Tag Archive for KPBS (San Diego)

San Diego Union Officials Ignored Global Warming-Related Sea Level Rise in Environmental Settlements for San Diego Convention Center Expansion, Despite Identifying It as Major Deficiency Under CEQA

UPDATE: More news coverage from KPBS:

Coastal Commission Concerned About Sea Level Rise and Convention Center Expansion – KPBS (San Diego) – January 28, 2013

Note: for background on the deal referenced below, see Unions Get Control of San Diego Convention Center Expansion: CEQA Abuse Is Effective, Fair and Open Competition Ordinance Evaded and Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Obtains City of San Diego Settlement Agreements with Unions for Convention Center. Also, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council just issued a press release (dated November 15, 2012) celebrating the Project Labor Agreement on the San Diego Convention Center expansion, although the unions have STILL not released the document for public scrutiny.

After getting a Project Labor Agreement and other labor concessions as part of a deal to withdraw their environmental complaints about the proposed San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase III project, did top San Diego union officials allow the Port of San Diego to move forward with the project, despite knowing that the Port’s final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prepared under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) omitted critical analysis of rising sea levels caused by global warming?

The answer seems to be YES. Although quite aware of risk to the project from a rising sea level (as proven by comments submitted on behalf of unions about the draft EIR), union officials and their environmental lawyers with the South San Francisco law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo did not address in their environmental settlement agreements this glaring failure of the Port to abide by CEQA. (See the environmental settlement agreements: Settlement Agreement – Building Trades Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012 and Settlement Agreement – Various Construction Trade Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012).

Even when the unions stumbled on a major problem with the EIR, they were willing to back off on forcing the Port to correct it, as long as unions obtained a monopoly on the work.

Lorena Gonzalez – the Secretary-Treasurer/CEO of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council and apparent ringleader of the union environmental complaints – is a believer in global climate change, as shown by this “Resolution in Support of Preserving Environmental Laws and Building Environmental Partnerships” she signed on April 20, 2010. As someone with an undergraduate degree, a law degree, and a master’s degree from highly prestigious institutions of higher learning, surely she recognizes with her educated, enlightened peers that “the science is settled” and agrees with the California State Legislature that a future rising sea level will be a catastrophe for the State of California unless proactive measures start now.

Nevertheless, it isn’t the unions, but KPBS news (in San Diego) that is focusing on the deficiency in the Port’s EIR with an article today (November 15, 2012) reporting on dire new revelations about the proposed expansion of the San Diego Convention Center. The article Flood Maps Raise Questions About Convention Center Expansion warns that “the expanded version of the Convention Center could be inundated with seawater by mid century if climate change predictions are accurate.”

According to the article, “Allowing the development anyway could require massive protection measures with a huge price tag…the extent of potential flood risk along the tideline is alarming far beyond the convention center project if public agencies do nothing…Despite knowing the convention center expansion could be underwater in 2050, the port commission voted unanimously in September to move forward using the old data. Meanwhile, commissioners decided this week to hold a retreat on how to handle climate change.”

I have posted two comments under the article pointing out that both the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow and the unions were aware of this deficiency in the Port’s Environmental Impact Report and noted it in their June 29, 2012 comments to the Port. But the unions chose to ignore it once their “greenmail” achieved their objective – unrelated to environmental protection – to require construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement.

Here are my comments:

Kevin_Dayton | today at 6:02 p.m.

Interesting…I see that the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow noted the risk to the convention center expansion in its June 29, 2012 comments to the Port of San Diego concerning the draft Environmental Impact Report:

11. The Report Needs to Warn the Public about the Massive Wall that Might Be Needed to Hold Back the Flood Waters from Inundating the Project as Global Warming Raises Sea Levels

California government agencies such as the California Energy Commission, the California Ocean Protection Council, and the California Environmental Protection Agency commissioned a report released in 2009 by the Pacific Institute that shows California coastal areas at risk of inundation or frequent flooding because of the rising sea level caused by global climate change.

It’s surprising that the Draft EIR doesn’t address this looming problem, as the San Diego Unified Port District collaborated in the development of the Sea Level Rise Adaptation Strategy for San Diego Bay, published by the San Diego Foundation in February 2012.

This Draft EIR needs to include a Sea Level Action Plan developed using information from the following sources: (1) the 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy prepared by the Natural Resources Agency, (2) the Report on Sea Level Rise Preparedness prepared by the State Lands Commission, (3) the Sea Level Rise Assessment Report prepared by the National Academy of Sciences, (4) the resolution of the California Ocean Protection Council on Sea-Level Rise, (5) the State of California Sea-Level Rise Interim Guidance Document, and of course (6) the Sea Level Rise Adaptation Strategy for San Diego Bay.

The Port should have listened to the Global Catastrophe experts at the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow, who get their outstanding scientific insight on the future from statements of the California State Legislature and stuff they hear on TV. Now the Port will need to build a massive sea wall or build the convention center in Santee in anticipation of the future shoreline.

comment permalink )

Kevin_Dayton | today at 7 p.m.

Whoa! I just looked at the comments about the Port’s draft EIR submitted on June 29, 2012 by the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo on behalf of “San Diego Coalition for a Better Convention Center,” a front group for the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council and UNITE HERE Local 30. They have several pages of comments pointing out how the EIR did not consider rising sea levels.

See those comments starting on page 35 of this document:


But here is the strange thing: look at the environmental settlement agreements that the City of San Diego just signed with the unions as part of a deal for the unions to withdraw their CEQA environmental complaints. Nothing whatsoever is mentioned in the settlement agreements about mitigation for rising sea levels. NOTHING!

Why didn’t the unions and their world-renowned environmental lawyers with Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo pursue this issue with the diligence that KPBS is putting into this issue? For some reason, the unions no longer considered it important after a Project Labor Agreement was signed for construction of the convention center expansion. But now we find that rising sea levels could SINK the project altogether!

See the two union environmental settlement agreements here:



Mystical Ratios and Other Strange Excuses: San Diego’s Top Union Boss Lorena Gonzalez Explains Why San Diego Voters Approved Propositions A and B

A few people were incredulous last week when they heard the election night claims of Lorena Gonzalez – the Secretary-Treasurer/CEO of the San Diego & Imperial Counties Central Labor Council – that “corporate interests” and “huge corporations” outspent unions in a ratio of 7 to 1 in the campaign over the Fair and Open Competition ballot measure (Proposition A) in the City of San Diego. (Proposition A won with 58% of the vote on June 5, 2012.)

One person said to me, “I read your blog showing how unions spent $1.2 million against Proposition A. What is she talking about? Did the Yes on A campaign really raise more than $7 million?”

No. As shown here in the campaign finance reports of the City of San Diego Ethics Commission, unions and union-managed organizations spent more against Proposition A ($1,325,231.20) than “corporate interests” spent in support of Proposition A ($934,037.81), in a ratio of almost 3 to 2. Supporters of Prop A did not even raise $1 million for a city-wide campaign in a city with 1.3 million people. Gonzalez’s 7 to 1 ratio for spending on Proposition A could only be met with $8.2 million in additional imaginary money to the Yes on A campaign or with some sort of incredible distortion of data on campaign finance reports.

Knowing her three degrees earned from highly prestigious colleges indicate a truly superior intelligence, I concluded that Gonzalez must have used some sort of exotic algorithm to calculate the 7 to 1 ratio. I tried to figure it out, but failed. I did determine that even if she actually meant campaign spending for Proposition A combined with Proposition B (city employee pension reform), the claim is false. Add both together, and the so-called “corporate interests” outspent unions in a little more than a 3:2 ratio.

Why would someone with such prominence in a local community let out such a brazen lie? Opinions are often in the eyes of the beholder, but she presents that claim as a fact, which people can check for truthfulness and accuracy. Even more perplexing, she said it repeatedly.

A quick perusal of Gonzalez’s recent Twitter posts reveals her frequent citation of the 7 to 1 business to union campaign expenditure ratio. For example, on May 31 she responded to a taunt about her lost race for San Diego City Council with this line: “When I was outspent 7-1, everybody predicted Faulconer and I came within hundreds? Yep, I remember that!” And on May 19, she criticized the content of a KUSI Channel 10 news story with the comment “Doesn’t fit their narrative if they say business outspends labor 7 to 1.” (She was citing this specific ratio even before the campaigns for and against Proposition A submitted their later expenditure reports to the city.)

Is it possible that Gonzalez has stumbled on some sort of mystic power in the 7:1 ratio that will lead “working people” to start voting in support of the union tax-and-spend political agenda?

To examine Gonzalez’s full range of excuses after San Diego voters approved Proposition A on June 5, I looked at the election night news coverage in San Diego. Here are her standard talking points:

  1. These are “very complicated legal issues” and the voters don’t understand what they’re supporting. (Translation: voters aren’t educated enough to know what’s good for them.)
  2. Voters were distracted with so many races on the ballot. (Translation: the unruliness of democracy confuses people into voting against their interests.)
  3. We were outspent badly by huge corporations. (Translation: democracy is unfair because corporations are able to spend money in political campaigns.)
  4. We didn’t really try to win. (Translation: our political system is so fundamentally controlled by corporate interests that participation is useless, and I lied earlier to the union volunteers who helped with the campaign and lied even earlier to the union workers whose money was used – without their consent – for campaign advertising and contracts for political consultants.)
  5. We were victims of right-wing media bias. (Translation: media in a democracy should be required to present the valid position of working people. All coverage should be like Democracy Now! and Pacifica Radio.)
  6. The enacted policies are meaningless. (Translation: I lied earlier to the union volunteers who helped with the campaign and lied even earlier to the union workers whose money was used – without their consent – for campaign advertising and contracts for political consultants.)

For example, below is an election night video interview on local TV news for Channel 7 KNSD (NBC) in which Gonzalez rolls out all of her standard talking points. She claims that “we didn’t invest in those propositions in the same way as our opponents” and that “huge corporations” outspent the unions 7 to 1. She repeats the 7 to 1 lie a second time for those who didn’t hear it the first time.


Gonzalez also blames the mainstream media, even as she tries to use it. “We live in a city where we have one newspaper” with an agenda to defeat unions, working people, and Democrats. She also says San Diego has local TV stations that are anti-worker. (She has to backtrack on that statement a little in her own self-interest when she realizes she is being interviewed for local TV news, although she must be fuming after the reporter starts the interview by introducing her as “the county’s labor boss.”)

I’ll predict “corporate media bias” will be a major theme of unions in San Diego; in fact, the New York Times is helping by now being worried about it: see “Newspaper as Business Pulpit” – June 10, 2012. I would suggest that the unions establish their own competing daily newspaper targeted at “working people” in San Diego, but instead they’ll probably use the government to force ownership or content changes at the Union-Tribune. 

Here are some other Lorena Gonzalez quotes from the web and print media following the June 5 election. Remember, according to Gonzalez, all of these media entities hate working people:

Early results show voters support the idea of the City of San Diego being prohibited from using union-friendly Project Labor Agreements (PLAs)… “With so much noise going on in this election, I’m not surprised,” said Lorena Gonzalez, CEO of San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council. When asked her opinion on the returns for both Prop A and Prop B, Gonzalez said it’s tough for the workers’ voice to be heard. She said San Diegans are too smart to support Prop A but said the labor stance was outspent 7 to 1 by corporate interests. “When we need to, we’ll exercise our legal options,” Gonzalez said.

Source: Prop. A Passage Not Surprising to Labor – Channel 7 KNSD (ABC). (By the way, Lorena Gonzalez is one of the most relentless sources of political noise in San Diego, so maybe she’s subconsciously blaming herself.)

Lorena Gonzalez, the head of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, told City News Service that she expects Proposition B to be overturned by the courts, and for San Diegans to repeal Proposition A in the next couple of years, once its costs become clear. “There’s a third branch of government for a reason,” Gonzalez said, referring to the court system.

Source: San Diego Voters Approve Propositions A, B – Channel 10 KGTV (ABC) – June 6, 2012; Absentee Voters Favor San Diego Initiatives Channel 5 KSWB (FOX); and Election 2012: San Diegans Favor Propositions – Channel 8 KFMB News (CBS).

Here, she decides to shift the focus from the proposition victories and instead start the general election campaign by trying to diminish the first-place showing of Councilman Carl DeMaio in the hotly-contested primary race for San Diego mayor, which had four legitimate contenders (three Republicans and a Democrat):

However, labor leader Lorena Gonzalez said the outcome of Proposition B was not unexpected considering how heavily opponents were outspent…Gonzalez, head of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, an umbrella group that represents 133 unions, said she doubts voters realized that Proposition A could keep millions of dollars of state funds from the city. Gonzalez said the strongest message she was taking away from San Diego voters was the number who voted against mayoral front-runner Carl DeMaio. “Sixty eight percent basically told Carl DeMaio they are not in for his politics,” she said. “I think that’s great. Clearly the only person who really billed himself as anti-worker was Carl DeMaio and 68 percent of the people said no to Carl DeMaio.”

Source: Labor, GOP Draw Different Conclusions from Vote: Proposition A, B Victories Called “Taxpayer Revolution” – San Diego Union-Tribune – June 6, 2012

Here, she strangely switches focus to the California Republican Party, perhaps indicating a subconscious desire to flee San Diego and return to the comforting security of the California State Capitol, where most people are smart enough to know that free enterprise is nonsense.

Lorena Gonzalez, head of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, countered by saying Republicans have sided with corporate interests over working people, leading to the possibility of the statewide GOP going the “way of the dodo bird.” She said DeMaio and downtown lobbyists that helped fund his mayoral campaign and Propositions A and B have used pensions and project-labor agreements as straw men they’d prefer to fight against because they make for good sound bites, no matter how inaccurate. “Measures like these don’t solve problems, they just create more,” she said…“Just as these propositions will not solve the financial problems of our city government, they do nothing to put more money back in the pockets of hardworking San Diegans or put the unemployed back to work,” she said. “We will continue to put our efforts to creating more jobs, better jobs and better lives for all San Diegans — union and nonunion — because that is what matters to us, not these cheap political games.”

Source: GOP Basks in the Election Afterglow – San Diego Union-Tribune – June 6, 2012

Note: it does not look like Gonzalez even bothered to comment about the passage of Proposition D – a charter for the city of El Cajon that includes a Fair and Open Competition provision and a provision allowing the city to establish its own government-mandated construction wage rates (prevailing wages) for purely municipal projects.

Postscript: Lorena Gonzalez was uncharacteristically silent on record after voters approved Proposition G in Chula Vista, Proposition K in Oceanside, and Proposition A in San Diego County in 2010. I did find ONE comment from Gonzalez explaining voter approval of Proposition G and Proposition K: in this case, she blamed the people again, this time by complaining about people not voting.

FUDGE: And you’re disappointed, I assume, with Proposition G in Chula Vista and Proposition K in Oceanside on the project labor agreements.

GONZALEZ: Well, especially Chula Vista, you know, we spent a lot of time down there but the turnout just – I’ve never quite seen anything like it. I think when the final numbers come in, we’ll see about, maybe 25% and in a city that is predominantly Latino and predominantly Democrat, it was – the electorate yesterday was not. It was mainly an absentee turnout and mainly a Republican turnout and, again, when people show up at the polls, when we have high turnout like we do in presidential years or in gubernatorial years when there’s a runoff, then workers win. But when people don’t come out, we can’t win.

Source: Who Won and Who Lost In Tuesday’s Primary Election – KPBS – Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Latest News on Proposition A Campaign in the City of San Diego: Fair and Open Competition/Project Labor Agreement Prohibition


Should the City of San Diego be prohibited from requiring contractors to use Project Labor Agreements for City construction projects, except where required by law, and should the Mayor be required to post online all construction contracts over $25,000?

Debate Over Prop A: Should City Ban Project Labor Agreements? – KPBS – May 7, 2012

Watch the debate: 



U-T POLL: BAN ON LABOR PACTS FALLING SHORT: Support for Prop. A just over one-third in survey of city voters – San Diego Union-Tribune – May 8, 2012

Proposition A, which would prohibit project-labor agreements, has 36 percent support from registered voters, with 31 percent opposed and 33 percent undecided…Among hard-core voters — those who voted in the previous five elections — 39 percent are in favor, 30 percent opposed and 30 percent undecided. That dropped to 35 percent, 29 percent and 36 percent, respectively, for those voting in the past three or four elections.


Yes on A web site: http://www.fairandopencompetition.com/

No on A web site: http://stoppropa.org/

California’s Voting Rights Act of 2001: A Weapon for Unions

It’s not just the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that construction unions exploit for their own ulterior purposes. The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (a Sacramento-based umbrella group for construction unions) has apparently found inspiration from an organized campaign to use lawsuits under the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (Election Code Section 14025 et seq.) to force California local governments to abandon at-large voting and instead adopt districts that are deliberately drawn to increase Latino representation on elected boards.

An article published by www.CaliforniaWatch.org on March 9, 2012 (White-Dominated Boards Face Legal Threats Over Racial Makeup) reports on how the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California was among the plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit against the City of Escondido in December 2011 alleging that the city violates the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 by not having city council districts designed to elect more Latinos to the city council. (Demetrio Gomez v. City of Escondido, Case #37-2011-00060480-CU-CR-NC). Compared to the naïveté or timidity seen in much of the mainstream news coverage of the case, this article is surprisingly blunt about the true motivation for the union involvement in the lawsuit:

But labor unions and other groups also could use the law as a weapon in disputes with cities and school boards. 

The first such case came in December, when the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California sued the city of Escondido, in San Diego County, alleging that at-large elections leave Latinos without fair representation. The union targeted Escondido because officials there have been trying to lower wages on public construction projects.

The brief submitted by the State Building Trades can be found here. Of course, it says nothing about the underlying objective of the lawsuit: dissuading cities from including provisions in their charters that allows those cities to establish their own state-mandated construction wage rates (prevailing wages) for purely municipal construction. A honest perspective about the lawsuit is revealed in excerpts below from the State Building Trades web site:

Members of SBCTC Affiliates Demand Fair Elections by Bob Balgenorth, head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council – January 2012

It’s not surprising that a city council that treats its Latino citizens disdainfully also has plans to worsen the quality of life for all construction workers. As the San Diego Union-Tribune reported in its coverage of the lawsuit, the current council will try to convince voters to make Escondido a charter city, in hopes of lowering construction wages on public works projects – for all workers, Latino and non-Latino alike.

“They want to take away the prevailing wage,” Demetrio Gomez, the lead plaintiff, told the paper. “They want to take away the things that make the average worker’s life worthwhile. We believe that’s wrong. And we believe if we had the ability to elect Latinos we would have better representation.”

(Also, see Members of SBCTC Affiliates Demand Escondido Change to District-Based Elections – State Building and Construction Trades Council of California web site – December 8, 2011.)

In response, the City of Escondido asked the San Diego County Superior Court to dismiss the State Building Trades as a plaintiff because it obviously lacked standing to sue: see here.

A judge ruled on March 16, 2012 (Superior Court Decision – Gomez v. City of Escondido) that the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California did NOT have standing to be a plaintiff in this lawsuit:

In addition, Plaintiff Council does not satisfy the requirements for associational standing because voting rights are not germane to its purpose. The purpose of the Council is to protect the members’ rights with relation to their work and trade in construction. Voting rights are separate and distinct. Registering members to vote and providing voter education does not make members’ voting rights germane to the Council’s purpose.

Surely this is not the last time California unions will be manipulating the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. At the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in California’s “Day at the Capitol” program on April 18, 2012, I asked a panel of three California elections experts if they thought unions and other special interest groups will routinely use the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 as a weapon to achieve their political objectives at local governments. The unequivocal answer was YES.

“Absolutely,” said Paul Mitchell, a political consultant with Redistricting Partners, a firm based in Sacramento. He agreed with me that “that’s exactly what happened” at the City of Escondido and noted that the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 is “a card able to be played.” He expressed surprise that police, firefighters, and other public employee unions in cities such as Stockton had not already used this powerful weapon to win concessions from governments during negotiations for collective bargaining agreements.

Additional Recent News Media Coverage of Union Exploitation of the California Voting Rights Act of 2001:

Judge Bars Union from Voting Rights Lawsuit – San Diego Union-Tribune – March 17, 2011

ESCONDIDO: Judge wants union removed from voting rights suit – North County Times – March 17, 2011

Lawsuit Aims To Elect More Latinos In Escondido – KPBS – April 4, 2012

It Didn’t Take the First Time: Governor Brown Signs Union Bill #2 to Discourage Voters and City Councils from Banning Project Labor Agreements

Governor Jerry Brown apparently didn’t have any qualms about enacting a second bill to pressure California’s charter cities into abandoning their Fair and Open Competition policies that prohibit those cities from entering into contracts that require construction companies to sign Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) with unions. On April 26, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 829 into law – only a few days after the bill passed the California State Legislature and only two months after Senator Michael Rubio (D-Bakersfield) completely changed the bill to financially punish charter cities that enact Fair and Open Competition policies.

It’s amazing how quickly the state government moves when the unions want something! Nothing was going to stop this bill, just like nothing stopped Senate Bill 922 last year to nullify Project Labor Agreement bans enacted by voters and elected representatives in counties and general law cities.

The bill adds Section 2503 to the Public Contract Code:

If a charter provision, initiative, or ordinance of a charter city prohibits, limits, or constrains in any way the governing board’s authority or discretion to adopt, require, or utilize a project labor agreement that includes all the taxpayer protection provisions of Section 2500 for some or all of the construction projects to be awarded by the city, then state funding or financial assistance shall not be used to support any construction projects awarded by the city. This section shall not be applicable until January 1, 2015, for charter cities in which a charter provision, initiative, or ordinance in effect prior to November 1, 2011, would disqualify a construction project from receiving state funding or financial assistance.

I will speculate (along with many other people) that Senate Bill 829 was created, whipped through the legislative process, and signed into law so that unions could use it as a campaign message in trying to convince voters in the City of San Diego to vote on June 5 against Proposition A, a ballot measure to prohibit the City of San Diego from entering into contracts that require construction companies to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions.

News Media Coverage:

Labor-Friendly Contract Option Backed by Brown – San Diego Union-Tribune – April 27, 2012 (this was a front page story)

DeMaio Criticizes Fletcher’s Absence on Labor Vote – San Diego Union-Tribune – April 28, 2012

San Diego’s Proposition A Clouded By Signing Of State Bill – KPBS – April 26, 2012

Assemblyman David Valadao: We Need to Protect Local Control of Local Projects – Bakersfield Californian (op-ed) – April 28, 2012

And the unabashedly “progressive” Ocean Beach Rag blog (in San Diego) has produced its first commentary critical of Proposition A: First Cuppa Coffee – Monday, April 16, 2012: Don’t Cry for Him San Diego Edition.

See my earlier posts on Senate Bill 829:

Unions Use Power Over California Legislature to Suppress Local Government Contracting Authority and Push for Project Labor Agreements

Six Legislators Defend the Right of California Cities to Enact Policies Guaranteeing Fair and Open Competition for Construction Contracts