Tag Archive for www.FlashReport.org

Nine Fall 2015 Commentaries on California School and College Bond Measures

California High-Speed Rail Could Be Issue in Four Races for Statewide Office

Today (February 11, 2014), my article 4 Democrat-Held Statewide Offices Vulnerable to GOPers Who Focus Campaigns on High-Speed Rail Fiasco is in www.FlashReport.org. It encourages Republicans to run for statewide offices and use the high-speed rail issue in their campaigns:

Four Democrat statewide elected officials are helping the California High-Speed Rail Authority to perpetuate its costly and deceptive operations at the expense of the People of California. At various times, the Governor, Treasurer, Controller, and Attorney General had the authority and the responsibility to serve as an appropriate check and balance against a looming boondoggle. Instead, they chose to support the continuation of the debacle or shirked their duties at pivotal moments, even after a court ended all doubts by confirming that the California High-Speed Rail Authority failed to comply with the law.

As of February 11, 2014, here are the candidates running for these four offices.

Four Democrat-Held Statewide Offices Vulnerable to Republicans Who Focus Campaigns on High-Speed Rail Fiasco

 

Five Winning Issues for a Republican Candidate for California State Treasurer – My Article in www.FlashReport.org

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

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

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

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

Are you such a potential candidate?

Proposed New Sacramento Kings Arena: Another California Infrastructure Project Burdened by Visions to Change the World

California can’t build a bullet train to transport people in two hours and forty minutes from San Francisco to Los Angeles. That’s too mundane. Instead, California High-Speed Rail is burdened with revitalizing Central Valley cities, employing the homeless, saving the planet from global warming, creating jobs, ending poverty, planting trees, transforming society, etc.

It’s not surprising that the California High-Speed Rail project is about to wither away after five years of visionary leftist nonsense. The project became too much for too many.

As the hyperbole rises to the absurd about the proposed new Sacramento Kings basketball arena, I’m predicting this “Entertainment and Sports Center” will suffer the same fate. See my December 16, 2013 article in www.FlashReport.org entitled Regional Sports and Entertainment Facilities in the Urban Core Attract Costly Political Meddling: Sacramento Kings as a Case Study.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

“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?

They Are Here. And They’ve Discovered the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

As I was monitoring the environmental objections of the Carpenters Union Local 152 (such as this May 20, 2013 letter) to the proposed Cordes Ranch Specific Plan in the City of Tracy, I stumbled upon a much more mysterious and sinister entity submitting CEQA objections to the city’s proposed developments.

A group called Horizon Planet had been submitting objections under CEQA to the City of Tracy for a variety of development policies and proposals over the past year. It had even sued the City of Tracy.

But no information was available about who was behind Horizon Planet or what they wanted. My article about Horizon Planet – Space Aliens Abuse CEQA! – was published in www.FlashReport.org on September 20, 2013.

Republicans Pushing the Construction Union Agenda in the California Legislature

Almost all Democrats in the California State Legislature vote in committee and on the floor of their chamber for any bill sponsored by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. There are exceptions in rare circumstances, usually when a Democrat recognizes that a union-backed bill sets up an artificial system to favor middle class suburban white men among people seeking vocational education and employment in the construction trades.

Now there are Republican legislators supporting the construction union legislative agenda, in effect voting for government intervention to maintain or expand union involvement in commerce. I informed Republican leaders and activists about this development in an August 19, 2013 article in www.FlashReport.orgUnions Tempt Republicans with “Bipartisanship” Lure: Five Tips for Resistance – and an August 20, 2013 article in www.UnionWatch.org – Some Republican State Legislators in California Push the Union Agenda.

Republican elected officials who support the union agenda have a right to do so, but they need to be accountable to voters and to Republicans who see their 157 year-old political party as a defender of free markets and limited government. I believe that Republicans who vote for the union agenda in 2013 (as opposed to say, 1931) think this kind of voting record will help them get re-elected to office or elected to higher office.

That strategy doesn’t often work when it really matters. Generally, unions end up supporting a Democrat with a credible chance of winning a competitive election against a Republican who votes for greater union power and influence in commerce and government. There are practical parliamentary reasons to do so: party majorities and supermajorities are fundamental to the development of public policy.

I’ve noticed during more than 20 years working in politics that Republicans who support union-backed bills also tend to be the ones who end up “compromising” under pressure on high-profile budget issues – tax increases, for example – often in exchange for political favors. Votes on union issues are a key indicator of where an elected official will stand when the Establishment is clamoring to take more money from people to fund government programs.

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.