Tag Archive for Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group

Opponents of Project Labor Agreement for Solano Community College District Will Make Formal Presentation to Governing Board

The Vice President of Finance & Administration for the Solano Community College District has asked Nicole Goehring, Government Affairs Director of the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), to make a 15-minute presentation about Project Labor Agreements during the March 6 meeting of the Solano College Governing Board in Fairfield.

The board wants more in-depth background about the ramifications of a proposal to require its construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions. This would be a condition of working on projects funded by borrowed money obtained through bond sales authorized by the $348 million Measure Q, approved by voters in November 2012.

(Union officials and lawyers: in keeping with your consistent views on appropriate limits of freedom of speech, be sure to contact this person and the superintendent-president and demand their withdrawal of the invitation. How dare this college give opponents of Project Labor Agreements a public forum to present their viewpoints?)

Voters were not provided with any indication from the district that unions would have a monopoly on construction work funded by these bond proceeds, although Associated Builders and Contractors, the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA), and the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (CFEC) tried to alert the public to the district’s history of requiring contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of working on the district’s projects funded by Measure G, approved by voters in November 2002. (See A Thoroughly Documented History of How Solano Community College Requires Contractors to Sign a Project Labor Agreement with Unions for the full details of that history.)

There was a small effort by the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group to warn voters that Measure Q bond proceeds would be squandered on Project Labor Agreements and other wasteful ventures. But a couple hundred yard signs and letters to the editor could not overcome the $227,600 Yes on Q campaign funded by special interests that feed off the college and its construction projects. (See complete list of contributors below.)

Here are my writings on Project Labor Agreements at Solano Community College District:

Governing Board for Solano Community College District in California Hears Debate Over Project Labor Agreement on $348 Million Bond Measure Q – February 6, 2013

Waste Once, Then Do It Again! Project Labor Agreement on Solano Community College District Board Meeting Agenda – February 5, 2013

Updated Chart! Who’s Paying to Convince Solano County Voters to Take On $348 Million of Additional Debt – Plus Interest – with Measure Q? – October 30, 2012

$348 Million Measure Q for Solano Community College: Yes on Q Campaign Fails to Submit Latest Legally-Required Campaign Finance Report – October 27, 2012

A Thoroughly Documented History of How Solano Community College Requires Contractors to Sign a Project Labor Agreement with Unions – October 21, 2012

Solano County’s Measure Q Looks Vulnerable to Defeat: Will Voters Refuse to Authorize Solano County Community College to Borrow $348 Million Through Bond Sales? – October 20, 2012

California Local Election Report: Construction Bond Measures for School Districts and Community College Districts – Four That Obviously Deserve a NO Vote – October 13, 2012

Contributors to Campaign to Convince Solano County Voters to Approve Measure Q

Total Monetary Contributions: $227,600

DONOR INTEREST AMOUNT
Piper Jaffray Investment Bank/Bond Broker $25,000
Kitchell Construction Construction Manager for Solano College Measure G $25,000
RBC Capital Markets Investment Bank/Bond Broker $18,000
Swinerton Construction Management $15,000
Steve M. Nielsen, MuniBond Solar Bond consultant $10,000
Steinberg Architects Architect $10,000
VBN Architects Architect $10,000
tBP Architecture Architect $7,500
Northern California Carpenters Regional Council Construction trade union $5,000
Sonoma/Napa Counties Electrical Contractors Construction trade union-affiliated Labor-Management Cooperation Committee $5,000
[Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 104] Bay Area Industry Promotion Fund Construction trade union-affiliated Labor-Management Cooperation Committee $5,000
Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 104 Issues Account Construction trade union $5,000
Robert A. Bothman Construction Construction contractor $5,000
Solano Community College Educational Foundation Construction contractor $5,000
Jelly Belly Candy Company Candy company based in Fairfield $5,000
Stradling , Yocca, Carlson and Rauth Law firm $3,500
WRNS Studio Architect $3,500
Barnes & Noble corporate headquarters Operates Solano College bookstore $3,000
Zampi Determan & Erickson Law firm for community college districts $3,000
United Association Plumbers & Steamfitters Local No. 343 Labor-Management Cooperation Committee Construction trade union-affiliated Labor-Management Cooperation Committee $2,500
Keenan and Associates Insurance broker for school districts $2,500
Timothy B. Kelly Executive with elabra: bond transaction management $2,500
CSDA Architects Architect $2,500
Alfa Tech Engineering $2,500
Sandis Civil Engineers Engineering $2,500
Northern California Mechanical Contractors Association Unionized construction trade association $2,500
Lionakis Architect $2,500
Ratcliff Architect $2,500
B&L Properties Property holding company in Fairfield $2,500
Dannis Woliver Kelley Law firm for school & college districts $2,500
Vanir Construction Management, Inc. Construction management $2,000
Hensel Phelps Construction Company Construction contractor $2,000
Dougherty & Dougherty Architect $2,000
Henley Architects & Associates Architect $1,600
CSW/Stuber-Stroeh Engineering Group Engineering $1,100
Cement Masons Local Union No. 400 Construction trade union $1,000
BCA Architects Architect $1,000
Leland Saylor Associates Construction management $1,000
BRJ & Associates Construction management $1,000
William (Bill) T. Kelly, executive with SunPower Solar contractor $1,000
Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo Law firm for school & college districts $1,000
Stafford King Wiese Architects Architects $1,000
The Lew Edwards Group Political consulting firm in Oakland, works to pass bond measures $1,000
LPAS Architect $1,000
Roy Stutzman Consulting Financial consulting for school & college districts $1,000
Student Insurance Insurance company for school districts $1,000
Daniel Iacofano CEO of MIG – campus planning & design $1,000
KPW Structural Engineers Engineering $750
Creegan + D’Angelo Infrastructure Engineers Engineering $500
MatriScope Engineering Laboratories Engineering $500
PAE Consulting Engineers Engineering $500
TLDC Architecture Architect $500
Devin Conway, engineer for Verde Design, Inc. Landscape architect, engineering, construction management $500
Turley & Associates Mechanical Engineering Group Engineering $500
Noll & Tam Architect $500
Optimal Inspections Inspector $500
Kurt Forsgren, executive with Webcor Builders Construction contractor $500
Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin Metz & Associates Polling firm for political campaigns $500
Denis Honeychurch Solano College Board Member $500
Dovetail Decision Consultants Furniture, fixtures and equipment for educational districts $500
Sylvia Kwan Principal with Kwan Henmi Architecture Planning $500
Andre Stewart, The Doctors Company Candidate for Benicia School Board $250
Gary Moriarty, executive with Kitchell Construction management $250
Teresa Ryland, executive, TRR School Business Consulting Consultant for education administrators $250
Thorton Tomasetti Engineering $250
International Union of Elevator Constructors Local No. 8 Construction trade union $200
Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworkers Local Union No. 3 Construction trade union $200
Blach Construction Construction contractor $200
Marsha Perry Park, executive with Vanir Group Construction management $100
Jason Reiser, engineer with Miyamoto International Engineering $100
Law Offices of Larry Frierson Lawyer for community college districts $100
Elñora Tena Webb, President, Laney College Peralta Community College administrator $100
Yulian Lisioso Solano College Administrator $100
Sarah Chapman Solano College Board Member $100
Rosemary Thurston Solano College Board Member $100
Anne Marie Young Solano College Board Member $100
James Dekloe Solano College Faculty Member $100
Dee Alarcon President, Solano Community College Educational Foundation $100
Unitemized $50
TOTAL $227,600

Governing Board for Solano Community College District in California Hears Debate Over Project Labor Agreement on $348 Million Bond Measure Q

UPDATE: News Coverage

Solano College Board Weighs Construction OptionsFairfield Daily Republic – February 7, 2013

How Will Solano Community College Spend Bond Funds? – Vacaville Reporter – February 7, 2013 and Interest High in How Solano Community College Will Spend Bond MoneyVallejo Times-Herald – February 7, 2013


George Guynn, Jr., President of the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group, speaks against the proposed Project Labor Agreement for $348 milllion Measure Q at Solano Community College District, February 6, 2013

George Guynn, Jr., President of the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group, speaks against the proposed Project Labor Agreement for the $348 milllion Measure Q at Solano Community College District, February 6, 2013.

Representatives of the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group and various construction organizations, including the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (CFEC), the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), and the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA) spoke out at the February 6, 2013 meeting of the Governing Board of the Solano Community College District against a proposed Project Labor Agreement.

Under the proposal, construction companies would be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with unions as a condition of working on projects funded by proceeds from $348 million in bond sales authorized by 63.52% of Solano County voters on November 5, 2012 as Measure Q.

A union official from the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council (Frank Crim) and a union official from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union No. 180 (Dan Broadwater) spoke in support of the Project Labor Agreement. Greg Armstrong of the Northern California Chapter of the unionized National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) claimed that construction under Project Labor Agreements never goes over budget and never garners any complaints or litigation.

John Takeuchi of Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group speaks against proposed Project Labor Agreement for $348 milllion Measure Q at Solano Community College District, February 6, 2013

John Takeuchi of the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group speaks against the proposed Project Labor Agreement for the $348 milllion Measure Q at Solano Community College District, February 6, 2013.

Following public comment, the Solano College Vice President of Finance & Administration – Yulian Ligioso – made a presentation about Project Labor Agreements that Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction described afterwards as “the worst, most dishonest report I have ever seen, with many outright fabrications…a horrid report.” Clearly it was based on material provided by union lobbyists, and it ignored material provided by opponents. He indicated that a proposed document may be brought to the governing board for their March meeting. Here’s a copy of the staff report outline: Solano Community College District Staff Report on Project Labor Agreements – February 6, 2013.

The official ballot information provided to Solano County voters for the November 5, 2012 election did not indicate that the college district would consider a Project Labor Agreement. Here’s what was on the ballot:

SOLANO COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT MEASURE Q “SOLANO COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT STUDENT / VETERANS’ AFFORDABLE EDUCATION, JOB TRAINING, CLASSROOM REPAIR MEASURE.
“To prepare Solano / Yolo County students / veterans for universities / jobs by: Expanding student, military, disabled veteran access to affordable education; Meeting earthquake / fire safety codes; upgrading employer job placement facilities; Upgrading engineering, welding, nursing / firefighter training centers; Acquiring, constructing / repairing facilities, sites / equipment, shall Solano Community College District issue $348,000,000 in bonds, at legal rates, with citizens’ oversight, annual audits / no money for pensions / administrators’ salaries?”

Updated Chart! Who’s Paying to Convince Solano County Voters to Take On $348 Million of Additional Debt – Plus Interest – with Measure Q?

The Fairfield Daily Republic reported today (October 30, 2012) that “supporters of Solano Community College’s Measure Q brought in more than $80,000 in the latest filing period, mostly from firms from outside Solano County…For the latest period, nearly every large donation came from a company or individual donor from outside of Solano County.” (See Measure Q Funding Continues to Grow.)

Say "No" to $348 Million Bond - No on Q - Taxed Enough Already!

Say “No” to $348 Million Bond – No on Q – Taxed Enough Already!

How is the opposition doing? Well, it’s definitely local. According to the article, “The No on Q campaign received and spent less than $1,000, thus isn’t required to report finances at this time. According to John Takeuchi, the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group spent $590 on a sticker ad and small yard signs.”

Measure Q would authorize the Governing Board of the Solano Community College District to borrow $348 million for construction by selling bonds to investors. The Solano Community College District Governing Board required contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions in order to work on projects funded by Measure G, which authorized the Governing Board to borrow $124.5 million for construction by selling bonds. (See my October 21, 2012 report A Thoroughly Documented History of How Solano Community College Requires Contractors to Sign a Project Labor Agreement with Unions.)

Here is the complete list of contributions to Yes on Measure Q:

DONOR INTEREST AMOUNT
Piper Jaffray Investment Bank/Bond Broker $25,000
Kitchell Construction Construction Manager for Solano College Measure G $25,000
RBC Capital Markets Investment Bank/Bond Broker $18,000
Swinerton Construction Management $15,000
Steve M. Nielsen, MuniBond Solar Bond consultant $10,000
Steinberg Architects Architect $10,000
VBN Architects Architect $10,000
tBP Architecture Architect $7,500
Northern California Carpenters Regional Council Construction trade union $5,000
Sonoma/Napa Counties Electrical Contractors Construction trade union-affiliated Labor-Management Cooperation Committee $5,000
[Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 104] Bay Area Industry Promotion Fund Construction trade union-affiliated Labor-Management Cooperation Committee $5,000
Robert A. Bothman Construction Construction contractor $5,000
Stradling , Yocca, Carlson and Rauth Law firm $3,500
WRNS Studio Architect $3,500
Barnes & Noble corporate headquarters Operates Solano College bookstore $3,000
Zampi Determan & Erickson Law firm for community college districts $3,000
Keenan and Associates Insurance broker for school districts $2,500
CSDA Architects Architect $2,500
Alfa Tech Engineering $2,500
Sandis Civil Engineers Engineering $2,500
Northern California Mechanical Contractors Association Unionized construction trade association $2,500
Lionakis Architect $2,500
B&L Properties Property holding company in Fairfield $2,500
Dannis Woliver Kelley Law firm for school & college districts $2,500
Henley Architects & Associates Architect $1,600
Cement Masons Local Union No. 400 Construction trade union $1,000
BCA Architects Architect $1,000
William (Bill) T. Kelly, executive with SunPower Solar contractor $1,000
Stafford King Wiese Architects Architects $1,000
The Lew Edwards Group Political consulting firm in Oakland, works to pass bond measures $1,000
LPAS Architect $1,000
Roy Stutzman Consulting Financial consulting for school & college districts $1,000
Student Insurance Insurance company for school districts $1,000
KPW Structural Engineers Engineering $750
Creegan + D’Angelo Infrastructure Engineers Engineering $500
MatriScope Engineering Laboratories Engineering $500
Devin Conway, engineer for Verde Design, Inc. Landscape architect, engineering, construction management $500
Turley & Associates Mechanical Engineering Group Engineering $500
Noll & Tam Architect $500
Optimal Inspections Inspector $500
Kurt Forsgren, executive with Webcor Builders Construction contractor $500
Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin Metz & Associates Polling firm for political campaigns $500
Andre Stewart, The Doctors Company Candidate for Benicia School Board $250
Gary Moriarty, executive with Kitchell Construction management $250
Teresa Ryland, executive, TRR School Business Consulting Consultant for education administrators $250
Thorton Tomasetti Engineering $250
Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworkers Local Union No. 3 Construction trade union $200
Blach Construction Construction contractor $200
CSW/Stuber-Stroeh Engineering Group Engineering $100
Marsha Perry Park, executive with Vanir Group Construction management $100
Jason Reiser, engineer with Miyamoto International Engineering $100
Law Offices of Larry Frierson Lawyer for community college districts $100
Elñora Tena Webb, President, Laney College Peralta Community College administrator $100
Yulian Lisioso Solano College Administrator $100
Sarah Chapman Solano College Board Member $100
Rosemary Thurston Solano College Board Member $100
Anne Marie Young Solano College Board Member $100
James Dekloe Solano College Faculty Member $100
TOTAL $190,250

Sources: Campaign Finance Report through September 30, 2012Campaign Finance Report through October 20, 2012.

$348 Million Measure Q for Solano Community College: Yes on Q Campaign Fails to Submit Latest Legally-Required Campaign Finance Report

UPDATE: The Yes on Q campaign for Solano Community College District submitted its overdue Form 460 today (Monday, October 29, 2012). Better late than never.

As of October 20, 2012, the campaign has raised over $200,000. Big contributions between October 1 and October 20 include $15,000 from Swinerton (a construction management firm) and $10,000 from MuniBond Solar, run by someone named Steve Nielsen, which has collaborated with companies such as SunPower Corp to secure “Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds” (QECBs) for several California educational districts. (An executive with SunPower Corp also contributed $1000.) As shown in this May 2, 2012 Solano Community College Financial and Budget Planning Advisory Council meeting, MuniBond Solar wants a relationship with Solano Community College District.

Other contributors include the usual suspects: architects, construction trade unions, and unionized construction associations that look forward to a Project Labor Agreement.


Yesterday (October 26, 2012) I went to the Solano County Registrar of Voters office to obtain the paper copies of the Form 460 reports that the “Yes on Q – Solano College” campaign must legally submit to the county. These reports are meant to inform the public about campaign receipts and expenditures. The staff there was quite professional and helpful, but I left knowing that the Yes on Q campaign was breaking the law and getting away with it.

Measure Q asks Solano County voters to let the Solano Community College District Governing Board borrow $348 million for construction by selling bonds to institutional investors. Solano County taxpayers must pay this money back to the investors – with interest! It will cost at least $500 million – perhaps more if the district is lured into selling Capital Appreciation Bonds.

The Solano Community College District Governing Board wants to borrow $346 million by selling bonds

The Solano Community College District Governing Board wants to borrow $348 million by selling bonds.

The Solano College governing board voted 6-1 in 2003 and 2004 to require its construction contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions as a condition of working on projects funded by bonds authorized by the $124.5 million Measure G, barely approved by 55.6% of Solano County voters in November 2002. A majority of governing board members are likely to again make a deal to give unions control of additional projects funded by Measure Q. Project Labor Agreements raise costs and cut competition, as shown by the failure of the Project Labor Agreement pilot project at Solano Community College in 2005. (No one on the board cared at the time.)

The Yes on Q campaign finance report for the period from October 1 to October 20 was due by October 25, but it was not at the Solano County Registrar of Voters on October 26. After further inquiry, I learned this afternoon that an official of the Solano County Registrar of Voters had contacted the treasurer of the “Yes on Q – Solano College” campaign to check on the status and was told the report would not be turned in until Monday or Tuesday of next week.

So much for openness and transparency for citizens as they fill out their absentee ballots this weekend. I guess the local newspapers won’t be informing the voters in their Sunday editions who is giving to the Yes on Q campaign and who is getting from the Yes on Q campaign. Does anyone care?

I did get a copy of the campaign finance report of the “Yes on Q Solano College” for the period from July 1, 2012 to September 30, 2012. Here are a few items of interest:

1. This Campaign Is a Sitting Duck for Accusations of “Pay-to-Play”

Here’s a list of all of the campaign contributors through September 30, 2012, with links to the company web sites, the amounts contributed, and the business interest of the contributor.

DONOR INTEREST AMOUNT
Piper Jaffray Investment Bank/Bond Broker $25,000
Kitchell Construction Construction Manager for Solano College Measure G $25,000
RBC Capital Markets Investment Bank/Bond Broker $18,000
Steinberg Architects Architect $10,000
VBN Architects Architect $10,000
[Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 104] Bay Area Industry Promotion Fund Construction trade union-affiliated Labor-Management Cooperation Committee $5,000
Stradling, Yocca, Carlson and Rauth Bond counsel – worked before with Solano College on bond sales $3,500
Keenan and Associates Insurance broker for school districts $2,500
B&L Properties Property holding company in Fairfield $2,500
Dannis Woliver Kelley Law firm for school & college districts $2,500
The Lew Edwards Group Political consulting firm in Oakland, works to pass bond measures $1,000
LPAS Architect $1,000
Roy Stutzman Consulting Financial consulting for school & college districts $1,000
Student Insurance Insurance company for school districts $1,000
Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin Metz & Associates Polling firm for political campaigns $500
Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworkers Local Union No. 3 Construction trade union $200
Sarah Chapman Solano College Board Member $100
Rosemary Thurston Solano College Board Member $100
Anne Marie Young Solano College Board Member $100
James Dekloe Solano College Faculty Member $100
TOTAL $109,100

There’s very little financial participation in this campaign from anyone in Solano County, but there is much interest from various professional service firms that do business with Solano Community College District and/or want business if voters approve Measure Q and let the Governing Board sell $348 million in bonds. I guess that’s how the world works, but taxpayers will pay the bill.

2. Underwriters Among Top Contributors – These Firms Get Fees When Selling Bonds

After the investment bank/bond underwriter Piper Jaffray got smacked around along with other financial service firms earlier this year about contributing to campaigns for bond measures for which it subsequently became the underwriter for those bonds, I figured that firm would back off from the practice. I was wrong.

Piper Jaffray $25,000 campaign contribution to Yes on Measure Q Solano College November 2012

Piper Jaffray $25,000 campaign contribution to Yes on Measure Q – Solano College (November 2012)

Piper Jaffray is tied with Kitchell Construction – the construction management firm for Solano Community College’s Measure G (2002) program – for making the largest contribution to the Yes on Q campaign.

3. Another Labor-Management Cooperation Committee Contributes to a Campaign.

Bay Area Industry Promotion Fund - $5000 Contribution to the Yes on Measure Q Solano College

Bay Area Industry Promotion Fund – $5000 Contribution to Yes on Measure Q Solano College

I snickered when I saw this one: how many people in Solano County know about the Bay Area Industry Promotion Fund? There’s only one place on the web where you’ll read about labor-management cooperative trusts, and you’re reading it now. These trusts are arcane entities authorized by the obscure Labor-Management Cooperation Act of 1978, a law signed by President Jimmy Carter and implemented by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. There are no federal or state regulations specifically addressed toward these trusts, and these trusts do not have any reporting requirements to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.

This committee receives employer payments as indicated in the Master Labor Agreement negotiated between the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local Union No. 104. Here are references to the Bay Area Industry Promotion Fund in their Master Labor Agreement. It says the fund pays to replace stolen tools, but says nothing about political contributions, of course. Note also that employer payments to the Bay Area Industry Promotion Fund are incorporated as part of “Other” into the State of California’s government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”).

4. If Yes on Q Raised $109,100 by September 30, 2012, How Was It Spent?

Solano County newspapers have noted the lack of visible campaign activity in support of Measure Q. In fact, this situation apparently deprived Yes on Q of an endorsement from the Vacaville Reporter newspaper:

The Reporter Editorial Board likes the vision and very much wants to support it. But board members have qualms about this bond. The impact of the state’s fiscal mess has meant the college can’t afford to operate the programs it has now. Is it wise to add new programs before the state’s budget is under control?

There are also qualms about the way the bond campaign has been mishandled. In July, when the Editorial Board supported trustees’ decision to put the bond on the ballot, it was with the caveat that an aggressive campaign be mounted to educate the community about its need.

Instead, the campaign has been lackluster and late, not ratcheting up until after mail-in ballots were already out. Where are the trustees, who can speak as individuals in support of the measure and who should have lined up supporters to drive it? Where are the other public agencies and private businesses that stand to benefit from these plans? Where is the faculty, whose union put on a get-out-the-vote drive for Propositions 30 and 32 without even mentioning Measure Q in its publicity? Does the lack of organization in the campaign reflect a lack of organization and follow-through by campus leaders?

I drove on the major thoroughfares of Vacaville, Fairfield, and Vallejo on October 26. I only saw THREE signs supporting Measure Q – all close to the entrance to the main Solano Campus campus in Fairfield.

An elusive Yes on Q campaign sign in Solano County.

An elusive Yes on Q campaign sign in Solano County.

Not that I put much value on campaign signs stuck in public areas, but I would have expected more for a campaign that already had over $100,000 by the end of September. This lack of visibility is so pitiful that it was tied with the three No on Q signs I saw in Solano County. That campaign is a small, committed group of informed local taxpayer activists with very little money to spend.

Say "No" to $348 Million Bond - No on Q - Taxed Enough Already!

Say “No” to $348 Million Bond – No on Q – Taxed Enough Already!

The September 30 campaign report for Yes on Q shows about $25,000 spent on consultants, slate mailers, some apparent development of signs and mailers, and people at phone banks. It will be interesting to see how the remaining money was spent, provided the Yes on Q campaign ever submits its campaign finance reports.

Solano County’s Measure Q Looks Vulnerable to Defeat: Will Voters Refuse to Authorize Solano County Community College to Borrow $348 Million Through Bond Sales?

What happens when you live in an elite socio-intellectual enclave where everyone agrees with your worldview? You’re shocked when you discover ordinary people who disagree with your plan to take and use their money. I suspect that’s the reason why Measure Q in Solano County (in the San Francisco Bay Area, stretching toward Sacramento) is now vulnerable to defeat.

Measure Q authorizes the Solano County Community College District to borrow $348 million for construction by selling bonds to wealthy individuals and institutional investors. Solano County taxpayers will need to pay this $348 million back, plus interest payments. (It’s not free money.)

In November 2002, 55.6% voters in Solano County barely approved Measure G, which authorized the Solano Community College District to borrow $124.5 million for construction by selling bonds. (The threshold for approval was 55%.) The governing board then voted 6-1 in April 2004 to force contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council to work on Solano County Community College District projects funded by proceeds from bond sales authorized by Measure G. This union deal received ample news media attention and public criticism.

Despite these warning signs, the people now pushing Measure Q obviously were unprepared for aggressive opposition. The Yes on Q campaign is apparently relying on rudimentary campaign web sites (www.solanocollegeyesonq.com and www.facebook.com/YesOnQSolanoCollege) and endorsements from local politicians to win over Solano County voters. The Vacaville Reporter criticized the backers of Measure Q in an October 13 editorial:

Where in the world is the campaign for Solano Community College’s Measure Q? And what does it say that the college faculty this week sponsored a voter registration drive and campus forum on statewide ballot measures but not, according to its press release, on the local bond?

Perhaps this lack of action from unions explains why Measure Q supporters are pressuring chambers of commerce in cities such as Vallejo to support this tax increase. (See Chamber Seeks to Avoid Controversy on Measure Q – Vallejo Times-Herald – October 14, 2012).

The identities of the big backers of Measure Q are no surprise: it’s the Napa and Solano Counties Central Labor Council, with the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council and its various construction trade unions.

I think Solano County’s top union officials will need to call some bond brokers and other financial services firms in New York City and get some more money for mailers and KUIC radio commercials, quick! In the meantime, here’s what’s happening in the campaign against the $348 million (plus interest) Measure Q:

According to an October 11 article in the Vacaville Reporter (Solano County Taxpayers Association Issues Their Proposition Recommendations), the Solano County Taxpayers Association opposes Measure Q because it is “a 40-year dream for the college that includes buildings that were listed on the previous bond that is still unpaid.”

The Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group is opposing Measure Q, as reported in Opponents Mobilize Against Local Tax Measures – Fairfield Daily Republic – October 4, 2012. As reported in an October 20, 2012 article in the Fairfield Daily Republic (Aging, Limited Facilities at Heart of Solano College Bond Effort), “opponents and Trustee Catherine Ritch have questioned the timing of the bond, saying there are still aspects of the planning that need to be done. A formal opposition was recently formed to Measure Q by the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group, which said the bond isn’t specific enough and some of the projects won’t directly benefit students.”

Here’s what the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group posted on its web site about Measure Q:

Make no mistake: This is a huge tax! For what purpose? We start by asking, What did the district do with the $125 million bond measure passed 10 years ago? Why weren’t “earthquake/fire safety code” issues taken care of then? Next, Why are computers and office equipment in the bond? Such things will be obsolete and discarded in a few years; but we’ll be paying for them for decades. Now look at the objectives listed. Notice how vague they are. No specific projects. No timetable. Measure Q is a blank check for almost anything the board wants to do. Finally, we’re still paying for the last bond, and will be for another 20 years. Measure Q will double or triple what you’re paying now, and for 40 years. Everyone will pay: individuals, businesses, even renters when the landlord adds the tax – yes, it’s a tax – into your rent. Remember, Solano Community College was on probation for administrative issues – like accounting for funds – and is still on the “warning” list. Don’t you have doubts about handing over so much money? Don’t you think we’re taxed more than enough already? Vote NO on Measure Q.

On October 17, the 6-1 tax-and-spend majority on the Governing Board of the Solano Community College District was stunned when someone actually showed up in their lair in Vallejo to speak out against their agenda. Here is a report from Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction:

The meeting began at 6:30 p.m., and other than the Trustees, the room contained only a few staff and a reporter for the college newspaper. This is how entities like this prefer it: no public oversight and never having to answer to the public for their actions or lack thereof. They just want your tax dollars with zero accountability. Government defined.

Last night, however, these Trustees were held accountable to the public at least for 3 minutes while I explained in great detail why it is they did not deserve to be given any more tax dollars in the form of construction bond money.

I reminded them that in 2004 the Solano Community College Governing Board placed a union-crafted Project Labor Agreement (PLA) on Measure G bond work. The $124.5 million Measure G had been passed by voters in 2002 with no hint that a controversial PLA would be used. The PLA vote occurred despite vigorous opposition from local contractors and contractor associations such as ours.

For the new Trustees who weren’t on the board at that time, I explained how PLAs force workers to pay union dues, pay into union pension plans, be hired through a union hiring hall, and explicitly forbid non-union apprentices from working at all. I did thank them in that because of their actions, and others, PLAs had become so controversial that they have been banned in 11 entities in California including the City of San Diego, where in June citizens voted 58%-42% to forbid them.

I also reminded then that at the time of their vote in 2003 the College’s own construction manager told the board a PLA would add 5-15% to the cost of any project. Last summer, I further explained, the most comprehensive study on Project Labor Agreements ever conducted was released by the National University System Institute for Policy Research and found PLAs add 13-15% to the cost of a project. What that means for SCCD was their $124.5 million bond was reduced by up to $24 million in value.

Finally I stated that SCCD now wants another bond, this time for $348 million. The reason? Measure G wasn’t large enough to cover their needs. I asked them if they thought they could have used that extra $24 million they wasted under a PLA.

I left them with the promise that my editorial that ran in the county’s newspapers (We Deserve the Entire Story on Measure QVallejo Times-Herald – October 13, 2012 and PLAs a Waste of MoneyVacaville Reporter – October 14, 2012) was just the opening salvo in what would be an escalating campaign to educate voters about why they need to think twice before giving any more money to this college. Two of the three board members who were on the board in 2003 and who voted for the PLA (Honeychurch and McCaffery) and who are still on the board were less than thrilled to have me there calling them out.

The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction issued a press release on October 17 in conjunction with this public comment: Solano Community College District Trustees Being Called Out Tonight About Their Plans to Place New $350 Million Construction Bond Under a Union-Friendly Project Labor Agreement.

Finally, a professor in the Solano Community College engineering and physics department is perplexed by the college board’s logic in trying to borrow another $348 million for construction: Concerns About Measure QVacaville Reporter – October 14, 2012 and Measure Q IssuesVallejo Times-Herald – October 10, 2012. Give her a Profile in Courage award.

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.