Tag Archive for Lorena Gonzalez

“He’s Going to Be President One Day” – The Changing Positions of Candidate for San Diego Mayor Nathan Fletcher on Labor Policy Issues

In the mid-2000s, establishment Republican Party officials would tell me that a young man named Nathan Fletcher was going to be President of the United States one day. He was a good-looking “war hero” – an up-and-coming model candidate whose wife was a top advisor for President George W. Bush and then for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Soon Nathan Fletcher ran for office in an affluent area of San Diego – not for a mere school board or city council, but for the California State Legislature, where political talents often launch their lifelong quest for power, fame, and wealth. He was an undistinguished member of the Republican minority in the California State Assembly for two terms, from 2008 to 2012. He quit the Republican Party in March 2012 after the Republican Party of San Diego County didn’t endorse him among three Republican candidates running for Mayor of San Diego.

Ditching the Republican label transformed Fletcher into an innovative paragon of political enlightenment. His decision even received national attention and praise when New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote about it in A Moderate Conservative Dilemma.

Ordinary voters weren’t impressed. Fletcher came in third in the primary for Mayor of San Diego. He spent a lonely year unaffiliated with a political party, got himself some gigs as a corporate executive and as a “professor” at the University of California at San Diego, then joined the Democratic Party in May 2013. Now he’s running for Mayor of San Diego again, this time as a Democrat backed by power-brokers such as Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a friend of Fletcher who was the president of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council in 2012.

No one would identify Fletcher today as a “moderate conservative.” He has remade himself as a Silicon Valley-style liberal Democrat, glorifying a vague concept of “innovation” while endorsing government intervention in commerce and personal behavior to make the world a better place.

Just before the San Diego City Council ended 33 years of autonomy on city construction contracts and voted 5-4 to submit to state prevailing wage law, the San Diego Daily Transcript published an op-ed signed by Fletcher entitled Prevailing Wage: Good for Local Economy, Local Workers. He had opened his mind and decided that charter cities should let the state government set wage rates for city construction contracts based on employer payments indicated in union master labor agreements. I responded with the July 29, 2013 op-ed Did Nathan Fletcher Lose His Mind on Prevailing Wage?

It’s hard to pin down how Fletcher would act on specific issues, as his shtick is portraying himself as a pragmatist who doesn’t stoop to the abstract ideologies and philosophies that bind the thinking of bad people. However, behind the scenes he makes commitments to ensure campaign support from powerful political groups, such as labor unions.

After someone leaked Nathan Fletcher’s September 5, 2013 candidate questionnaire for the San Diego Imperial County Labor Council, Tony Krvaric, executive director of the Republican Party of San Diego County, analyzed the astonishing change in Fletcher’s positions on economic and labor issues in 18 months. Read the analysis and the signed questionnaire here:

Nathan Fletcher’s Labor Council Questionnaire

The October 31, 2013 article Critics Focus on Fletcher’s About-Face on Issues in the UT San Diego notes Fletcher’s conversion (or “evolution”) on high-profile labor issues, including Project Labor Agreements:

Much has been made of Nathan Fletcher’s political evolution from Republican to independent to Democrat, but what truly irks his most vehement critics is the 180-degree turn he’s made on several key issues. Some of those issues — project labor agreements, pension reform and managed competition — have formed the bedrock for the dividing line in San Diego between the two major political parties in recent years…

“I’m very comfortable as a Democrat, a pro-jobs Democrat.”…That’s a far cry from March 2012 when Fletcher sought the local Republican Party’s endorsement in the mayor’s race. He told party leaders he was a lifelong Republican who supported the June 2012 ballot initiative (Proposition B) to replace pensions with 401(k)-style plans for most new city workers, a ban on project labor agreements that call for city contractors pay union-level wages and benefits, and outsourcing city services…

Fletcher filled out a questionnaire in September for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council that outlined several stark changes. Specifically, he indicated support for project labor agreements and public employee pensions and opposition to putting city services up for competitive bid, a process also known as managed competition…

Fletcher has also said the ballot measure to ban project-labor agreements that voters approved last year is the type of divisive initiative meant to stir up the electorate.

Nathan Fletcher now thinks that simply asking voters to preserve fair and open bid competition on taxpayer-funded construction contracts is “divisive” and “meant to stir up the electorate.” If only we could set aside our differences and come together for the common good under the benevolent leadership of Nathan Fletcher!

It isn’t surprising that occasionally people warn that Nathan Fletcher is “creepy” and “dangerous” because he lacks solid principles and runs for office under a cult of personality based on a distorted portrayal of his background. He seems to be popular among high-tech executives, bicycle advocates, and other who fit the demographic description of “bourgeois and bohemian” (see David Brooks’ excellent 2001 book Bobos in Paradise). Is that enough to win a special election in a city of 1.3 million people? It worked for Gavin Newsom in San Francisco, but San Diego is more diverse and more conservative.

All of this vindicates the warning in my May 7, 2013 commentary Know Thyself, Republican: You Could Be the Next Nathan Fletcher in www.FlashReport.org. I concluded that “Even the strongest among us on the Right are always only a few temptations away from second-guessing ourselves and going the same direction as Nathan Fletcher. The rewards of holding fast are few right now, and the relief and rewards of being acceptable are enticing.”

As the Republican Party on the national level, in the State of California, and at the California local level splits into factions based on the degree of willingness to compromise principles of limited government and fiscal responsibility for the sake of the alleged “common good,” I expect more Republicans will follow the path of Nathan Fletcher. Will voters buy it?

San Diego Political Celebrity Nathan Fletcher Now Supports Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates

UPDATE – August 9, 2013: This morning Nathan Fletcher “chimed in” and spoke to Fox News 5 KSWB in San Diego about the Filner scandals. An excerpt from Fletcher May Run for Mayor if Filner Resigns:

Fletcher even told Fox5 that he’d consider throwing his hat in the ring if the mayor’s seat opens up.

“I’d have to consider it. I’ve been humbled by the number of folks that have reached out for the last few weeks and provided a lot of encouragement,” Fletcher said. “But as of right now, the office isn’t open. If it becomes open than that’s a decision that I’ll have to make.”

Until that happens, Fletcher can be found teaching at University of California, San Diego, working for Qualcomm and with his family.


Unexpectedly, former California State Assemblyman and once-and-future San Diego mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher (R) (I) (D) declared his new position in support of state-mandated wage rates (“prevailing wages”) for contracts on public works construction projects. See the July 26, 2013 San Diego Daily Transcript commentary Prevailing Wage: Good for Local Economy, Local Workers.

He claims his position is a “no-brainer” that resulted from approaching the issue in a “thoughtful, open-minded way.” But why did he approach the issue in the first place? Mr. Fletcher has never before exhibited extraordinary interest or unusual expertise in arcane construction labor issues, including as a state legislator voting on such issues.

Tom Lemmon – the head of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council – would have had credibility in submitting this professionally-written piece under his name. But few people would have read it. In contrast, Nathan Fletcher has a cult following in San Diego, apparently because many people can relate to his lack of principles – a condition that I warned Republicans to avoid in my www.FlashReport.org article Know Thyself, Republican: You Could Be the Next Nathan Fletcher.

Some people are suspicious of Fletcher’s authorship of his prevailing wage manifesto. On July 30, 2013, campaign consultant Duane Dichiara posted an article on San Diego Rostra – Notes on Fletcher’s Pro-Prevailing Wage Article – speculating that Fletcher didn’t write it because of the obvious rhetorical skill of the writer. Richard Rider of San Diego Tax Fighters then commented that “it’s TOO well written. I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that Nathan didn’t pen it. Doubtless it was written by labor union professionals (or their PR contractors), with Nathan dutifully signing it as the author.”

Regardless of who actually wrote it, representatives of www.SmartCitiesPrevail.org were quick to post comments in support of Mr. Fletcher and his position, and he received some impressive tweets of support.

I responded to Fletcher’s piece with a rebuttal published on July 29, 2013 entitled Did Nathan Fletcher Lose His Mind on Prevailing Wage? A representative of the union-oriented public policy organization Working Partnerships USA and a Colorado State University economics professor commented in response to defend their work as cited by Fletcher. I have commented in response to their comments. Meanwhile, Nathan Fletcher has not given the public any additional insight into his understanding or views on prevailing wage policies.

My Article in www.UnionWatch.org – Finally Got It! Secret Union Deal for San Diego Convention Center

The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction has never given up its effort to research and expose how the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council obtained a Project Labor Agreement for the $520 million San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion.

In November 2012 it obtained the settlement agreements between the unions and the City of San Diego that ended the union objections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the union lawsuit against the financing scheme for repaying the bonds. This was reported in my November 15, 2012 blog post Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Obtains City of San Diego Settlement Agreements with Unions for Convention Center.

My April 23, 2013 article in www.UnionWatch.org entitled Persistent Pressure Compels San Diego to Spit Out Project Labor Agreement reported on how the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction finally obtained the Project Labor Agreement negotiated between Clark Construction and the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council for the convention center expansion. It was released by the City of San Diego after the Coalition filed a lawsuit to get the union agreement and other elusive public records.

Now the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction has obtained from the City of San Diego a September 21, 2012 email from a personal Gmail account of the Chief of Staff to former Mayor Jerry Sanders. That email outlines a deal to be discussed at a 2:00 p.m. meeting that day between the mayor and Lorena Gonzalez, former head of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council and now a member of the California State Assembly.

My article Finally Got It! Secret Union Deal for San Diego Convention Center posted today (July 8, 2013) on www.UnionWatch.org describes the deal and identifies ten outrages about it.

Quest for the Presidency: San Diego Union Leader Lorena Gonzalez Announces Run for California State Assembly

Lorena Gonzalez (@LorenaSGonzalez) is the Secretary-Treasurer and CEO for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO. When I first started seeing the tweets about her campaign for California State Assembly, I figured it was some good-natured ribbing from her San Diego chums, probably inspired by the Sunday, December 2, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune profile of her. (See Democrats’ Not-So-Secret Weapon: Labor Leader Lorena Gonzalez Made Her Mark as a Key Player in November’s Election Victories and my December 2, 2012 blog post Another California Union Leader on the Way to Confirming the Ancient Proverb: The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall.)

I was wrong! She is ready and eager to join her Democrat friends in the state legislative supermajority. See the campaign web site for Lorena Gonzalez for Assembly 2016. There is already a donation page for your convenience, as she expects to be in the Assembly in 2013.

The 80th Assembly District is likely to be vacant next spring if Assemblyman Ben Hueso (who was elected to the Assembly in 2010 while on the San Diego City Council) wins a special election for the State Senate seat being vacated by Juan Vargas, another former San Diego City Council member who was just elected to the U.S. House of Representatives to replace Bob Filner, who is now Mayor of San Diego.

Lorena Gonzalez barely lost a special election in January 2006 against Republican Kevin Faulconer for a vacant seat on the San Diego City Council. (Faulconer is still on the city council.)

Please continue to recognize that Lorena Gonzalez earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Stanford University, a Master’s Degree from Georgetown University, and a Law Degree from UCLA.

News Media Coverage:

Labor Leader Gonzalez Aims for Assembly: Her Announcement Is the Latest Domino in a Democratic ShuffleSan Diego Union-Tribune – December 5, 2012

 
Labor Leader Gonzalez Aims for Assembly – North County Times – December 5, 2012
 
Lorena Gonzalez to Run for State Assembly – KNSD Channel 7 News – December 5, 2012
 
Morning Report: Lorena Gonzalez Seeks Assembly Seat – Voice of San Diego – December 6, 2012
 
Vargas DominosSan Diego Rostra – March 27, 2012 (an accurate prediction)

Another California Union Leader on the Way to Confirming the Ancient Proverb: The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall

UPDATE: See the December 5, 2012 post Quest for the Presidency: San Diego Union Leader Lorena Gonzalez Announces Run for California State Assembly.


California newspapers are apparently obliged to run post-election profiles of the union leader who gets the credit for the local political machine’s latest successes. I have a dozen such articles in my files going back to the mid-1990s, and it is astonishing how many of these union leaders eventually leave the arena of power under shady circumstances. There’s something in the nature of humanity that warps most of us when our power or position earns undeserved and excessive flattery.

Today, the December 2, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune features a profile of Lorena Gonzalez, the Secretary-Treasurer/CEO of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

See Democrats’ Not-So-Secret Weapon: Labor Leader Lorena Gonzalez Made Her Mark as a Key Player in November’s Election VictoriesSan Diego Union-Tribune – December 2, 2012.

There is still hope for the State of California and the City of San Diego, as the article quotes two individuals who were willing to speak out against this union official who will enjoy a period of significant influence over government and commerce in the City of San Diego.

Tony Krvaric, the chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County, contends that Gonzalez “plays class warfare, and while that works sometimes, I don’t think in the long run it’s a healthy way to operate.”

Eric Christen, the executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, provides a perceptive psychological analysis. He observes about Gonzalez that “her radical views make her a bit predictable and linear in her approach on anything she does…Backroom deals are Lorena’s specialty…The big corporations she pretends to be against with her neo-Marxist language – she’s as much of a corporatist as anyone as long as her side gets its pound of flesh.”

I’ve documented some the recent activities of Lorena Gonzalez at this web site. I tweeted my own views about the article:

San Diego union leader Lorena Gonzalez builds her palace on sand. Voters are fickle and the gods detest hubris. http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/dec/02/the-organizer/ …

I’m looking forward to January 2013, when Lorena Gonzalez ratchets up the pressure for the State of California to withhold funding to the City of San Diego because 58% voters approved Proposition A, a Fair and Open Competition ordinance, in June 2012. She can’t wait:

Hmmm. Wonder when media will start talking about the $100 million loss San Diego will face next year from State due to Prop A

See What About Prop. A? Come January 1, San Diego Will Find Out if Funding-Loss Warnings Were TrueSan Diego City Beat – November 7, 2012.

Lorena Gonzalez supports democracy as long the people vote the way she thinks they should. This upcoming arrogant effort to compel voters to repeal a law protecting fair and open bid competition as a condition of getting their state goodies will be a cataclysmic battle over the future relevance of the structural checks and balances in our republic. Bring it on!

San Diego Union Officials Ignored Global Warming-Related Sea Level Rise in Environmental Settlements for San Diego Convention Center Expansion, Despite Identifying It as Major Deficiency Under CEQA

UPDATE: More news coverage from KPBS:

Coastal Commission Concerned About Sea Level Rise and Convention Center Expansion – KPBS (San Diego) – January 28, 2013


Note: for background on the deal referenced below, see Unions Get Control of San Diego Convention Center Expansion: CEQA Abuse Is Effective, Fair and Open Competition Ordinance Evaded and Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Obtains City of San Diego Settlement Agreements with Unions for Convention Center. Also, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council just issued a press release (dated November 15, 2012) celebrating the Project Labor Agreement on the San Diego Convention Center expansion, although the unions have STILL not released the document for public scrutiny.


After getting a Project Labor Agreement and other labor concessions as part of a deal to withdraw their environmental complaints about the proposed San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase III project, did top San Diego union officials allow the Port of San Diego to move forward with the project, despite knowing that the Port’s final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prepared under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) omitted critical analysis of rising sea levels caused by global warming?

The answer seems to be YES. Although quite aware of risk to the project from a rising sea level (as proven by comments submitted on behalf of unions about the draft EIR), union officials and their environmental lawyers with the South San Francisco law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo did not address in their environmental settlement agreements this glaring failure of the Port to abide by CEQA. (See the environmental settlement agreements: Settlement Agreement – Building Trades Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012 and Settlement Agreement – Various Construction Trade Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012).

Even when the unions stumbled on a major problem with the EIR, they were willing to back off on forcing the Port to correct it, as long as unions obtained a monopoly on the work.

Lorena Gonzalez – the Secretary-Treasurer/CEO of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council and apparent ringleader of the union environmental complaints – is a believer in global climate change, as shown by this “Resolution in Support of Preserving Environmental Laws and Building Environmental Partnerships” she signed on April 20, 2010. As someone with an undergraduate degree, a law degree, and a master’s degree from highly prestigious institutions of higher learning, surely she recognizes with her educated, enlightened peers that “the science is settled” and agrees with the California State Legislature that a future rising sea level will be a catastrophe for the State of California unless proactive measures start now.

Nevertheless, it isn’t the unions, but KPBS news (in San Diego) that is focusing on the deficiency in the Port’s EIR with an article today (November 15, 2012) reporting on dire new revelations about the proposed expansion of the San Diego Convention Center. The article Flood Maps Raise Questions About Convention Center Expansion warns that “the expanded version of the Convention Center could be inundated with seawater by mid century if climate change predictions are accurate.”

According to the article, “Allowing the development anyway could require massive protection measures with a huge price tag…the extent of potential flood risk along the tideline is alarming far beyond the convention center project if public agencies do nothing…Despite knowing the convention center expansion could be underwater in 2050, the port commission voted unanimously in September to move forward using the old data. Meanwhile, commissioners decided this week to hold a retreat on how to handle climate change.”

I have posted two comments under the article pointing out that both the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow and the unions were aware of this deficiency in the Port’s Environmental Impact Report and noted it in their June 29, 2012 comments to the Port. But the unions chose to ignore it once their “greenmail” achieved their objective – unrelated to environmental protection – to require construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement.

Here are my comments:

Kevin_Dayton | today at 6:02 p.m.

Interesting…I see that the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow noted the risk to the convention center expansion in its June 29, 2012 comments to the Port of San Diego concerning the draft Environmental Impact Report:

11. The Report Needs to Warn the Public about the Massive Wall that Might Be Needed to Hold Back the Flood Waters from Inundating the Project as Global Warming Raises Sea Levels

California government agencies such as the California Energy Commission, the California Ocean Protection Council, and the California Environmental Protection Agency commissioned a report released in 2009 by the Pacific Institute that shows California coastal areas at risk of inundation or frequent flooding because of the rising sea level caused by global climate change.

It’s surprising that the Draft EIR doesn’t address this looming problem, as the San Diego Unified Port District collaborated in the development of the Sea Level Rise Adaptation Strategy for San Diego Bay, published by the San Diego Foundation in February 2012.

This Draft EIR needs to include a Sea Level Action Plan developed using information from the following sources: (1) the 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy prepared by the Natural Resources Agency, (2) the Report on Sea Level Rise Preparedness prepared by the State Lands Commission, (3) the Sea Level Rise Assessment Report prepared by the National Academy of Sciences, (4) the resolution of the California Ocean Protection Council on Sea-Level Rise, (5) the State of California Sea-Level Rise Interim Guidance Document, and of course (6) the Sea Level Rise Adaptation Strategy for San Diego Bay.

The Port should have listened to the Global Catastrophe experts at the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow, who get their outstanding scientific insight on the future from statements of the California State Legislature and stuff they hear on TV. Now the Port will need to build a massive sea wall or build the convention center in Santee in anticipation of the future shoreline.

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Kevin_Dayton | today at 7 p.m.

Whoa! I just looked at the comments about the Port’s draft EIR submitted on June 29, 2012 by the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo on behalf of “San Diego Coalition for a Better Convention Center,” a front group for the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council and UNITE HERE Local 30. They have several pages of comments pointing out how the EIR did not consider rising sea levels.

See those comments starting on page 35 of this document:

http://laborissuessolutions.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/2011-Adams-Broadwell-DEIR-Convention-Ctr-Letter.pdf

But here is the strange thing: look at the environmental settlement agreements that the City of San Diego just signed with the unions as part of a deal for the unions to withdraw their CEQA environmental complaints. Nothing whatsoever is mentioned in the settlement agreements about mitigation for rising sea levels. NOTHING!

Why didn’t the unions and their world-renowned environmental lawyers with Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo pursue this issue with the diligence that KPBS is putting into this issue? For some reason, the unions no longer considered it important after a Project Labor Agreement was signed for construction of the convention center expansion. But now we find that rising sea levels could SINK the project altogether!

See the two union environmental settlement agreements here:

http://laborissuessolutions.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Settlement-Agmt-Building-Trades-Unions-San-Diego-Convention-Center.pdf

http://laborissuessolutions.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Settlement-Agmt-Various-Construction-Trade-Unions-San-Diego-Convention-Center.pdf

Unions and Mayor in San Diego Brag to the Public about San Diego Convention Center Construction Deal, But Refuse to Provide It to the Public

Looks like the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council and the San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council got a little too cocky about their election successes on November 6.

They inexplicably joined the Mayor of San Diego on November 8 for a press conference to announce a deal about construction of the proposed San Diego Civic Center expansion. But they selectively withheld key information about the deal and were caught in a trap by the press.

As I reported on November 8 (see Unions Get Control of San Diego Convention Center Expansion), San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, Labor Council CEO Lorena Gonzalez, officials with the joint venture construction manager Clark/Hunt, and others appeared at an unexpected press conference on November 8 to triumphantly announce a “deal” that would end union environmental objections to the planned expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.

I hear that many of San Diego’s most prominent civic leaders were surprised about the hasty scheduling of this salute to the effectiveness of extortion using the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Obviously the press conference was organized and carried out with limited notice in order to avoid disruption by certain organizations that oppose Project Labor Agreements and oppose the exploitation of CEQA to coerce Project Labor Agreements from development interests. This union practice is called “greenmail” (blackmail using environmental laws) and is rampant in California, including the San Diego area.

None of the speakers at the press conference mentioned a Project Labor Agreement in their formal statements. But the San Diego Merit Shop construction industry and its allies had promoted the issue over the past several years, and suspicious reporters afterwards reportedly asked if a Project Labor Agreement was part of the deal. The answer, of course, was YES.

Today (November 13, 2012), the San Diego Union-Tribune published an excellent article (Convention Center Deal Revives Rift Over Pacts) outlining what is known about the union deal. It reports a similarity between the circumstances of this deal and those surrounding the proposed San Diego Padres baseball stadium (Petco Park) in 1999 and 2000, when unions withdrew environmental objections in conjunction with the announcement of a Project Labor Agreement. The article also points out the secretive nature of this agreement:

When Mayor Jerry Sanders, joined by San Diego labor leader Lorena Gonzalez, announced last week that the city’s unions would be reversing course and supporting the project, he made no mention of the labor pact. He focused instead on agreements the city had worked out with the unions to resolve environmental and worker safety issues they had raised that could have put the waterfront project in jeopardy when it goes before the California Coastal Commission next year…Tom Lemmon, business manager for the Trades Council…was unwilling to provide a copy of what he says is a private agreement…

Of course! The deal to build this public project is so wonderful that the public won’t be allowed to see it! Let’s celebrate.

I Tweeted this message after reading this story:

Kevin Dayton@DaytonPubPolicy

“Mr. Lemmon, let the People see your San Diego Convention Center deal! Mr. Lemmon, let the People read your agreement!”  

I also Tweeted this announcement:

Kevin Dayton@DaytonPubPolicy

1st California example of Left overreach after election: unions hide “deal” for San Diego Convention Ctr public project

The unions are absolutely determined to keep the Project Labor Agreement secret, because labor policy experts will have a primary source document to analyze and criticize if it gets in circulation. Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction has damaged the reputation of this deal by exposing its existence, but now the public need to obtain the Project Labor Agreement and read it, instead of believing government-sanctioned propaganda issued at a press conference.

CEQA Greenmail Still Effective for Unions in San Diego: Just a Cost of Doing Business for Pragmatic Civic Leaders

The San Diego Daily Transcript business newspaper today (October 10, 2012) published an opinion piece from Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction entitled Unions Manipulate City Leaders with CEQA Threats.

In the commentary about union objections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to the proposed expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, Christen contends that business, political, and community leaders in San Diego have essentially surrendered to the organizing agenda of union leaders. Unions and their lawyers have effectively exploited the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to block proposed projects until the developer signs a Project Labor Agreement for construction and a neutrality agreement leading to a collective bargaining agreement for the permanent workforce. Eric writes the following:

In San Diego, the city’s civic leaders regard union CEQA abuse as a customary part of doing business. Instead of exposing it and shaming the perpetrators, they say nothing publicly and surrender to it privately. Then they pass the costs to the taxpayers and consumers.

Why aren’t San Diego business, community and political leaders — other than Councilman Carl DeMaio — holding these union officials accountable for their CEQA extortion on the proposed Convention Center expansion? Why aren’t they highlighting this incident as an outrageous example of CEQA abuse?

Apparently America’s Finest City is fine with this “cost of doing business in San Diego.” What an outrage.

I’m guessing that civic leaders and big developers closely observed how Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment exposed and resisted the union environmental extortion in 2007 and 2008 against the proposed $1.2 billion Chula Vista Bayfront Hotel and Convention Center. The San Diego news media covered the story extensively, and ultimately it led to voters in the City of Chula Vista approving a ballot measure (Measure G) that prohibits the city from entering into contracts that require contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements.

Apparently, San Diego union leaders strategically determined that either Gaylord Entertainment would succumb to their demands to build and operate its facility exclusively with union workers, or Gaylord would never build it. After Gaylord Entertainment finally abandoned its plan to build the Chula Vista project and instead began construction of a facility in Mesa, Arizona, the Political Director/Organizer of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 569 was proud, as she acknowledged to the now-defunct San Diego News Network in the July 6, 2009 profile Union Leader Badgley Shares Her Journey with IBEW 569:

Q: What accomplishment are you proud of?

A: Gaylord. We put a lot of resources into organizing the bay front in Chula Vista. It’s one of the last pieces of undeveloped land on the water, and we wanted something that was good for the environment and good for the workers. We worked with the environmental community, the trade show unions, the hotel and restaurant workers, and we tried to make sure that the project would be good for the environment and the workers. In some ways, I’ll take the blame. You have to respect the workers and the environment. We were asked, “Isn’t something better than nothing?” Our feeling is that if we build it right, we can build more.

(Nashville, Tenn.-based Gaylord Entertainment wanted to build a 1,500 room hotel and convention center on the Chula Vista bay front. In 2007, the company pulled out allegedly because it could not reach an agreement with labor unions. It then continued negotiating, and pulled out again a year later because it could not get financing.)

I believe we sent a strong message about the power and commitment of San Diego’s electrical workforce with the Gaylord campaign. We are committed to continue to make sure that whatever is built on the bayfront must create good, green, local careers.

Now we see San Diego developers and their community allies waving white flags, even as San Diego is close to having a free market-oriented mayor and a Republican city council majority, and even as voters in the County of San Diego and in the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, Oceanside, and El Cajon have expressed their views on union monopolies by prohibiting government-mandated Project Labor Agreements through ballot measures.

For example, an article today in the October 10, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune (Lane Field Hotels Approved by Port) reported that the Lane Field developers (Rob Lankford, architect John Portman & Associates and contractor Hensel Phelps) surrendered to union demands in order to get two proposed hotels approved and finally under construction:

Developers also avoided opposition from labor groups by agreeing to require union construction labor and welcome unionized workers at the finished hotels…But Trammer said underground parking could add nearly $18 million to the $115 million construction cost, roughly the same it will cost to use union labor.

So this is another Project Labor Agreement won by the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council (costing the developers an extra $18 million), and another neutrality agreement won by UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 to be imposed on a hotel operator who hasn’t even been identified yet. Again outraged by another surrender to extortion, Eric Christen posted a comment in response to the article:

Once again we see that threats of environmental lawsuits filed by labor unions would have been used had not the owner of this project not agreed to use union labor. And this is not laid out by the writer more explicitly why? This same writer just covered the Port Commission meeting two weeks ago where the unions dropped 150 pages of comments via their lawyers on the Convention Center Expansion yet these two striking similar projects but totally different union responses are not connected here.

This of course follows a decade of unions pulling this greenmail starting with Petco Park to this current project, and of course chasing Gaylord out of the state was their crowning achievement.

This extortion that unions use on projects that do not agree to use union labor is astounding. The silence form (sic) developers and the press on this is equally astounding.

As outlined in the www.PhonyUnionTreeHuggers.com article Lane Field in San Diego: UNITE-HERE Local 30 Doesn’t Like a Proposed Hotel, UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 had hired the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo to identify and submit substantial environmental objections to the project under CEQA.

And here is a THIRD example of union greenmail working its magic. A September 28, 2012 article in Voice of San Diego (U-T CEO Denies Threatening Port; New Email Emerges) revealed that developers who want to convert the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal into a new sports/entertainment complex are seeking input and advice from Tom Lemmon, the head of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council. The email was released by Lorena Gonzalez, the head of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.

These three examples from just the last three weeks show that labor unions have been able to use CEQA to control anything having to do with downtown project development in the City of San Diego, particularly within the Port of San Diego‘s jurisdiction. Giving into union CEQA extortion is indeed a “cost of doing business” in San Diego (and throughout California).

Is this surprising, knowing the nature of humanity? After all, paying people off to avoid unwanted artificially-placed obstacles has probably been a standard way of doing business in most places in most times throughout human history. This country is not particularly clean: the United States is only ranked 24th in 2011 on the Transparency International annual Corruption Perceptions Index, with corruption defined as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.”

California’s urban local governments near the coast are generally fiscally irresponsible, mismanaged, unaccountable, and governed by pragmatists (at best) or compulsive criminals (at worst). These are ripe conditions for unions, corporate entities, and other self-interested organizations to infect and pervert government and commerce. The republican (lower case “r”) structure of checks and balances in American government works haphazardly in these cities; in particular, citizens fail to fulfill their necessary duty of educated and informed democratic participation in the process of choosing representatives and setting policies.

Nevertheless, Eric Christen is committed to fighting this urban corruption as reflected in union CEQA greenmail, according to an email he sent on October 10, 2012:

What is frustrating for myself as someone who deals with this locally and statewide every day is that I get what unions are doing and why they are doing it. What I do not get is how on earth they can keep getting away with doing it without being held accountable by an inquisitive press that asks simple questions after seeing the obvious staring them in the face.

I can fight unions and their shameless abuse of the California environmental law. I can continue to educate and inform the public about this and get them to ban PLAs when we put it on the ballot. I can continue to educate the media about this abuse. But what I cannot do is write the stories or pose the questions that help educate taxpayers, voters and citizens about exactly what is going on.

Sorry Eric, looks like few people want to join you in exposing this racket. You’re putting abstract principles ahead of tangible financial self-gain. That’s not a popular proposition.

But here is some consolation: this appeasement to union extortion recalls a well-known quotation attributed to Vladimir Lenin (but probably spurious): “the capitalists will sell us the rope from which we’ll hang them.”

Some of the capitalists to be hung will die rich. A few courageous ones to be hung will die right.

Brazen! Union Officials and Their Environmental Lawyers at Port Commissioners’ Meeting Threaten to Stop San Diego Convention Center Expansion Using California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

The September 19, 2012 meeting of the United Port of San Diego’s Board of Port Commissioners was packed with the San Diego region’s civic leadership, including the Mayor of San Diego, Jerry Sanders. They were at the meeting to see and celebrate the Port taking the next steps in approving the proposed $520 million San Diego Convention Center expansion, as well as an expansion of the adjacent Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel. Representatives were there from numerous major business groups in the region, including the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

United Port of San Diego Headquarters Building on Pacific Highway

United Port of San Diego Headquarters Building, where union officials and their lawyer brazenly abused CEQA on September 19, 2012 in front of San Diego’s civic leadership.

Also there was Kevin Dayton, President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC. No one there knew or cared, and I finally found a seat in the back corner. I suspected that the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo was going to pull a stunt at the meeting on behalf of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council and UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30. Knowing their modus operendi, I figured a lawyer was going to make a huge last-minute document dump at the meeting under the authority of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). I was right!

The party-poopers promptly rained on the parade when the commissioners opened the agenda item to public comment. An official of the UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30 led off the attack by declaring that the 1400-page final Environmental Impact Report required under CEQA was deficient and needed to be withdrawn for revisions. Then someone from the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo submitted to the commissioners a 42 page letter (with 197 footnotes) on behalf of the phony union front group called “The San Diego Coalition for A Better Convention Center” with 250 pages of referenced exhibits. She was given extra time to speak because Tom Lemmon – head of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council – submitted a speaker card and then transferred his speaking time to her.

CEQA Objections to San Diego Convention Center Expansion

The cover page of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) “document dump” of the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo on behalf of unions against the Environmental Impact Report for the San Diego Convention Center expansion project.

Never to be left out of a militant union action in San Diego, Lorena Gonzalez, head of the San Diego County Central Labor Council, rushed into the meeting late to announce there were problems with the Environmental Impact Report for the convention center. She proposed that the Port Commissioners approve a “tolling agreement” that would extend the statute of limitations for the unions to file a lawsuit. This would give unions more time to squeeze their demands out of the developers and the convention center’s public and private partners.

A representative of the leftist San Diego-based Center for Policy Initiatives attended the meeting but did not speak. This group has not been involved in CEQA issues, but it is very involved in labor issues.

I also spoke, as a representative of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC. I noted there was an underlying story and then revealed the whole scheme. Of course, most people in the room knew about it already but do not want to acknowledge it in public.

After these antics, the Port Commissioners recessed the meeting for about 20 minutes so Port staff could scan the document dump by Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo and make a preliminary determination of whether or not the unions introduced new and valid CEQA objections to the proposed convention center and hotel expansion. If the comments were serious threats, the Port Commissioners would need to table the approval of the Environmental Impact Report.

Staff ultimately identified four potential areas vulnerable to lawsuits or appeals, but also indicated how the issues would be addressed. In the end, the Port Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the Environmental Impact Report, while noting that they expected litigation and appeals unless relevant parties were able to make a deal with the unions.

What is the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council seeking with its CEQA objections? As I documented in my March 11, 2011 www.thetruthaboutPLAs.com article entitled It’s Out in the Open: Project Labor Agreement a Costly Possibility for San Diego Convention Center Expansion, construction union officials want a requirement for construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of working on the projects. Presumably UNITE HERE wants some sort of neutrality agreement for union organizing.

It’s nothing new in California and nothing new in San Diego. It’s “greenmail.”

NEWS MEDIA COVERAGE

Convention Center Project Takes a Major Step Forward – San Diego Union-Tribune – September 20, 2012

Port Approves Environmental Report For Convention Center Expansion – KPBS – September 19, 2012

CEQA Reform is Over for This California Legislative Session: Sustainable Environmental Protection Act May Return in 2013

CEQA reform is over for this legislative session.

Some union officials, environmental lobbyists, and lawyers specializing in exploiting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) are celebrating with emailed bulletins and tweets. (See the August 23, 2012 “Sierra Club California Statement on Abandonment of Environmentally Dangerous Bill.”) One particularly happy Tweeting union leader is Lorena Gonzalez, head of the San Diego County Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

That’s no surprise if you read my August 8 post,”Unions Submit 436 Pages of Objections to Draft Environmental Impact Report for Proposed San Diego Convention Center Phase III Expansion Project: CEQA Abuse Run Rampant.”

UNITE HERE Local 30 (based in San Diego) and the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council have filed a massive CEQA objection with the United Port of San Diego concerning the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed San Diego Convention Center Phase III Expansion Project and the adjacent Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel expansion.

Here are some recent Tweets from Lorena Gonzalez ‏@LorenaSGonzalez:

And the Rubio #CEQA reform bill is officially dead! Yay!

URGENT: Don’t let them gut California Environmental Quality Act. Sign NOW: http://SaveCEQA.com  #CEQA #SaveCEQA

I support #CEQA. Gutting 40 years of progress will hurt the environment, workers and the public! These aren’t reforms, they go too far.

So happy to see most of our SD Democratic Legislators asking their colleagues to keep their hands off CEQA #SaveCEQA

Meanwhile, I posted this in the comment section of the Sacramento Bee article, “Bid to Overhaul California Environmental Law Falls Short“:

The Sierra Club representative called the bill “one of the worst attacks on environmental protections that we’ve seen in the 40-year life of this law.” They actually mean, “one of the worst attacks on our political agenda from Democrats, whom we thought would never betray us by supporting economic growth and job creation.”

Actually, it’s questionable whether or not this “Sustainable Environmental Protection Act” of 2012 would have been all that effective in hindering the professional CEQA operators – the people who use CEQA for economic or financial objectives. It was certainly tame and weak compared to Assembly Bill 598, for which the Sierra Club lobbyist took great offense during a January 9, 2012 hearing of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. If that bill had become law, it would have shut down the CEQA extortion industry by limiting the authority to file lawsuits under CEQA to the California Attorney General.

The Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council can continue to enjoy their “Blue-Green Alliance” of convenience with labor unions and turn a blind eye to how CEQA is exploited for purposes other than environmental protection, such as coercing Project Labor Agreements, Neutrality Agreements, etc.

They’ve been coasting for 40 years on the Friends of Mammoth v. Board of Supervisors of Mono County decision of the California Supreme Court in 1972, which stunned many by applying CEQA to private projects and activities. One day soon the political pendulum will swing to the Right in this state (probably after the state tries to file for bankruptcy), and then AB 598 will become law.

In the meantime, enjoy the CEQA paperwork! For example, here’s what the Fresno County Planning and Land Use Division has been dealing with as unions object to proposed solar energy power plants:

The Fresno County Planning and Land Use Division responds on August 7, 2012 to a request for records concerning submissions of the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo on behalf of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) concerning proposed solar energy generation projects.