Tag Archive for San Diego Union-Tribune

My Article “After 33 Years, San Diego Submits to State Prevailing Wage Law” Published on www.UnionWatch.org

On July 30, I reported in www.UnionWatch.org on the 5-4 vote of the San Diego City Council to impose state prevailing wage rates on city construction contracts at After 33 Years, San Diego Submits to State Prevailing Wage Law.

News Coverage of the Vote

San Diego Passes Prevailing Wage Bill: Council votes 5-4 to expand policy to work contracts, following Filner’s lead – UT San Diego – July 31, 2013 – a follow-up to Council Approves Higher Wages for Projects: City already pays prevailing wages on big developmentUT San Diego – July 30, 2013

City Council Approves Prevailing Wage Proposal – City News Service, posted on several news web sites – July 30, 2013

City Council Passes Prevailing-Wage OrdinanceSan Diego Daily Transcript – July 30, 2013

City Costs Would Rise Under Prevailing Wage Plan: Rule would expand to all municipal projects UT San Diego – July 30, 2013

A Day to Remember, Not Fondly, at San Diego City HallUT San Diego (editorial) – August 1, 2013

Vote ‘No’ on Expanding ‘Prevailing Wage’ in San Diego – UT San Diego (editorial) – July 30, 2013

Prevailing Wage Will Force Out Small Guy; Prevailing Wage is All About Payback to Unions; Big Labor Dominates City Hall: UT San Diego (letters to the editor) – August 1, 2013

A Former Mayor of a Southern California City Provides an Intellectual Argument for City Charters and Local Government Authority

In today’s San Diego Union-Tribune (February 19, 2013), former Murrieta Mayor Doug McAllister calls for California cities to enact charters for local home rule and protection from intrusive centralized state government. See Reasons to Consider Becoming a Charter City.

I like McAllister’s philosophical approach based on federalism. He writes the following:

One of the main debates defining the distinction between the ideological left and right is the positioning of power in governing…the left believes the power to reach that goal radiates from top to bottom, while the right reverses that flow.

Then he explains the practical policy consequences of centralized, top-down governance:

…the ability of local government to protect the best interests of its residents has been consistently undermined…Today, the ability of local cities to enhance their quality of life is at significant risk.

McAllister reports correctly that numerous general law cities in California are planning to ask their citizens to enact a charter in the 2014 elections:

Many cities in our region are serious about finding ways to protect us all from a centralized government gone wild. One avenue their leaders are seriously pondering is the possibility of becoming a charter city. Most municipalities are born as general law cities. It appears that by reorganizing as a charter city, a practice not uncommon as cities mature, not only could there be certain protections against Sacramento’s agenda, but city leaders will perhaps have significantly more tools in their economic development tool belt with which to enhance our quality of life.

McAllister also warns against a defensive, campaign-oriented strategy of trying to include too many provisions in a proposed charter to try to neutralize specific attacks (from the Left, of course) against the concept:

It is said that a camel is a horse put together by a committee. If any city wants to become a charter city, they need to avoid the temptation to build a committee-created camel, cramming protections against every contingency, real or perceived, into the charter, inviting the crisis of unintended consequences. Less (camel) is more (horse). The focus of this effort should be to see how short they can make the document, not how long.

I agree with this approach. The Left (that is, unions and every other organization that wants to centralize and concentrate political power at the state capitol) will attack a charter proposal no matter what it contains. For example, they will always cite a mismanaged charter city (such as Bell) as an example of home rule failure while ignoring solid, responsible local governance in most of California’s other 121 charter cities. (They want all cities to submit to the governance of the mismanaged state government, which they control!)

For example, see how a Twitter account portraying itself as “MOTR Politics” (Middle of the Road Politics) suggests that the bankrupt City of San Bernardino needs to repeal its charter and operate instead under the wise, steady hand of the California State Legislature:

The only way to remove personalities & politics is for SB City to follow the same laws as most other cities. http://www.sbsun.com/opinions/ci_22605107/city-charter-is-ripe-reform …

It’s possible the City of San Bernardino could actually use its charter authority to help extract itself from its financial difficulties, if its elected city council had the political will and skill to challenge public employee unions. The Manhattan Institute’s City Journal reported in an August 17, 2012 article The Problem and Promise of Charter Cities that charter authority for cities such as San Bernardino can be beneficial or harmful, depending on who is in control:

Just as charters can make cities worse, they may be able to make them better—it all depends on who’s in charge. [Mayor Patrick] Morris and some other city leaders have tried to put charter reform on the local ballot, hoping to abolish the sections that inflate city workers’ pay and empower the city attorney to battle the mayor.

Such change apparently does not appeal to MOTR Politics, which seems to favor the public employee unions that apparently absorb more than 75% of the city’s general fund, as shown by these Tweets:

SB City Police & Fire unions claim SB City has abused bankruptcy & will ask bankruptcy court for permission to sue. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/13/usa-sanbernardino-unions-hearing-idUSL1N0BCIMR20130213 …

Another group – it’s police officers – will oppose SB City’s eligibility for bankruptcy protections. http://www.sbsun.com/news/ci_22576996/police-seeking-lawsuit-against-san-bernardino …

SB City returns to U.S. Bankruptcy Court today at 1:30 PM where it will battle CalPERS. Is the city serious? http://www.sbsun.com/news/ci_22569576/san-bernardino-filing-defends-its-level-finance-department …

Instead of responding to the arguments from advocates of oppressive and intrusive government, charter supporters need to base their arguments on the benefits of local control and the need for appropriate checks and balances against a state legislature under one-party supermajority control.

For more information on why your city should enact a charter and free itself from the grip of the state legislature and the special interest groups entrenched at the capitol, see these resources:

Charter Cities – League of California Cities

Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

Jim Brulte’s Three Objectives as California Republican Party Chairman: Start a Party Fundraising Program, Encourage Local Grassroots Activism, Recruit Candidates Who Reflect the People of California

UPDATE (January 18, 2013): The Republican Party of San Diego County has posted two YouTube videos of Jim Brulte’s remarks at their January 14, 2013 meeting.

Here’s a video of the entire 13-minute speech:

Here’s a two-minute video summary, featuring highlights:


I’ve been compiling the written, credible advice from California Republican Party leaders and activists concerning how Republicans in California can improve their election performance and become more effective at state and local governments in protecting economic and personal freedom. (See Proposed Changes for the California Republican Party in 2013-2014: A Compilation of Advice from Party Leaders.)

Now, we’re getting an idea of what plan the next party chairman will implement.

Jim Brulte kicks off his campaign for California Republican Party chairman on January 14, 2013 in San Diego.

Jim Brulte kicks off his campaign for California Republican Party chairman on January 14, 2013 in San Diego.

On January 14, 2013, former state legislator Jim Brulte spoke at the monthly meeting of the Republican Party of San Diego County.

This was an appropriate setting for Brulte to officially kick off his candidacy for California Republican Party chairman and outline his plans, because the San Diego County Republican Party successfully turned itself around (in ten years) to became effective in carrying out the basic tasks of a political party operation while maintaining a consensus set of principles. (I write about this in my June 19, 2012 column in www.FlashReport.org, The Untold Story: Years of Challenging, Unglamorous Work Led to Big Republican Election Night in San Diego on June 5)

In fact, Brulte called the Republican Party of San Diego County the “gold standard” for county committee operations, and he said he intends to model the state party’s operations based on the San Diego County “back-to-basics blocking and tackling” approach. Brulte is going to focus on mechanics (or “political technology,” as the Leadership Institute calls it) and leave the policy messages to elected officials and candidates.

Brulte has identified grassroots activism as one of his three area of focus.

Brulte has identified grassroots activism as one of his three area of focus.

At the end of the meeting, the San Diego County Republican Central Committee unanimously endorsed Brulte for California Republican Party chairman. San Diego County Republican Party chairman Tony Krvaric sent an email to activists with these links to news coverage of the speech and event. (I selected the article excerpts for the summaries and chose the bold highlights.)

Brulte Kicks Off CRP Bid at San Diego GOP Meetingwww.FlashReport.org – January 14, 2013

Senator Brulte laid out his plans which include the need for the CRP to establish its own statewide fundraising network, so that the party would not be reliant on the top of the ticket, or financial support from legislative leaders.  He talked about the need to export the “San Diego GOP model” for grassroots activism all around the state — because a resurgence in our “ground game” would be essential for future victories.  Finally Brulte talked about the importance of recruiting local candidates for office that reflect the changing demographics of our state…Brulte’s message of a return to the “nuts and bolts” of winning campaigns will be well received all around.

Statewide ‘Republican Renaissance’ Seen if San Diego GOP Is Used as Model – Rancho Bernardo Patch – January 15, 2013

  • “Our party is right,” Brulte said…“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Republican principles…We just need to get back to the basics of trying to win elections.”
  • “The California Republican Party has to be as good and capable and competent and excellent and outstanding as the San Diego County party.”
  • Brulte made no suggestions on how to reframe Republican policies, saying others could explain “the issues.”
  • His only hint that the party needed to improve diversity was saying: “The table will be big enough for anyone who wants to sit at it and pull in the same direction.”
  • Brulte said: “I want to be the most boring chairman in the history of the California Republican Party. I want to be the nuts-and-bolts chairman that helps begin the process of bringing back the Republican Party and a two-party state in California.”
  • STEP ONE: the path to GOP success lies in launching a statewide party fundraising operation, growing the grassroots and recruiting more candidates. “For too long,” he said, “the California Republican Party has been reliant on members of the Legislature, on Republican governors” and wealthy GOP candidates for governor to share funds with other Republican candidates. “The party that says welfare should not be a permanent state has become a welfare recipient,” he said, noting the lack of a fundraising arm.
  • STEP TWO: “You can’t build the party from the top down…you have to build a party from the bottom up – and that means re-invigorating the grassroots.”
  • STEP THREE: recruiting candidates from “every neighborhood in California…It is axiomatic that in a neighborhood election, the candidate who most looks like, sounds like and has the shared values and the shared experiences of the majority of people in the neighborhood tends to win.”

GOP Leader Lays Out Rebuilding VisionSan Diego Union-Tribune – January 14, 2013

  • “We just need to get back to basics,” Brulte said, laying out a theme for fundraising, candidate recruitment and training and better grass roots organizing
  • “We have to rebuild from the bottom up,” he said, adding the party needs to recruit candidates that look, sound and talk like their neighbors…Republicans know they have major work to broaden the party’s appeal…
  • work to rebuild the party starts with wiping a roughly $500,000 debt and creating a large-scale, statewide fundraising operation…
  • “We ought to be a help to Republican Party officials and candidates, not the other way around,” he said, referring to the GOP’s reliance on self-funded candidates for statewide office and a small cadre of wealthy donors.

According to a January 14, 2013 San Francisco Chronicle blog post (Jim Brulte: Will Take CA GOP 6 years to Rebound), it’s going to take a while to turn things around, but it needs to start now or a turnaround will become unfeasible:

“A minimum of six years,” Brulte told The Chronicle. “This is a corporation that is bankrupt. There is a lot of heavy lifting that needs to be done and we all need to share in doing it.”

That’s not to say he’s kissing off the next cycle. Republicans need to “either stop the bleeding and/or start turning it around” in 2014 or Brulte said the party will be in the pits “for the rest of the decade.” The legislative supermajority gives Dems a supermajority of fundraising power that will be hard for Republicans to overcome…

Remaking the Republican Party: Experienced Hand Seen as Key to Revitalizing a Wounded GOPSan Diego Union-Tribune – January 18, 2013

Brulte’s agenda is straightforward:

  • Raise money to wipe out a roughly $500,000 debt.
  • Establish a statewide fundraising operation.
  • Early recruitment and training of candidates in every electoral district in the state, including traditionally Democratic ones such as those dominated by African-Americans, Asians and Latinos.

“If we do that, 2014 can be a great for us”…Brulte says the right mix of money, candidates and grass-root efforts will make 2014 “the year we can begin the Republican renaissance, and the year we can begin to take back California. The team will be big enough for anyone who wants to join and pull in the same direction.”

Of course, some of the comments posted under these articles (not necessarily representative of the ordinary voter) blast the Republican Party for its policy positions rather than the mechanics of its campaigns. Brulte is assuming that a majority of California citizens believe in limited government, and therefore funding, volunteers, and appealing candidates can get people to switch their votes to Republicans or to start voting – and vote for Republicans.

It will be an interesting test to see if the population of California is now inexorably committed to democratic socialism and its related philosophical tenets. In the meantime, the demographic base of the Republican Party will likely continue to move out of the state (see the January 15, 2013 Fox & Hounds column California’s Demographic Dilemma).

Unions File Yet Another CEQA Lawsuit Against Proposed Hotel in San Diego: Fat City Hotel Is Latest Target

Excerpts from this article were included in my December 18, 2012 www.UnionWatch.org article UNITE HERE Becomes San Diego’s Leading Environmental Organization.


On behalf of San Diego-based UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30, the South San Francisco law firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo filed a lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court on December 5, 2012 alleging that the City of San Diego, the San Diego Planning Commission, and the Centre City Development Corporation improperly approved the proposed Fat City Hotel Project.

First proposed publicly in March 2012, this project would be a two-tower, 364-room hotel in San Diego’s “Little Italy” district. Parties initially involved in this development were Frank Fat Properties LP and Jonathan Segal (an architect), but the parties now developing the project are FC Acquisition Company LLC, which includes T2 Development and GLJ Partners. (See Fat City Hotels Property Sold, New Developer Takes Over: T2 Development Reportedly Planning a Hilton HotelSan Diego Union-Tribune – August 28, 2012.)

As reported in the May 30, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune article Fat City Hotel Approved Over Labor Objections and in the July 26, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune article Fat City Hotels Project Wins Final OK: Planning Commission Denies Appeal from Hotel Workers, the hotel workers’ union has been pestering the hotel developers for a while:

The final opposition came from Unite Here Local 30, the local hotel workers union. There is no appeal from the commission vote.

Pamela N. Epstein, representing the union, said the project conflicted with city land-use plans, citing a maximum of hotel rooms that would be allowed in Little Italy where the site is located.

“Evidence does not support its designation as a resort hotel,” Epstein added.

But staff said the project complied with city rules and Commissioner Mary Lydon wondered why the union was involved, especially since new hotels mean new jobs.

“Why you brought this forward, to me, it’s a total miss,” Lydon said.

UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 claims that the project needs a project-specific Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Local agencies approved the project under the conclusion that the potential environmental impacts of this project were addressed in a 2006 “Program Environmental Impact Report” for future downtown redevelopment. See the San Diego Planning Commission staff report for the July 26, 2012 meeting concerning UNITE-HERE’s appeal of the Centre City Development Corporation’s approval of the project.

The appropriate question reporters and public officials need to ask UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30: will the union drop its lawsuit if the developers agree to a collective bargaining agreement with UNITE-HERE for hotel employees, along with some minor “environmental mitigation” to provide camouflage for the true purpose of the CEQA lawsuit?

In addition, is UNITE-HERE also asking the developers to require their contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council?

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!

California’s 2010 Law Changing the Crime Classification for Petty Marijuana Possession Reduced Workload for District Attorneys and Courts

Thanksgiving dinner at the Dayton household featured relatives and friends from San Francisco and Berkeley who are active in leftist causes and jubilant about the election results. Meanwhile, I was bemoaning the lack of present and future market demand in California for policy analysts and political consultants who advocate for minimalist government.

From their perspective, there was a solution: work with a campaign to convince a majority of California voters to legalize marijuana, as voters did in Colorado and Washington in the November 6 election.

Factions on both the Left and Right could agree that this step would give Californians more personal freedom from intrusive government and reduce the costs of law enforcement, courts, and prison, thus saving money for taxpayers and allowing the government to focus limited resources on more serious threats to an orderly, functioning society. The product could also be taxed as a source of revenue. In addition, such a campaign might introduce concepts of economic and personal freedom to California citizens who don’t often respond to the typical message and delivery from the Right. See the November 14, 2012 Cato Institute article A Time for Choosing: The GOP and the Marijuana Initiatives for this kind of thinking.

I was reminded of the Thanksgiving dinner advice when I saw tweets this morning from Scott Lewis, a reporter for the Voice of San Diego web news site. He wrote that the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) reported 6,783 misdemeanor marijuana arrests in San Diego County in 2010, but only 703 in 2011. That’s a 90% drop in arrests. (The San Diego Union-Tribune has now reported this in the November 28, 2012 article Marijuana Arrests Plummet 90% Countywide.)

I immediately knew the reason for the drop, but people in San Diego replied with tweets asking if this was because of lack of enforcement, a drop in use, or the presence of medical marijuana dispensaries. All of these guesses were wrong but understandable, because Californians have dramatically inaccurate perceptions about the state’s marijuana laws.

As the reporter subsequently confirmed with another tweet, it’s because of an obscure change in state law in 2010, explained below. I tweeted a question on whether or not anyone had compiled the statewide statistics on misdemeanor marijuana arrests and/or estimated the savings for county district attorneys and the judicial branch. I’m looking forward to an answer.

Petty Marijuana Possession in California Ceased to Be a Felony in 1975, and It Ceased to Be a Misdemeanor in 2010

June 26, 2001 analysis of Senate Bill 791 for the Assembly Committee on Public Safety corrected a common misperception among Californians that hundreds of thousands of people are in prison because they were caught with a small amount of marijuana:

…possession of less than one ounce of marijuana was essentially decriminalized in 1975 with the passage of the Moscone Act. Up until that time, possession of any amount of marijuana was a felony, punishable by up to ten years in prison. In 1974, felony marijuana arrests peaked at nearly 100,000 (99,597), representing about one-fourth (24.75 percent) of the felony arrests in the state and over two-thirds (69.21 percent) of the state’s felony drug arrests.

Even though possession of one ounce (28.5 grams) or less of marijuana was no longer an offense for jail or prison (outside of some exceptions that continue today), the violation remained a misdemeanor to be addressed in trial courts. It was claimed that the misdemeanor classification was costly and absurd, because “there exists no disincentive for the accused to drain the resources of the state and the courts with a lengthy trial” that would simply result in a $100 fine if a judge or jury found the defendant to be guilty.

Few Californians know that in the waning days of his administration, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 1449, introduced by State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), which changed the classification of crime for possessing one ounce (28.5 grams) or less of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil infraction that simply triggers a $100 fine. (To put this amount in perspective, California drivers are fined between $400 and $500 when photographed running a red light.)

At that time, California voters were about to decide on a statewide marijuana legalization ballot measure, Proposition 19, called the “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010.” Opponents of Proposition 19 thought Senate Bill 1449 could blunt voter support for Proposition 19. It did lose in the end, 53.5% to 46.5%.

Theories abound as to why a majority of voters rejected Proposition 19, with one being that some voters thought Senate Bill 1449 was acceptable but full-fledged legalization was too extreme. Another reasonable guess is that some voters agreed with the arguments of business groups and news organizations that Proposition 19 was poorly written and would undermine company drug policies, and it would even give people flexibility to drive under the influence of marijuana. (My former employer, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of California, opposed Proposition 19 because it did not want construction workers on dangerous job sites to use Proposition 19 as a basis to evade company drug policies.)

Converting Petty Marijuana Possession from a Misdemeanor to an Infraction

Senate Bill 1449 was promoted as a way for the State of California to reduce the expenditures of the judicial branch by eliminating the involvement of trial courts in petty marijuana possession cases. The bill analysis for SB 1449 noted that “the number of misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests have surged in recent years, reaching 61,388 in 2008.”

According to an April 21, 2010 analysis of Senate Bill 1449 for the Senate Rules Committee and a June 22, 2010 analysis of Senate Bill 1449 for the Assembly Committee on Public Safety, supporters of the bill included the American Civil Liberties Union, the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, the California District Attorneys Association, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws – California, the District Attorney of San Diego, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Friends Committee on Legislation of California, and most significantly, the Judicial Council of California. Opponents listed in the April 21 analysis were the California Narcotics Officers Association, the California Peace Officers Association, and the California Police Chiefs Association. No opponents of SB 1449 were listed in the June 22 analysis.

A handful of Democrats voted against Senate Bill 1449. Two Republicans voted for it: Assemblyman Anthony Adams, who was not running again after supporting a budget deal in 2009 that raised taxes, and Assemblyman Chris Norby, a former Orange County supervisor whose voting record reflected a libertarian philosophy.

After being the lone champion in the state legislature of proposals unpopular with the Establishment – such as eliminating redevelopment agencies – Norby was defeated for re-election in November 2012 by a Democrat supported by every organization in Sacramento that feeds off the government. In Norby’s farewell statement issued today (November 28, 2012) and published on the OC Politics Blog as Verbatim: Chris Norby’s Goodbye, he wrote the following about his work on marijuana laws:

As for marijuana, I was happy to provide bipartisan support to legalize the growing of industrial hemp, and for more rational laws in dealing with its recreational use. The War on Drugs has become a war on people – especially poor people. It costs billions in incarceration and in broken lives of those whose only crime was ingesting a substance into their own bodies. Is this a criminal issue or health issue? Consensual, non-violent adult activity should not be subject to our costly criminal justice system or militarize our relations with other countries.

Republican leaders love to blast the over-intrusive “nanny state,” yet for cultural reasons most shy away from advocating common sense drug laws. Some have not shied away: influential columnists William F. Buckley and George Will, Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), Rep. and Sen.-elect Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), and former Secretary of State George Shultz. Where are the Democrats? The current presidential administration has raided more medical marijuana dispensaries than its Republican predecessor.

Another Republican who supported the change in petty marijuana possession from misdemeanor to infraction was former Santa Cruz State Senator Bruce McPherson, who introduced essentially the same bill as Senate Bill 791 in 2001. According to a June 26, 2001 analysis of Senate Bill 791 for the Assembly Committee on Public Safety, that bill was supported by the California Council of Police and Sheriffs, the Judicial Council of California, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, and National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Opponents listed in the analysis were the California Narcotics Officers’ Association, the California Peace Officers’ Association, and the California Police Chiefs’ Association – the same three groups that opposed SB 1449 nine years later.

Also opposing SB 791 was the “Committee on Moral Concerns,” a group active in the 1990s against medical marijuana but now appears to be defunct. This group argued that “It sends the message that marijuana use carries little or no legal risk and, therefore, is nearly acceptable. Strengthening the law, instead of weakening it, would save the lives of thousands.”

The bill passed the Senate 23-13 but was defeated in the Assembly 44-14. Only one Republican voted for it: Senator Tom McClintock, who now represents California’s 4th Congressional District.

Senator McPherson was subsequently appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger as California Secretary of State in 2005 after the Democrat incumbent resigned in disgrace. He lost to Democrat Debra Bowen when he ran for a full term in 2006. He quit the Republican Party in June 2012 when he was running for Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors. It appears he barely won (with 50.33%) against a Democrat in the November 6, 2012 election.

Will the California Republican Party Ever Lean Toward Marijuana Legalization? If So, Would Californians Be More Willing to Give Republicans a Chance to Govern?

Of the four Republican legislators who voted to reduce the penalty for petty marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to an infraction, one was repudiated for supporting a tax increase, another was appointed to a statewide office, lost the election, and then quit the Republican Party to run for county supervisor, and a third was rejected by voters in favor of a Democrat. Not an impressive track record. Only Tom McClintock is still holding an office, but note McClintock was unsuccessful as a replacement candidate for Governor in the 2003 recall election.

And Governor Schwarzenegger – the Republican who signed the bill – certainly didn’t leave office popular with Republican Party leaders and activists, not to mention Californians at large. (Wait until the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 – Assembly Bill 32 – really begins kicking in!)

Among the groups taking a position on reducing the penalty for petty marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to an infraction, the district attorneys would seem to be the group most palatable to Republican voters. The district attorneys’ support for Senate Bill 1149 (2010) and Senate Bill 791 (2001) was based on pragmatic, fiscal concerns. Even then, few Republicans were in favor of the change. This is a case in which moral connotations and implications seem to have primacy over saving money for taxpayers.

Some people on both the Left and the Right feel that government should serve as an authoritative or guiding force for public morality. Others on both the Left and the Right fear government when it serves as an authoritative or guiding force for public morality. That debate will continue in the realms of intellectual ideas, such as constitutional law, philosophy, and theology.

Meanwhile, we can now measure the short-term fiscal impact of weaker drug laws on government expenditures and see how the government is redistributing limited resources to reduce violent crime and protect property. It looks like Senate Bill 1449 greatly reduced law enforcement and judicial activity for one kind of crime. The states of Colorado and Washington are now serving as pilot programs to see the effect of outright legalization. For California leaders who believe that minimalist government is the best approach, the next year will bring some interesting new insights.

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.

Unions Get Control of San Diego Convention Center Expansion: CEQA Abuse Is Effective, Fair and Open Competition Ordinance Evaded

The Moment of LIE - San Diego Convention Center Project Labor Agreement

The Moment of LIE – San Diego Convention Center Project Labor Agreement

As announced at a press conference this afternoon (November 8, 2012) featuring San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and top San Diego union officials (including Lorena Gonzalez, head of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Central Labor Council), the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO and the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council have made “deals” with the City of San Diego and the prime contractor (a joint venture of Clark Construction Group and Hunt Construction Group) for the San Diego Convention Center Expansion, Phase 3.

Although Mayor Sanders twice said “no” in response to a question about a Project Labor Agreement, contractors will indeed be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement (with the joint venture firm of Clark/Hunt) in order to work on the project. Union officials are dropping their environmental objections and supporting the project now. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported clearly that “greenmail” motivated supporters of the project to make a deal giving unions control of the work:

Continued opposition from organized labor, both in the courtroom and at the Coastal Commission, clearly threatened to derail the expansion.

“Labor and labor’s lawyers are competent and well-financed and neutralizing that as a threat to this project is a very important milestone,” said Charles Black, the city’s project manager for the expansion.

This deal is also a consequence of pro-union Congressman Bob Filner winning the race for San Diego Mayor. Obviously outgoing Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders – who will become the next head of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce – decided to surrender to the unions rather than let his successor get the credit for moving the project forward.

Clark/Hunt has signed a Project Labor Agreement directly with the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, in order to evade the Fair and Open Competition ordinance (Measure A) approved by 58% of city voters in June 2012. That ordinance prohibits the city from entering into a contract requiring companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions. (The National Labor Relations Act prohibits a city government from banning a Project Labor Agreement between an employer and unions.)

Clark Construction has a history in California of signing Project Labor Agreements to satisfy the unions and avoid trouble. For example, Clark signed a Project Labor Agreement in 2000 for San Diego’s Petco Park, in 2001 for the Fresno Community Health Systems Downtown Campus and in 2011 for the Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse in Long Beach.

Union CEQA Documents Submitted to Port of San Diego - Convention Center Expansion

Document Dump: a lawyer for labor unions submitted hundreds of pages of CEQA objections at the very last minute against the proposed San Diego Convention Center expansion.

As a party to the CEQA complaints, UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 obviously must have received economic concessions as well.

The triumphant news is coming out fast and furious from San Diego news media, surely to the surprise of most residents who didn’t know that unions (through the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo) had submitted hundreds of pages of documents claiming that the Environmental Impact Report for the San Diego Convention Center expansion violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

One comment on the KPBS news article (linked below) suggests that perhaps San Diego will end up hosting the 2016 Democratic National Convention. I wouldn’t be surprised.

News Coverage

Labor Drops Opposition to Convention Center Expansion – San Diego Union-Tribune – November 8, 2012

Organized labor has dropped its opposition to the planned expansion of the San Diego Convention Center after winning a number of concessions aimed at protecting workers, ensuring local hiring and guaranteeing defined benefits. The agreement to support the expansion, announced by Mayor Jerry Sanders, removes a major hurdle that threatened to derail the $520 million project…

With Labor Deal, Convention Center Expansion Clears Major Hurdle – Voice of San Diego – ‎November 8, 2012

San Diego’s $520 million proposed Convention Center expansion received a major boost Thursday, when Mayor Jerry Sanders announced a formal agreement with labor groups to support the project. Labor will drop its lawsuits against the project’s …

Labor Drops Opposition to Convention Center Expansion – North County Times – November 8, 2012

The planned expansion of the San Diego Convention Center cleared a major hurdle Thursday, with the announcement that organized labor has dropped all opposition to the $520 million project. Mayor Jerry Sanders, joined by San Diego labor leader Lorena Gonzalez…

Labor Unions Drop Opposition to Convention Center Expansion – San Diego 6 – November 8, 2012

Organized labor will drop its opposition to a planned expansion of the San Diego Convention Center due to a series of agreements reached with the city and the project contractor, the two sides announced Thursday. At a news conference…

San Diego, Unions Reach Agreement On Convention Center Expansion – KPBS – November 8, 2012

Labor groups have agreed to drop out of lawsuits against the Convention Center expansion after coming to agreements regarding worker safety, local hiring and other issues. This does not mean all litigation against the project is done. In February a judge will…

I wrote about the union “greenmail” extensively, but the San Diego civic leadership obviously wanted to avoid jeopardizing the project and kept the issue quiet. See these articles:

CEQA Greenmail Still Effective for Unions in San Diego: Just a Cost of Doing Business for Pragmatic Civic Leaders – October 10, 2012

www.UnionWatch.org Publishes My Comprehensive Analysis of the Union CEQA Greenmail Against the San Diego Convention Center Expansion – September 21, 2012

The Greenmail is Now Public: Union CEQA Extortion of San Diego Convention Center Featured on www.FlashReport.org – September 20, 2012

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) – September 20, 2012

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 – August 8, 2012

 
 

California Local Election Report: Construction Bond Measures for School Districts and Community College Districts – Four That Obviously Deserve a NO Vote

California’s elected school boards and community college boards have put 106 measures on local ballots for the November 6, 2012 election asking voters to authorize borrowing money for construction through bond sales. At least four of these proposed bond measures are so stunningly misguided that citizens in these districts should take democratic action, defy the well-funded Establishment, and reject the debt with a NO vote.

Below, I list and explain the four districts where voters should Close the Spigot of taxpayer money to the elected boards. First, some general background about educational facility bond measures on the November 6, 2012 ballot:

CALIFORNIA – 106 Bond Measures for Construction at Educational Districts

A web site – www.californiacityfinance.com – lists 106 school construction bond measures on the November 2012 ballot in California. An article from School Services of California and reprinted on September 26, 2012 by the Coalition for Adequate School Housing (CASH) confirms there are 106 proposed bond measures. That article also notes that 106 is the highest number of California school bond measures ever considered in an election. It also claims that voters authorize the sale of bonds in California school districts about 70% of the time.

The number of bond measures presented to voters throughout California has trended relentlessly upwards since November 2000, when 53.4% of California voters narrowly approved Proposition 39, which dropped the voter threshold for approval of educational construction bond measures from 66.67% to 55%. This was the start of California’s massive accumulation of debt for educational construction at the state and local levels of government.

A few professional political consulting firms (such as Tramutola Advisors, based in Oakland, and TBWB Strategies, based in San Francisco) specialize in the business of convincing voters to vote Yes for school bond measures. They are adept at emotive messaging (“it’s all about the kids”) and at exploiting technical loopholes to leverage public funds as much as legally possible to develop and promote the bond measures.

Funding for the campaigns to pass the bond measures is collected from banks, bond brokers (underwriters), and other financial service corporations that make money from bond transactions. This has generated some criticism; see Vote No on Sacramento’s Measures Q and R web site for a compilation of 2012 news articles about bond underwriters and campaign contributions.

Bond measures also generate business for the construction industry. A perusal of contributors to bond measures usually reveals architects, engineers, contractors and construction trade associations, and construction trade unions.

Have YOU checked the list of contributors to campaigns to pass bond measures in your K-12 school and community college district?

Rarely does significant opposition develop against proposed bond measures, as shown by how often official voter information guides outright lack an opposition statement to a proposed bond measure. When there is organized opposition, it usually centers around a regional taxpayers association, with help from the local Libertarian Party or Tea Party organizations. Generally, opposition campaigns are passionate, but amateurish. They usually don’t have any money to spend on getting their message out to voters.

PROFESSIONALIZING OPPOSITION WITH CALIFORNIA’S “OPERATION CLOSE THE SPIGOT” 

Earlier this year, I circulated a proposal for “Operation Close the Spigot,” a program to have a well-funded, coordinated opposition campaign statewide against the most egregious bond measures proposed for California K-12 school districts and community college districts. While a formal organization has not yet emerged to close the spigot of taxpayer funding, my agitation on this issue – like my agitation for charter cities – has inspired some promising grassroots movement for local individuals and organizations to gather together and make a more serious effort to inform voters about the huge debt burden accumulating on Californians as a result of the parade of bond measures.

As the November 6, 2012 election approaches, here are the most promising developments for organized opposition against four foolish proposed educational construction bond measures in California.

1. SACRAMENTO CITY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT – $414 Million Measures Q and R

The “Fair and Open Competition – Sacramento” committee that had organized in 2011 to enact Fair and Open Competition ordinances in the City of Sacramento and the County of Sacramento reorganized its leadership and membership and decided to expose the foolhardiness of the Sacramento City Unified School District’s proposal to borrow another $414 million by selling bonds. (District taxpayers currently owe $522 million from the last two bond measures.) This group was inspired to oppose Measures Q and R on the November 2012 ballot because the school board requires its construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions to work on Sacramento City Unified School District contracts. In fact, the leading spokesperson to pass Measures Q and R is school board member Patrick Kennedy, who has been and may still be employed by Sacramento construction trade unions or affiliated entities.

The Sacramento City Unified School District sold notorious Capital Appreciation Bonds to bury future generations in debt. These are bond issues for which investors collect a huge amount of compound interest when the bonds mature, rather than getting interest payments at regular intervals and then getting the principal back when the bonds mature.

Fair and Open Competition – Sacramento submitted excellent arguments against Measure Q and against Measure R for the official voter information guide. They tried to discourage Sacramento area business groups from knee-jerk “it’s for the kids” endorsements of Measures Q and R. Finally, they established a web site to make a logical, fact-based case against borrowing more money through bond sales to investors. As I declared in a Tweet yesterday, “Never before has a campaign web site so thoroughly analyzed and hammered a California school construction bond measure: http://fairandopencompetitionsacramento.com.”

The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board has not taken a position yet on Measures Q and R. On October 14, 2012, the Sacramento Bee endorsed Measures Q and R (Sacramento City Unified School Bonds Are a Smart Investment for Students), with the Project Labor Agreement policy as the only negative reference:

Opponents object to the district’s use of project labor agreements for large projects – as has this editorial board. But the district points out that only 14 of 74 projects since 2005 have had project labor agreements. Union and nonunion shops get a chance to bid on the vast majority of projects under $1 million.

2. WEST CONTRA COSTA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT – $360 Million Measure E

The Official Statement for the West Contra Costa Unified School District’s latest bond sale contains some harsh facts about this fiscally irresponsible, mismanaged school district in an economically struggling area. Residents and businesses in this school district have taken on a staggering amount of debt through construction – $1.77 billion to date by borrowing money from five bond measures since 1998. (A sixth attempt failed in 2003.) Five is not enough, so now there is the $360 million Measure E.

Chevron owns 13.1% of the assessed property value of this district, and what will happen when Chevron finally decides to shut down its Richmond refining facility? (I’ve been predicting for 14 years it will become a distribution center for fuels refined in Mexico.) And Chevron is not the only problem with the school board’s rosy expectations for future tax collection. In 2009-10, total property value tax assessment in the district dropped 12.3%, and it dropped another 7.7% in 2010-11. (It was up 1.1% in 2011-12, but that’s not a good rationale to take on more debt.)

Bond Measures for West Contra Costa Unified School District

Authorized Bond Amount. Does Not Include Interest and Fees. Does Not Include State Matching Grants.

Date of Election

Ballot Designation

Outcome

$40 million June 2, 1998 Measure E Approved by 76.0% of voters
$150 million November 7, 2000 Measure M Approved by 77.5% of voters
$300 million March 5, 2002 Measure D Approved by 71.6% of voters
$450 Million September 16, 2003 Measure C Rejected in a special election because only 59.1% of voters approved the bond measure, which needed two-thirds voter approval
$400 million November 8, 2005 Measure J Approved by 56.9% of voters
$380 million June 8, 2010 Measure D Approved by 62.6% of voters
$1.27 billion Total from five bond measures from 1998 to the present.
$360 million November 6, 2012 Approved for consideration by district voters through a resolution of the school board on August 1, 2012

No surprise, the school board requires its construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions to work on West Contra Costa Unified School District projects. It was the first school district in Northern California to adopt a Project Labor Agreement, leading the way for followers such as the Vallejo City Unified School District, the East Side Union High School District (in San Jose), and the Oakland Unified School District. (By the way, Oakland USD and East Side Union HSD also have big bond measures on the November 2012 ballot.)

Of course, the West Contra Costa Unified School District sold Capital Appreciation Bonds to bury future generations in debt. One school board member – Charles Ramsey – even recognized the risk, but voted for the West Contra Costa Unified School District to sell Capital Appreciation Bonds anyway.

The Contra Costa Taxpayers Association is leading the opposition to Measure E and submitted excellent arguments against West Contra Costa Unified School District’s Measure E for the official voter information guide. Opposition also includes a small group of local activists who understand the debt implications of this latest bond measure. Unfortunately, the web presence of opposition arguments to Measure E is sparse. A local political and community activist, Charley Cowens, writes a blog called Mystery Education Theater 3000 about this district, which his kids went through, and there is also a blog called West Contra Costa Unified School District Quality Improvement Project. This is a tough place to advocate for fiscal responsibility.

Today (October 13, 2012), the Contra Costa Times newspaper endorsed four bond measures in San Francisco’s East Bay (Four School Bond Measures that We Believe Should Pass), but held off on discussing West Contra Costa Unified School District: “Five East Bay school districts seek voter approval Nov. 6 for bond measures to fund school construction. We recommend passage of four. We will consider the fifth, West Contra Costa’s Measure E, on Monday.” It looks like this district’s proposed bond measure will get a special editorial from the Contra Costa Times on Monday, October 15, 2012.

UPDATE: The Contra Costa Times slammed the proposed bond sales through Measure E at the West Contra Costa Unified School District: see Yes on Measure G, No on Measure E in West County – Contra Costa Times – October 15, 2012. The editorial points out that the official ballot information for Measure E neglects essential information for voters to consider (business as usual), including the huge outstanding debt obligations from five previous bond measures, the projected tax burden in a few years of $290 per $100,000 of property value, and the projection for repayment in 40 years at disproportionately high interest rates. The editorial concludes with this blunt statement:

District leaders say they need the additional bond money to complete their school construction program. That’s what they said 2½ years ago for the last bond measure. They claimed then that they needed more because rising construction costs had eroded their purchasing power. In today’s economy, that excuse won’t work. We endorsed the successful 2010 measure. But we warned that would be the last time. We meant it. As far as we are concerned, this train has run out of track. Vote no on Measure E.

3. SAN DIEGO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT – $2.8 Billion Proposition Z

No, that $2.8 billion jaw-dropping figure is not a typographical error. It represents the unapologetic arrogance of a union-controlled school board that is spending itself close to bankruptcy; in the meantime, let the good times roll!

In November 2008, voters in the San Diego Unified School District approved a ballot measure (Proposition S) authorizing the school board to borrow a whopping $2.1 billion for construction by selling bonds to investors. With a new pro-union majority also elected to the school board, the board (on a 3-2 vote) subsequently required construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement to work on San Diego Unified School District construction projects of more than $1 million funded by Proposition S. Unions now have total control of the San Diego school board, which has already voted 5-0 for a union Project Labor Agreement on construction funded by the proposed Proposition Z.

Of course, the San Diego Unified School District sold Capital Appreciation Bonds to bury future generations in debt. The board passed a resolution claiming they wouldn’t sell any more Capital Appreciation Bonds. (See my article Board of San Diego Unified School District Senses Voters May Reject $2.8 Billion Bond Measure (Proposition Z) Because of Board’s Past Use of Capital Appreciation Bonds.) Now the Voice of San Diego reports (on October 12, 2012 in School Officials Pitch Prop. Z As The Only Alternative to Exotic Loans) that school district officials are claiming the San Diego Unified School District will have to sell MORE Capital Appreciation Bonds if voters reject Proposition Z. Unbelievable!

The San Diego County Taxpayers Association jumped on Proposition Z right away as unworthy of voter support. This particular taxpayers’ organization in San Diego extensively researches ballot measures and is very cautious about taking opposition positions.

The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board has urged voters to reject Proposition Z: Vote No on San Diego School Bond: It Props Up a Broken Status QuoSan Diego Union-Tribune – September 22, 2012.

4. SOLANO COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT – $348 Million Measure Q

The $124.5 million Measure G bond approved by Solano County voters in 2002 was not enough for the businesses and individuals who feed off money borrowed through bond sales. Especially interested in this new proposed $348 million bond measure are construction unions who obtained monopoly control of Measure G work with a Project Labor Agreement on Solano Community College District projects.

Stunningly, one of the board members – Catherine Ritch (representing Fairfield) – voted NO on putting the bond measure on the November ballot. Ritch was appointed to the Solano Community College District Governing Board in March 2012. She is not running in 2012 for a full term, so she could actually vote based on what is right for the people rather than for what is politically expedient. She also has a professional background as a legislative and administrative government analyst, so she was evidently too informed to be hoodwinked by this scheme.

The Fairfield Daily Republic newspaper was not impressed with the 6-1 vote to ask voters to borrow $348 million by selling bonds. In an August 5, 2012 editorial entitled “Board Appears Set for Local Tax Measures,” the Daily Republic said the following:

Solano Community College jumped on the tax bandwagon this week when trustees voted 6-1 to place a $348 million property tax measure on the November ballot. Trustee Catherine Ritch voted no, and for good reason. She said the finer points of the proposal had not been laid out completely for the board to consider, and called for the board to take “a deep breath” before approving the staff recommendation.

The Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group is opposing Measure Q, as reported in Opponents Mobilize Against Local Tax MeasuresFairfield Daily Republic – October 4, 2012.

In an October 13, 2012 opinion piece in the Vallejo Times-Herald (We Deserve the Entire Story on Measure Q), Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction considered the cost increases caused by the Project Labor Agreement on construction funded by Measure G:

…now this same college [Solano Community College District], which still has governing it three of the board members who voted for the PLA [Project Labor Agreement], wants almost $350 million for another bond measure. The reason? Measure G wasn’t large enough to cover the college’s needs. Do you think they could have used that extra $24 million they wasted under a PLA?

The SCCD Governing Board should be honest about whether or not a PLA will be used on this bond should it pass. Voters should have all the information possible before voting to put themselves another $350 million in debt, especially if what they get for that debt is reduced in value in order to placate union special interests. Every candidate running for the board should also be asked whether they would vote to have a PLA placed on Measure Q.

Board members and candidates won’t answer that question. Although the answer is YES to a Project Labor Agreement, Solano County voters won’t support Measure Q if they learn that unions will get a costly government-mandated monopoly on the work.

Solano Community College District sold $1,584,811.70 in Capital Appreciation Bonds in 2005 as part of a large package of refunding bonds. Will the college board do it again on a much larger scale when they have authority from voters to sell $348 million instead of $124.5 million in bonds?

A FINAL QUESTION: Why Should You Care?

As a beleaguered Californian bombarded by bad economic and political news every day, you may now be cynically asking, “Why should I care?” You might have these thoughts:

  • If you live in or pay property taxes to one of these four educational districts, you have probably assumed that any local community opposition to the bond measure will be weak, ineffective, and easily crushed by the bank-and-union funded campaign machine that supports it.
  • If you don’t live in nor own property in one of these four educational districts, you may conclude that citizens who choose to live there accept or are resigned to seeing their school districts waste taxpayers’ money. It’s not your problem – you live elsewhere.
  • And if you live in California but don’t own any property, you may assume that these ballot measures don’t apply to you, because you don’t pay the property taxes for the principal and interest that goes to bond investors, nor the fees to financial service companies for issuing the bonds. You think you have no financial interest in the matter.

Well, you SHOULD care, for four reasons:

  1. Imagine the power of the message voters would send to the state’s political leadership if they rejected huge bond measures to pay for construction in these districts. By using their democratic power and defeating these bond measures, California citizens would nudge their elected officials toward more accountability to the taxpayers instead of the financial industry and union lobbyists.
  2. Voter rejection of bond measures in these four districts would repudiate thoughtless borrowing, taxing, and spending, including the sale of Capital Appreciation Bonds and the adoption of public policies such as Project Labor Agreements that impose costly union monopolies on taxpayer-funded construction.
  3. Voters might encourage some relatively thoughtful school board members in these four districts and other school districts to stand up to the most absurd demands from union lobbyists for more money and more laws. (Surely there are elected board members in school districts who honestly want to focus on student academic performance and aren’t warped by selfish ambitions for higher office.)
  4. Finally, voters would send a message to every California school board member that “it’s for the children” is no longer a sufficient message in itself to collect more taxes for the purpose of repaying money borrowed with interest and fees from investment banks and insurance companies.

Californians need to realize that EVERYONE in the state pays for construction in these three large school districts. The obscure State Allocation Board regularly provides matching grants for construction projects at school districts with proceeds from bond sales authorized by three past statewide propositions totaling $35.8 billion:

Even renters and consumers pay for bond measures. Property owners consider property taxes as a cost of doing business. The tax burden “trickles down” to all Californians.

In addition, Californians need to start thinking about how some of the largest beneficiaries of these bond measures are investment banks, brokerage firms, and other corporate providers of financial services. The so-called “One Percent” makes good money off of Californians’ emotional desire to “help the children.” School districts borrow money now and arrange for property owners to pay it back, along with significant interest payments and financial transaction fees.

Future generations of Californians are going to be crushed under the burdens of debt repayments for the school construction programs of today. For example, the debt of the San Diego Unified School District for school construction bonds was listed in May 2012 at $4.7 billion. It’s time to Close the Spigot and protect those future generations.