Tag Archive for Charles Ramsey

Board Members of Silicon Valley’s West Valley-Mission Community College District Hear More Arguments For and Against Project Labor Agreements

According to reports from people at the scene, the usual cast of characters made the usual arguments in conjunction with the Project Labor Agreement staff report at the December 11, 2012 meeting of the board of trustees of the West Valley-Mission Community College District (in the South Bay/Silicon Valley region of the Bay Area).

First the board of trustees received a report from the district’s Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services about Project Labor Agreements, as the board had requested at its November 13 meeting. At that same November 13 meeting, the board had also directed district staff to develop a Project Labor Agreement/Project Stabilization Agreement for projects funded by bond sales authorized by Measure C. The board gave staff discretion to negotiate that agreement as it saw fit for the benefit of the district and to bring the agreement to the board for consideration by March 2013 or the soonest practicable date.

At the December 11 meeting, the Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services asked the board to define its policy objective and warned that a Project Labor Agreement could increase costs with unknown benefit to the district. He noted that construction funded from earlier bond sales (authorized by voters in 2004 as Measure H) was done successfully without a Project Labor Agreement. He also indicated his intent to negotiate a “fair” Project Labor Agreement and pick two similar projects to compare for a pilot project – bidding one with a Project Labor Agreement requirement and one without it.

Clearly the board is split on the issue, with board member Adrienne Grey pushing for the Project Labor Agreement. She complained that the Vice Chancellor’s report was inadequate and tried to rebut the 2011 study on the cost of Project Labor Agreements on California school construction from the National University System Institute for Policy Research in San Diego.

The usual crowd spoke in support of the Project Labor Agreement:

Two among the group of contractors at the meeting to oppose the Project Labor Agreement dared to speak openly against it. Also speaking against the Project Labor Agreement were Eric Christen, Executive Director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, and Nicole Goehring, Government Affairs Director of the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. Ms. Goehring refuted the Working Partnerships USA study, reviewed the recent dismal bid results under the new Project Labor Agreement at Contra Costa Community College District, and reported the latest contractor labor law violations at the San Mateo Union High School District, where contractors are required to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions.

News Coverage:

Education Desk: Project Labor Agreements for Measure C Construction? West Valley-Mission Board Hears ArgumentsThe Santa Clara Weekly – January 2-8, 2013

“I have received voluminous, voluminous material on this topic,” Board President Nick Heimlich noted drily. But that didn’t deter several dozen people who had come out specifically to address the board on the subject from making their statements.

For the SEVENTH Time in 15 Years, School Board of West Contra Costa Unified School District Asks Voters to Let Them Borrow Money by Selling Bonds

The city of Richmond, California (in the San Francisco Bay Area) is the type of place where the so-called “One Percent” is much malingned. Richmond is the most populous city in the United States to have a Green Party mayor, and the mayor welcomed Occupy protestors to the city. Voters in Richmond will have the chance on November 6 to enact the nation’s first city soda tax (along with voters in El Monte, California).

Richmond’s supposed unemployment rate went from about 7% in 2006 to 18.5% in January 2010. Unemployment has now improved to between 14% and 15%, but obviously economic circumstances have taken a grim toll on the people of Richmond.


So now the elected school board of the West Contra Costa Unified School District – based in Richmond – is asking voters for the SEVENTH time to approve a measure that would allow the school district to borrow money from investors through bond sales. (The district also includes El Sobrante, Pinole, Hercules, El Cerrito, North Richmond, and Kensington.)

The amount to be borrowed this time is $360 million. That does NOT include interest payments and financial transaction fees.

The school board tells voters it’s “For the Children of West County.” Most voters aren’t exactly clear on what bonds are, but they sound like free money from the government to help the children.

Ordinary voters have generously agreed FIVE TIMES since 1998 to let the school board of the West Contra Costa Unified School District sell bonds to borrow money for construction. The total amount of the five approved bond sales is $1,270,000,000.00. Only once did voters in the West Contra Costa Unified School District not approve a bond measure – in a special election in 2003 in which two-third of voters were required to approve the measure, rather than the 55% customarily sought today by school districts and community college districts.

Here’s a chart of the five bond measures approved for the West Contra Costa Unified School District since 1998:


Date of Election


Opinion of WCCUSD Voters


June 2, 1998 Measure E Approved by 76.0% of voters


November 7, 2000 Measure M Approved by 77.5% of voters


March 5, 2002 Measure D Approved by 71.8% of voters


November 8, 2005 Measure J Approved by 56.9% of voters


June 8, 2010 Measure D Approved by 62.6% of voters

But $1.27 BILLION is NOT the real amount taxpayers owe to investors who bought these school bonds.

According to a June 7, 2012 statement related to an upcoming sale of bonds issued by the West Contra Costa Unified School District, the district’s total annual debt service for these five sets of bond sales is $1.77 billion.

Taxpayers owe $1,774,072,000.12 because of interest payments to investors.

The $1.77 BILLION also includes fees for bond counsel, disclosure counsel, financial administration, escrow agents, rating agencies, printing, and insurance. Lots of people get a cut of the action.

Ironically, the West Contra Costa Unified School District is enriching the One Percent who buy these bonds. Commercial banks, insurance companies, mutual funds, and wealthy individuals buy these bonds, not to help the children, but to make money through the interest payments funded by taxpayers.


It’s frustrating to try to figure out what has been going on regarding bond sales in the West Contra Costa Unified School District, because reports and audits prepared for the district are inconsistent or fuzzy in some of the fundamental information.

Page 118 of the June 7, 2012 preliminary official statement for the sale of bonds by the West Contra Costra Unified School District contained the following useful information:

On August 11, 2004, the West Contra Costa Unified School District borrowed $28,746,812 by selling the Measure D Series 2002 C Capital Appreciation Bonds. The interest to be paid by 2036 will be $67,063,188, for a total burden to school district taxpayers of $95,810,000.

On October 19, 2005, the West Contra Costa Unified School District borrowed $95,250,422 by selling the Measure D Series 2002 D Capital Appreciation Bonds. The interest to be paid by 2036 will be $157,139,526, for a total burden to school district taxpayers of $252,389,998.

On August 12, 2009, the West Contra Costa Unified School District borrowed $28,746,812 by selling the Measure J Series 2009 C Capital Appreciation Bonds.

Board member Charles Ramsey, a longtime nemesis of the Merit Shop and statewide traveling salesman for union Project Labor Agreements, apparently knew that Capital Appreciation Bonds were unorthodox. According to the minutes of the April 28, 2010 West Contra Costa Unified School District board meeting, he asked several questions about bonds, including “an explanation of capital appreciation bonds and deferring of debt service…Mr. Ramsey continued by asking for a full understanding for the Board to know all aspects of capital appreciation bonds and other forms of bonds.” But true to form in ignoring his appeal of conscience to rely on common sense, Mr. Ramsey then made the motion to approve the bond sales, which were approved 5-0. There were no public comments.


On May 3, 2000, the school board voted 5-0 to approve a policy that it will consider a Project Labor Agreement for each individual construction project of $1 million or more. (An administrative regulation for this policy was implemented on August 2, 2000.)

On December 6, 2000, the board voted 5-0 to approve its first Project Labor Agreement, for the construction of a middle school.

On July 11, 2002, the board voted 5-0 to amend its Project Labor Agreement to put the responsibility on the contractors (instead of the unions) to find local apprentices.

Charles Ramsey, a school board member for the West Contra Costa Unified School District, was secure enough in his position when he introduced the Project Labor Agreement to the school board on March 15, 2000 to acknowledge to the stunned Superintendent of Schools (who wasn’t provided any advance information on the item) that he had blindsided her:

I ramrodded and railroaded and I am proud to say that I did.

Somehow 200 union members managed to hear about the item and showed up at the meeting to support it.