Tag Archive for Sacramento City Council

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

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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Exclusive: Local Government Election Results in California Highly Relevant to Labor Issues

California’s primary election night was overshadowed by the support from Wisconsin voters for state elected officials who implemented a modest reform of collective bargaining for public employees. But here is an exclusive report on how the June 5, 2012 election also brought good results for advocates of fiscal responsibility and economic and personal freedom in California.

Some might say that voters are being hoodwinked by FOX News, conservative talk radio, and the Dayton Public Policy Institute. To me, it’s clear that a majority of Californians do not see tax increases, more government spending, and expanded government programs as the solution to the state’s economic struggles.

SAN DIEGO REGION

Similar to what’s taking place in numerous states throughout the country, voters in the San Diego region are actively responding to a challenging economy by calling for smaller and more efficient government. I will elaborate in a future post about the ten years of behind-the-scenes tedious work that led to this development in San Diego County, but for now I’ll outline the good news.

I’ve already posted on the easy 58% victory in the City of San Diego for Proposition A, which enacts a Fair and Open Competition ordinance prohibiting the city from requiring construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement to work on taxpayer-funded construction. I also reported already on the 57% victory in the City of El Cajon for Proposition D, a new charter that includes a Fair and Open Competition provision and also gives the city authority to establish its own government-mandated construction wage rates (prevailing wages) for city projects. (Boy, unions hate it when local governments take power away from the state!)

There will be a heated campaign up to November 5 for San Diego Mayor. Advocate of economic freedom (and San Diego City Councilman) Carl DeMaio will face leftist Congressman Bob Filner. This election will feature a passionate debate over the benefits of capitalism versus socialism! If DeMaio is elected as Mayor, there will be a dramatic change in political culture in the City of San Diego. I will write more about DeMaio in a future post.

(See Filner’s letter here telling the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce to oppose Proposition G in part because it would be a “fool’s errand” to seek federal funding for the city if Proposition G passed. It did pass, and somehow the federal money continues to be piped in, as shown by evidence of continued federal grants to the city’s Capital Improvement Program here.)

Also, Councilman DeMaio’s Proposition B to reform public employee pensions in the City of San Diego won with 66% of the vote. And this was not the only successful urban public employee pension reform measure to win voter approval in California on June 5: Mayor Chuck Reed’s Measure B to reform public employee pensions in the City of San Jose (a much more liberal city than San Diego) passed with 70% of the vote. Apparently Californians are a lot like people in Wisconsin: they understand that future economic growth and job creation cannot be anchored on excessive government payouts obtained by public employee unions through politically-manipulated collective bargaining.

Also in the City of San Diego, Scott Sherman won a city council seat. He supports economic freedom and fiscal responsibility. Ray Ellis – also an advocate of economic freedom – will face Sherri Lightner in November for another city council seat.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

Even in much more liberal Northern California, there was good news beyond the win for public employee pension reform in the City of San Jose.

In Placer County, construction unions flushed $30,000 down the toilet in funding 92% of the campaign of Pam Tobin, who challenged incumbent Kirk Uhler for a seat on the Placer County Board of Supervisors but lost, 60% to 40%. I was at the Uhler election night victory party in Granite Bay and was pleased to see the result. See my exclusive investigative report revealing and analyzing the union sources of Tobin’s campaign contributions here.

But Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery won re-election. She voted in 2010 against the currently-in-effect Fair and Open Competition policy banning Project Labor Agreements on county construction projects.

Elsewhere in Placer County, 65% voters in the City of Auburn rejected Measure A, a proposed charter that would have given authority to the city to establish its own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (prevailing wages) on city projects.

In an earlier post I compared the City of Auburn’s charter campaign to the charter campaign of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes (in Los Angeles County) in 2011. In both cases, large and politically sophisticated construction unions used their well-funded labor-management cooperation committees, political action committees, and general budgets to steamroll over a home-grown local grassroots movement.

ADVICE to CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS and CITY STAFF seeking a CHARTER: contact Labor Issues Solutions, LLC for a free consultation and some honest assessments of what it takes to win against aggressive self-interested union opposition. You’re fighting a political machine, as city council members and community activists have recently learned through experience in Rancho Palos Verdes, Auburn, Redding, Paradise, South Lake Tahoe, Folsom, and Elk Grove. You CAN win like Oceanside did in 2010 and El Cajon just did on June 5, 2012 (see below).

There was a gratifying victory in Contra Costa County, where Danville Mayor Candace Andersen won 60% of the vote and easily defeated Contra Costa Community College District Governing Board member Tomi Van De Brooke for the open seat held by the late Supervisor Gayle Uilkema. Van De Brooke only received 28% despite receiving the “benefit” of nasty union-funded mailers about abortion sent to district voters. This is yet another case in which Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) in California made a politician accountable to the voters for supporting costly union-backed policies in order to lock up union campaign support. Regrettably, the Project Labor Agreement imposed by Van De Brooke in December 2011 for community college district construction projects will remain as a legacy of this election.

In Sonoma County, there will be a clash between two ideologically opposite members of the Santa Rosa City Council for an open seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. The candidate for economic freedom, John Sawyer, will face off against pro-union candidate Susan Gorin.

In Solano County, pro-union challenger Skip Thomson defeated Mike Reagan, the one solid advocate for economic freedom on the Solano County Board of Supervisors. Reagan barely held onto the seat against Thomson four years ago. The Project Labor Agreement policy for Solano County construction projects will continue, now without an opposing view on the board.

In Yolo County, incumbent Duane Chamberlain survived a challenge from union-backed Woodland Mayor Art Pimentel for a seat on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.

Voters rejected Measure J, a $59.5 million school bond measure to modernize a high school in the City of Antioch. That was a whopping target for a Project Labor Agreement, as shown by the construction union funding of the campaign to support Measure J.

Disappointing results were seen in the elections for Sacramento City Council, where candidates backed by business groups lost, as usual. The Sacramento City Council continues to be dominated by politicians lukewarm toward economic growth. I believe this results in part from voter distrust of candidates funded by housing tract developers, and NOT because voters love unions. In fact, I think union connections would be a liability for incumbents if campaigns chose to focus on them aggressively.

BACKYARD CHICKEN FREEDOM MOVEMENT CONTINUES TO ADVANCE!

Voters in the City of Yreka (near the Oregon border on I-5) voted 720-650 to approve possession of up to six backyard hens (no roosters) in residential areas of the city. As Yreka City Councilman Bryan Foster said to KDRV News Channel 12 (ABC) in Medford, Oregon: “The chicken issue, for me, it centers around private property rights and really, government interference.” Isn’t it refreshing to hear that kind of statement from a California elected official, even when it’s broadcast from an Oregon TV station? See my earlier post on this hotly-contested issue here.