scandals that include a mysterious trip to Paris, a generous complimentary refurbishing of the mayor’s office reception area, and alleged demands for payments in exchange for project approval.

While some of Mayor Filner’s staff have resigned in recent weeks, other people are coming into his administration to fill the power vacuum. And who better to become entrenched in this scandal-ridden administration than union officials?

Jennifer Badgley, Director of Special Projects and Labor Affairs

Apparently the mayor has brought on a former (or current) professional organizer and political director of San Diego’s International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union No. 569. Jennifer Badgley has recently become the “Director of Special Projects and Labor Affairs” for Mayor Filner, according to her Linked In profile.

Jennifer Badgley – San Diego Mayor’s Office and IBEW Local Union No. 569

According to a lobbying report filed by the IBEW Local 569, Badgley had lobbied Mayor Filner and staff on a few issues during the second quarter of 2013 (April 1 to June 30), including “good green local jobs and career pathways for local workers,” Community Choice Aggregation, and “responsible construction and development,” including on the San Diego Convention Center Expansion. She also “sat in with business” concerning a “potential San Diego energy project.”

She arrived just in time! A vote at the San Diego City Council is scheduled on July 30, 2013 to adopt a union-backed ordinance proposed by Mayor Filner to require construction companies with city contracts to pay wage rates (“prevailing wages”) set by the State of California. Since 1980, the City of San Diego has exercised its authority as a charter city to issue contracts for most purely municipal projects without state-mandated wage rates, as a result saving money for taxpayers. Filner’s proposal would submit the City of San Diego to state law regarding wage rates on public works projects.

Circumstances have now allowed the mayor’s Director of Special Projects and Labor Affairs to be the coauthor of a July 16, 2013 propaganda memo to the San Diego City Council arguing why city taxpayers should pay more for construction and why the city bureaucracy should be entangled in $250,000 worth of monitoring and enforcement of cumbersome unfunded state mandates per $100 million spent on construction. Some of the highlights of this memo:

  • It disparages the city’s Office of the Independent Budget Analyst, which issued a Review of Proposal to Require Compliance with the State’s Prevailing Wage Laws on All City Public Works Projects. The review estimated a cost increase of 5 to 10 percent on projects and noted “the likely trade off in the form of higher capital project costs and the resulting impact to infrastructure programs which are a high priority for the City.”
  • It claims that the state exempts volunteers from prevailing wage requirements, but doesn’t note that the exemption has an expiration date and that certain unions have objected to this exemption.
  • It cites and provides text of the 2010 Azusa Land Partners v. Department of Industrial Relations California appellate court decision that expanded prevailing wage to certain private housing developments, but it doesn’t mention the much more relevant 2012 California Supreme Court decision in State Building & Construction Trades Council of California v. City of Vista. Unions lost this case badly when the California Supreme Court upheld the right of charter cities to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated wage rates for purely municipal contracts.
  • It reports that “staff presented this proposal to construction industry stakeholders at their quarterly meeting on June 20, 2013,” apparently through a presentation by Murtaza Baxamusa, City of San Diego, Office of the Mayor, Special Advisor for Public Policy. (See more about Baxamusa below.) The association representatives at the meeting were reportedly delighted about the proposal; of course, the groups listed as attending the meeting represent and provide contract negotiation and administration services to companies that choose to be bound under the requirements of union collective bargaining agreements. They have a financial interest in government increasing project costs.

Such an rigid approach to public policy as reflected in Badgley’s memo is consistent with her history of advancing the union agenda. In the summer of 2009, at a time when 20% of IBEW Local 569 members were unemployed, Badgley expressed pride in what she identified as her greatest accomplishment: derailing the plan of Gaylord Entertainment to build a $1.2 billion hotel and convention center in Chula Vista because the company wouldn’t sign a Project Labor Agreement guaranteeing 100% of the construction trade work to unions. A July 6, 2009 profile on the now-defunct San Diego News Network web site reported her perspective as part of an interview to reveal her “journey” as she sought to “create broader social change.”

Badgley is or was married to Tefere Gebre, the executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, who is expected to become the next Executive Vice President of the national AFL-CIO. In 2012 he proclaimed The Truth About the Right-Wing’s Latest Scheme to Punish Workers in Costa Mesa, and in 2009 he decried “The assault on Orange County by Colorado-based zealot Eric Christensen (sic) and Supervisor John Moorlach.” Gebre caused a stir in August 2007 when he sent Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction a bizarre email claiming that he saw Christen “on TV as a gay whitehouse corspondent.” (sic)

Murtaza Baxamusa, Special Advisor for Public Policy

Murtaza Baxamusa used to churn out policy reports for the union-backed Center on Policy Initiatives in San Diego. He was a founder of the phony Middle Class Taxpayers Association, which advocates for union-backed initiatives that increase costs to taxpayers. In 2011 he was hired as Director of Planning and Development for the San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation. The San Diego County Building Trades Family Housing Corporation contributed $85,000 to the November 2012 campaign to pass Proposition Z, a $2.8 billion bond measure with a Project Labor Agreement for the San Diego Unified School District. It’s unclear if Baxamusa is still employed at the union housing corporation.

Mayor Bob Filner’s Support for the Union Political Agenda

Bob Filner, the Mayor of the City of San Diego, has long supported the political agenda of construction trade unions. Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction wrote in an opinion piece in Voice of San Diego on July 20, 2007 that Filner had “an almost canine affection for doing the unions’ bidding.”

In 1999, then-Congressman Filner recognized Art Lujan of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO for his leadership in the San Diego labor movement. He noted that “Art successfully secured a Project Labor Agreement with the County Water Authority resulting in over $700 million in construction projects throughout the next eight years.” This was the first government-mandated Project Labor Agreement in San Diego County.

As a member of Congress in 2007, Filner blamed Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox for the decision of Gaylord Entertainment to withdraw its proposal to build a $1.2 billion hotel and conference center on the Chula Vista Bayfront. Unions were threatening to block the project with environmental objections unless the company signed a Project Labor Agreement to build the project. Filner apparently felt that Cox should have pressured Gaylord to give the unions what they wanted.

A letter to the editor in the July 15, 2007 San Diego Union-Tribune explained Filner’s political attack:

So now the finger-pointing begins. And the show is being led by Rep. Bob Filner, who demonstrated political grandstanding at its finest by swooping in to defend the unions. How much has he been involved in this process before now? And without demonstrating any personal effort in advancing the project, how does he justify a self-appointed role as the arbiter of who did what wrong?

In 2010, Filner wrote a letter on Congressional stationery (in apparent violation of U.S. House of Representatives ethics rules) to the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce telling them to oppose Proposition G. Prop G was a “fair and open competition” ballot measure to enact an ordinance prohibiting the City of Chula Vista from entering into contracts that required construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of work. Filner claimed that it would be a “fool’s errand” to obtain federal funding for the City of Chula Vista if voters approved Proposition G. On June 6, 2010, 56% of Chula Vista voters supported Proposition G, and Filner subsequently played the fool and continued to send federal money there.

Of course Filner supported the Project Labor Agreement that the board of the San Diego Unified School District imposed on $4.9 billion in construction (not including state matching grants) approved by voters as Proposition S in 2008 and the subsequent Proposition Z in 2012. And citing arguments from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), he wrote letters to the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009 and 2010 opposing Sempra Energy’s construction of an electricity transmission line between Mexico and San Diego County.

And notably, he recognized Murtaza Baxamura in 2012 in the Congressional Record. Now Baxamura is on his staff, pushing for government-mandated construction wage rates.

Antics and Resolutions at the 2013 California Democratic Party Convention – More Monitoring Is Needed

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My article Union Influence in the California Democratic Party’s 2013 Convention Resolutions was posted on www.UnionWatch.org on April 16, 2013. It includes a link to the actual resolutions approved by the California Democratic Party and my annotated version of the resolutions approved by the California Democratic Party, as well as my analysis of some of the union-related resolutions.

Here are some of my other thoughts about party conventions in California in 2013.

Controlling the Image: Democrats Did Good Job, Republicans Flopped

I sent this Tweet on April 13, at the end of the first day of the 2013 California Democratic Party convention:

Kevin DaytonKevin Dayton ‏@DaytonPubPolicy13 Apr

Not 1 report of inflammatory lit or remarks at California Democratic Convention. Truly they’ve evolved to a higher plane foretold in sci-fi.

Why do the California Republican Party’s semi-annual conventions constantly generate embarrassing and unflattering images to the public, while the California Democratic Party manages to minimize reports about their own oddball characters and inflammatory statements?

  • Typical answer from the Left: Republicans are old, white, backwards, and ignorant, while Democrats are diverse, progressive, educated, and enlightened.
  • Typical answer from the Right: the news media is biased against Republicans.
  • My answer: Democrats do a much better job in researching, identifying, and exposing the flaws of Republican leaders and activists than Republicans do with Democrats.

One obvious comparison is the use of social media (web sites, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

Using Twitter: Democrats Did Good Job, Republicans Flopped

Again, from my tweets during the California Democratic Convention:

Tons of critical tweets during #CAGOP convention; ZERO during CA Dem Convention. Anyone? I just tweeted against Social Impact Bond proposal.

Kevin DaytonKevin Dayton ‏@DaytonPubPolicy13 Apr

Does it matter? Stunning contrast: substantial Twitter activity from California Democratic Convention versus minimal from #CAGOP convention.

Who will analyze? Positive & negative Tweets: 3/1-3 #CAGOP convention compared to positive & negative Tweets: 4/12-14 #cadem2013 convention.

I haven’t seen an analysis produced yet by anyone, but one person claimed 3400 tweets related to the California Democratic Party convention.

steveolsonsteveolson ‏@steveolson14 Apr

there’ve been nearly 3400 tweets on #cadem13 & #cadem2013 but only 7 vines. (2 were mine) #nerdery #p2

I’m not sure there were 100 tweets in total related to the 2013 California Republican Party convention, even including the negative and oblique perspectives. It didn’t even have a standard hashtag. (Five tweets were sent using #CAGOP2013, one with #CAGOP13.)

It appears I was the only person tweeting from a critical perspective during the California Democratic Party convention. I started after I saw that California State Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and others were tweeting positive things about Steinberg’s bizarre proposed scheme for corporations to buy “Social Impact Bonds” from educational districts (Senate Bill 594), even though at the same convention there was a resolution condemning corporate involvement in school reform.

After that, I checked every once in a while for tweeted news media reports and for tweeted announcements from Democrat leaders and activities. I counter-tweeted an opposite or skeptical viewpoint when appropriate. I was alone in doing this.

Maybe there will be an organized effort next year to use Twitter to question the tax increases, new government programs, new regulations, and other intrusions on economic and personal freedom that are promoted and celebrated at the California Democratic Convention. Letting these bad ideas circulate without a response makes these ideas credible to the public.

California’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee Rejects Proposed Audit of California High-Speed Rail Project

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Nicole Goehring, Government Affairs Director of the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, just provided me with this report (below) about Assemblywoman Diane Harkey‘s failed proposal to the California’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee (Senate web site, Assembly web site) at its March 13, 2013 meeting to audit the $68-203 billion California High-Speed Rail Project, the most expensive public works project in history.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is requiring construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California as a condition of working on the first construction segment from Madera to Fresno.

Read Assemblywoman Harkey’s request for audit here: 2013-105: Audit Request of California High-Speed Rail Authority – Construction Package 1. It states the following motivation:

Ensuring that the Authority has proper policies, protocols, and resources in place to manage its contractors prior to breaking ground is critical for protecting passenger safety and controlling costs. Missteps during this early planning period could imperil the project for decades with defective construction, expensive litigation, massive cost overruns and lengthy project delays. An active and prominent role for the State Auditor during these crucial months could ultimately save lives and billions of taxpayer dollars.

The request was co-signed by numerous Republican state legislators (including Dan Logue, whose signature was added late and is not on the version linked above).

ABC Northern California Testifies in Favor of California High Speed Rail Audit in the Joint Legislative Audit Committee

From: Nicole Goehring, Government Affairs Director, Northern California Chapter, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)

On March 13, I attended the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) meeting. The Joint Legislative Audit Committee is statutorily charged with ascertaining facts and making reports and recommendations to the Legislature concerning the State, its agencies, departments and political subdivisions of the State. In carrying out these duties, the JLAC reviews requests for audits from any of the 120 members of the Legislature and approves those requests that are a good use of the resources of the State Auditor.

Six audits were on the meeting agenda for consideration. The committee approved the first two audits without objection: Salton Sea Restoration fund and Military Veterans Employment. Then came Assemblywoman Harkey’s request for an audit of the California High Speed Rail Project, specifically the contracting practices authority given to California High Speed Rail Authority Executive Director Jeff Morales, risk management practices, and land acquisition for the California High-Speed Rail project.

Assemblywoman Harkey said that the California High Speed Rail Authority would spend $1.1 million per day on the project when the land acquisition starts. In addition, the California High-Speed Rail Authority still has not presented a business plan.

Senator Cathleen Galgiani and committee chairman (Assemblyman) Adam Gray objected to the proposed audit because two audits were previously approved in 2009 and 2011. They questioned what could be learned from another audit. Assemblyman Tim Donnelly spoke strongly in favor of the audit. He said the project needs a permanent chaperone and this particular use of public funds needs to be audited every step of the way.

Paul Guerrero from the Associated Professionals and Contractors of California and I spoke in favor of the audit. I also spoke against the government-mandated Project Labor Agreement that contractors must sign with unions to work on Construction Package 1. My testimony can be heard 1:17:47 into the hearing.

Speaking in opposition to the audit – and in favor of Project Labor Agreements – were Cesar Diaz from the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California; Scott Wetch representing the California Coalition of Utility Employees, California State Association of Electrical Workers, and Western States Council of Sheet Metal Workers; Keith Dunn of the Association for California High Speed Trains (representing design, engineering, and construction management firms); and a representative from Our Train: Young Voters for California High-Speed Rail.

In the end, the California Joint Legislative Audit Committee rejected (on an 8-3 party-line vote – Democrats opposed, Republicans in support) Assemblywoman Diane Harkey’s request for an audit of the California High-Speed Rail Project.

I will note that the rejection of this audit request is consistent with the comments of Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal at the February 26, 2013 high-speed rail oversight hearing claiming that there was no interest in rehashing old controversies. Supporters of the project are intent on portraying the numerous problems with the project as resolved and in the past.