Tag Archive for Measure V (City of Costa Mesa November 2012)

News Media Coverage of Proposed Charters for California Cities – November 2012

Updated as of November 8, 2012 

General Coverage

Supermajority Supercharges Power of Unions, Demswww.CalWatchdog.com – November 8, 2012

On charter city proposals, which would have given cities more leeway to deal with the powerful unions: Costa Mesa’s lost by a large margin, Escondido’s lost, and Grover Beach’s appears to be losing in a close race. Anything the unions supported won big in California. Anything they strongly opposed lost.

Unions Spend Big, Win Big in California – Fox & Hounds (Steve Greenhut, Vice President of Journalism, Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity) – November 8, 2012

In Orange County, the city of Costa Mesa had become something of a national example on how to take on union power, as its council majority promoted outsourcing and pension changes. While voters there re-elected reformers, they rejected a city charter measure that would have allowed the majority to have more latitude in carrying out changes. Unions from across the state flooded the campaign with money, outspending charter- reform backers by 10 to 1.

Eliminating Middle Class Jobs in the Shadow of the Election – Huffington Post (Los Angeles) – blog by Daniel Villao, State Director, California Construction Academy, UCLA Labor Center (part of the pro-union University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program) – November 5, 2012

City of Costa Mesa (Orange County) – Measure V

City Charter Measure Soundly Rejected by Costa Mesa VotersLos Angeles Times – November 7, 2012

Righeimer Wants to Try for Another CharterNewport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – November 7, 2012

Costa Mesa Council Majority Holds but Loses Bid for a City Charter – www.voiceofoc.org – November 7, 2012

Costa Mesa Measure V – KFI (640 AM) – November 7, 2012

Costa Mesa’s Measure V Attracts Big Labor Dollars – www.PublicCEO.com – ‎November 6, 2012‎

City of Escondido (San Diego County) – Proposition P

Escondido Rejects Charter Measure but Approves General Plan UpdateNorth County Times – November 7, 2012

Escondido Voters Split on InitiativesSan Diego Union-Tribune – November 7, 2012

City of Grover Beach (San Luis Obispo County) – Measure I-12

Bright, Lee Leading Grover Council Race; Charter Winning ApprovalSanta Maria Times – November 7, 2012

Peterson Swamps Molnar to Win Grover Beach Mayor Seatwww.CalCoastNews.com – November 7, 2012 (includes this statement: “The race for the city of Grover Beach’s proposal to become a charter city remains too close to call with just late arriving vote-by-mail ballots left uncounted. Currently, there are 11 more votes in favor of the charter proposal than nay votes.”)

Voters in Costa Mesa and Escondido Reject Proposed Charters; Voters in Grover Beach Narrowly Approve a Charter

In the city of Costa Mesa, 59% of voters rejected the proposed charter (Measure V). It appears that two of the three pro-charter city council members retained their seats. Councilman Jim Righeimer vows to bring another charter before voters, but this time have it developed by a citizens’ commission.

In the city of Escondido, 53% of voters rejected the proposed charter (Proposition P), even though labor unions did little to oppose it. An insider with the campaign to pass the charter claims the loss was mainly related to city council elections by district (rather than at-large) and local disputes over the status of illegal immigrants.

In the city of Grover Beach, 50.2% of voters have approved the proposed charter (Measure I-12). As of this morning (November 7, 2012), the YES vote was 1718 and the NO vote was 1707 – an eleven vote difference.

My Report on www.UnionWatch.org: Tracking California’s November 2012 Elections Related to Labor Issues

See my article posted this morning (November 5, 2012) on www.UnionWatch.org called Tracking California’s November 2012 Elections Related to Labor Issues.

If you are a regular reader of the Dayton Public Policy Institute blog (a project of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC), you know a lot about the following races in California:

  • Proposition 32 – Stop Special Interests state ballot measure (includes “paycheck protection”)
  • Measure V – proposed charter in Costa Mesa
  • Proposition P – proposed charter in Escondido
  • Measure I-12 – proposed charter in Grover Beach
  • Measures Q and R – authorization to borrow $414 million through bond sales for construction at Sacramento City Unified School District (which imposes Project Labor Agreements)
  • Measure Q – authorization to borrow $348 million through bond sales for construction at Solano Community College District  (which imposes Project Labor Agreements)
  • Measure E – authorization to borrow $360 million through bond sales for construction at West Contra Costa Unified School District (which imposes Project Labor Agreements)
  • Proposition Z – authorization to borrow $2.8 billion through bond sales for construction at San Diego Unified School District (which imposes Project Labor Agreements)

There are also some elections for local government offices in California that have significance for people interested in labor policy issues.

City of San Diego

If Republican Ray Ellis defeats Democrat Councilwoman Sherri Lightner for the one undecided city council race (in La Jolla), Republicans will have a 5-4 majority on the city council. What a change from ten years ago, when Republicans almost disappeared from a city council they had long controlled. (I credit the Republican Party of San Diego County for this transformation: see my www.FlashReport.org article The Untold Story: Years of Challenging, Unglamorous Work Led to Big Republican Election Night in San Diego on June 5.

Republican Councilman Carl DeMaio stands a good chance of defeating Democrat Congressman Bob Filner and getting elected as Mayor of San Diego. A few weeks ago I wrote an article comparing DeMaio’s campaign to the 2010 campaign of Rob Ford, a libertarian-oriented city council member who unexpectedly won election as Mayor of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (See Carl DeMaio’s Campaign for Mayor of San Diego Echoes Rob Ford’s Successful Campaign for Mayor of Toronto.) Chris Reed wrote the following in a November 1, 2012 article for The American Spectator (Anger Mismanagement on the Ballot; linked at www.CalWatchdog.com as Will San Diego Elect a Gay Libertarian or a Snarling Misanthrope as Mayor?):

All this is remarkably good news for DeMaio and for libertarians who have long wondered what a government run by a Reason-blessed true believer would be like…If Filner has this [negative] effect on enough people, in five weeks time, America’s eighth-largest city will inaugurate as mayor a brash reformer bent on transforming the government status quo. Thanks to a June initiative primarily authored by DeMaio, San Diego is by far the largest U.S. city to have ended costly defined-benefit pensions for nearly all its new hires. As mayor, DeMaio would ramp up San Diego’s already-aggressive attempts to bid out a wide array of government services. He also wants to end automatic “step” pay increases given to public employees just for years on the job and to finally bring to government the productivity revolution that has fueled U.S. private-sector growth for two decades. The goal, DeMaio told me in April, is to set up a national model for downsized, efficient government. If elected, DeMaio appears likely to have a GOP majority on the City Council. If these more conventional Republicans back him up, San Diego could become Ground Zero for government experimentation – of a sort that many will call radical but that libertarians will call long-overdue.

City of Costa Mesa (Orange County)

In the City of Costa Mesa, three of the four city councilmembers (the 3Ms, Gary Monahan, Steve Mensinger, and Colin McCarthy) who voted in 2011 with Councilman Jim Righeimer to “outsource” government services and put the Measure V charter on the ballot in 2012 are running as a slate. They are challenged by a slate of three candidates associated with a group called Costa Mesans for Responsible Government who oppose outsourcing and the charter. Obviously this a battle based largely on labor issues.

City of Brentwood (San Francisco Bay Area, in Contra Costa County)

In the City of Brentwood, unions are trying to keep Mayor Bob Taylor in office. Taylor voted in 2009 and 2010 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement to build the city’s civic center and associated parking garage. I wrote about this race in Electrical Workers Union Tries to Salvage Political Career of City of Brentwood Mayor Robert Taylor (Bob Taylor) and Contra Costa Times Recognizes Fiscally Responsible Candidates for Brentwood City Council: Endorsements EXCLUDE Project Labor Agreement Supporters.

Gee, Do You Think a Charter Is a Meaningful Way for California Cities to Pursue Fiscal Responsibility? $500,000 of Union Opposition Confirms It.

Obviously a 4-1 majority on the Costa Mesa City Council has discovered a truly effective way in California to use taxpayer money wisely and responsibly. The evidence: labor unions and their allied organizations have raised almost $500,000 to convince Costa Mesa voters to reject Measure V, which would enact a city charter.

Charters currently give 121 California cities the authority to determine their own policies concerning their purely municipal affairs. It is a right given to cities in the California Constitution.

Unions hate charters because they give power to cities to circumvent costly union-backed state mandates imposed by the California State Legislature, such as government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”). See Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

So how much money have groups reported raising and spending against Measure V as of October 20, 2012?

1. $359,634.74 (including $18,834.74 of non-monetary contributions) has been collected by “Taxpayers for Open and Accountable Government, No on Measure V, sponsored by the Orange County Employees Association.” This includes the following contributions from labor unions:

  • $274,634.74 from the Orange County Employees Association
  • $20,000 from the Orange County Professional Firefighters Association
  • $10,000 from the California Federation of Teachers
  • $5,000 from the Orange County Labor Federation AFL-CIO
  • $5,000 from the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals

It has spent $278,411.32 against Measure V as of October 20, 2012.

2. $110,000.00 (including $10,000.00 of non-monetary contributions) has been collected by “Committee for Costa Mesa’s Future – No on V – Sponsored by Labor and Management Organizations.” All of this money came from the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperation Committee. (See my article Union Slush Fund Sends Mailers to Costa Mesa Residents Attacking Measure V, the Proposed Charter.) It has spent $56,291.23 as of October 20, 2012.

3. $8,229.30 has been SPENT by “Costa Mesans 4 Responsible Government (CM4RG)” against Measure V. This back-to-Big Labor-as-usual organization has collected a total of $39,439.67. Besides opposing Measure V, this group is trying to get a slate of three pro-union, anti-charter candidates elected to replace three fiscally responsible, pro-charter incumbent city council members. Note that these candidates are also expressing opposition to Measure V in the context of their own campaigns.

Union Slush Fund Sends Mailers to Costa Mesa Residents Attacking Measure V, the Proposed Charter

UPDATE (October 23, 2012): news coverage of the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust contributions against Measure V, the proposed charter in Costa Mesa:

Trade, Labor Groups Spending Big to Defeat Costa Mesa Charter – Orange County Register – October 18, 2012

Construction industry trade groups and labor unions are spending aggressively against Costa Mesa’s Measure V, the city charter initiative that could severely limit labor unions’ influence. The most money so far has come from the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperation Trust, a Sacramento-based organization representing trade unions and major companies in the construction industry. It has contributed $100,000 this year to fight the measure, according to city campaign finance filings…

The money from outside groups has infuriated Councilman Jim Righeimer, the proposed charter’s architect and its chief advocate. He said construction labor groups are spending to preserve their high wages, as the charter would abolish the city’s requirement to pay a union-level wage for city-funded public works projects. “They don’t want to give up prevailing wage,” Righeimer said. “That’s the whole issue…”

The construction industry group says it is only natural for them to oppose a measure that could lower wages and toss out state rules on public works contracting. Lower wages ultimately harms the local economy, said Bob Balgenorth, chairman of the industry trust. His members “believe that prevailing wage benefits the community…it makes sure that low-wage contractors don’t bring in workers from out-of-state.”

Measure V Becomes a Six-Figure Battle – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – October 23, 2012

When it comes to Costa Mesa’s charter ballot initiative, organized labor so far has raised more and outspent its opposition, campaign finance records show…The majority has come from the Committee for Costa Mesa’s Future and its $100,000 contribution from the Sacramento-based California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperation Trust.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer — the architect of the charter, which he contends will lead to taxpayer savings — said the campaign spending demonstrates the outside influence of the labor unions trying to decide city matters.

The California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust has provided $100,000 as of September 30, 2012 as the sole donor to “Committee for Costa Mesa’s Future – No on V – Sponsored by Labor and Management Organizations.” This a political committee established to oppose Measure V, the proposed charter on the November 6, 2012 ballot in the City of Costa Mesa, California.

The treasurer for the “Committee for Costa Mesa’s Future – No on V – Sponsored by Labor and Management Organizations” is Robbie Hunter, head of the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council.

The California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust is a secretive group 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. The head of the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust is Bob Balgenorth, head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California and California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE).

California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust 2010-2011 Form 990

For information about how this organization gets its money, see my www.UnionWatch.org article Mysterious Union Slush Fund Spends $100,000 Against Costa Mesa Charter.

For more information about this organization spends its money, see my article Where the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust Spends Its Money: Now We See How Unions Spread It.

Here are examples of mail funded by the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust through the “Committee for Costa Mesa’s Future – No on V – Sponsored by Labor and Management Organizations.”

The California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust funded this mailer opposing Measure V, the proposed charter in Costa Mesa, California, in the November 6, 2012 election.

The California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust funded this mailer opposing Measure V, the proposed charter in Costa Mesa, California, in the November 6, 2012 election.

The California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust funded this mailer opposing Measure V, the proposed charter in Costa Mesa, California, in the November 6, 2012 election.

The California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust funded this mailer opposing Measure V, the proposed charter in Costa Mesa, California, in the November 6, 2012 election.

The California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust funded this mailer opposing Measure V, the proposed charter in Costa Mesa, California, in the November 6, 2012 election.

California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust funded this mailer opposing Measure V, the proposed charter in Costa Mesa, California, in the November 6, 2012 election.

The California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust funded this mailer opposing Measure V, the proposed charter in Costa Mesa, California, in the November 6, 2012 election.


California Local Election Report: Three Cities Seek Voter Approval for Home-Rule Charters

Today’s www.CalWatchdog.com (October 16, 2012) has a second article in a series about the 121 charter cities in California and the attempts of additional cities to enact charters and free their municipal affairs from the costly mandates of the California State Legislature. (See Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?) I am quoted in this article as well as in the first article.

Cities Vying for Local Control on November Ballotwww.CalWatchdog.com – October 16, 2012

But the biggest benefit, according to Kevin Dayton, CEO of Dayton Public Policy Institute, an employment and labor specialist and charter city expert, would be not having to pay prevailing wages on local public works projects. In a recent interview, Dayton said that labor union prevailing wage rates do not accurately reflect the actual industry rates, nor do they accurately reflect the construction industry in all areas within the state…

But the rational discussion about cost effectiveness has turned into an all-out assault. According to Dayton, unions have steamrolled right over smaller cities’ efforts to adopt charters. “Union leaders get very testy when someone points out that a charter city can establish its own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates,” Dayton said…

Also, see the first article in the series: Push for Charter Cities Enrages Unionswww.CalWatchdog.com – September 30, 2012

Three cities in California have proposed charters on the November 6, 2012 ballot for voters to approve. Two are medium-sized suburban cities and one is a small beach community. All three charters would give these cities the freedom to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates on purely municipal construction or private construction that gets any form of financial assistance from the city. Here’s the current status of each effort:

1. City of Costa Mesa (Orange County) – population 111,600

In November 2010, Costa Mesa voters elected a 4-1 majority on its city council that wanted to reduce the city’s budget deficit by cutting back on its workforce and contracting out services. Obviously this became a microcosm of the cataclysmic battle over the future of America: smaller government and lower taxes versus bigger government and higher taxes, or, to put it bluntly, free markets and minimalist government versus socialism. As the city council majority found its authority to manage municipal affairs continually suppressed by laws passed by the union-controlled California State Legislature, it decided to present a charter for voters to consider.

The city quickly earned national news media attention for taking on the public employee unions, which aggressively fought outsourcing. Its public meetings attracted every element of the Left intent on preserving and expanding the power and size of government. I have written about the Costa Mesa situation extensively; for more details, see Costa Mesa’s Bold and Meaningful Government Cost-Efficiency Plan on Hold Until November 6, When Citizens Vote on a Proposed Charter (Measure V) and for Three City Council Members.

2. City of Escondido (San Diego County) – population 146,032

Like in Costa Mesa, a 4-1 majority of the Escondido City Council wants to wrest the city from the costly mandates of the union-controlled California State Legislature and get more local control over the city’s budget issues. Opposing this move are unions and other leftist activists (see the Prop V section of the Escondido Democratic Club web site).

Unions tried a clever tactic to derail the charter proposal. As I wrote earlier, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California engineered a lawsuit against the city based on the California Voting Rights Act of 2001; for more details, see Escondido City Council Votes 4-1 to Approve Proposed Charter for Voters to Consider on November Ballot and California’s Voting Rights Act of 2001: A Weapon for Unions.

3. Grover Beach (San Luis Obispo County) – population 13,275

City councils for a cluster of beach towns on the Central Coast (Pismo Beach, Arroyo Grande, and Grover Beach) have toyed with the idea of passing charters, but Grover Beach was the first to jump. As seen in Costa Mesa and Escondido, unions and certain factions of the Democrat Party are opposing Measure I-12.

PublicCEO.com Reports on New Third Edition: Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

Local government news site www.PublicCEO.com reports today (October 2, 2012) on the release of the third edition of the first and only guide to the status of government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”) in California’s 121 charter cities.

The report is Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions? It is published by the California Construction Compliance Group.

As stated in the article “Charter City Report Updated,” www.PublicCEO.com covered the release of the original report in 2009 and the first update in 2011. In the three years since the first edition was published, www.PublicCEO.com has seen an explosion of proposals to California voters for city charters.

Voters in Costa Mesa, Escondido, and Grover Beach will consider charters on November 6, 2012. Links to the proposed charters are here:

I’m cited in the www.PublicCEO.com article:

Kevin Dayton, President and CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, authored the introduction to the Charter City Report, and made the case for cost savings through charters.

“One way (to save city resources) is to enact policies that allow wage rates for city construction contracts to more accurately reflect economic conditions in the local market region.”

The report was designed to not only educate local officials about charters and cost savings, but Dayton also presents it as a tool to help establish a charter or amend one to include prevailing-wage exemptions.

“This third edition of the guide to the status of government-mandated construction wage rates in California’s charter cities provides all the information necessary for charter cities considering exercising their constitutionally-guaranteed right to determine the government-mandated wage rate policies in their own municipal construction contracts.”

The article also quotes Costa Mesa City Councilman Jim Righeimer talking about cost savings that would result if voters in the City of Costa Mesa approve a proposed charter through Measure V in the November 6, 2012 election. Righeimer wants the City of Costa Mesa to establish its own government-mandated construction wage rate policy for purely municipal projects under the authority of its proposed charter:

Those kinds of savings, and many of the other freedoms afforded to cities, have three cities looking to charter in November. One of the highest profile cases comes from Costa Mesa, where the City Council has been pursuing a charter for the better part of a year.

For Costa Mesa, it’s about controlling local affairs and being able to leverage local solutions to local problems. The most obvious case, as Councilman Jim Righeimer told PublicCEO in the past, is outsourcing and contracting.

Pointing to the city’s jail services, Righeimer said that, “…savings alone on a $1.5 million cost could be $50k a month. That’s just one contract.”

But the city also included language exempting local projects from prevailing wage laws.

“Prevailing wage is clear as day,” said Righeimer. “We want to be able to negotiate with market rate wages like Newport and Huntington. We don’t want to have to have a union wage.”

Here are links to two current examples of charters recently approved by voters:

Also, I have begun a project to create from scratch a new model charter for California cities. See link below; I’ll keep you informed:

Project Underway to Create a Cutting-Edge Model Charter for California Cities to Free Their Municipal Affairs from the State Legislature – YOU Can Help!

For more than a year, I’ve talked and written about developing a model charter that city councils and appointed charter commissions in California’s general law cities can use as a basis to develop their own proposed charters to bring before voters for consideration.

A model charter would also help city councils and appointed charter commissions in 121 California cities to amend and freshen their existing charters. (Note: voters in three more cities – Escondido, Costa Mesa, and Grover Beach – will consider enacting proposed charters in the November 6, 2012 election; there may be 124 charter cities in California at the end of 2012.)

Generally, the dozen cities that brought charters before their voters in the past six years obtained existing charters from other cities and tweaked them a little. City council members and staff have not started from scratch in developing their proposed charters, perhaps to avoid the political and legal risks of trying new concepts, and perhaps in part because developing a constitution from scratch is a time-consuming intellectual exercise better suited to James Madison or modern policy institutes.

Significant and recent developments in proposed city charters in California have been related to explicit provisions concerning the establishment of policies for government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”), prohibitions on requiring contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions, and requirements for unions to get permission from city employees to deduct money from their paychecks to use for political purposes. In addition, some charters have contained provisions meant to prevent the kind of corruption among city council members and city staff that occurred in the City of Bell in the late 2000s.

As I wrote in the Auburn Journal newspaper on September 26, 2011, cities in California need to consider asking voters to enact a charter that would be “a searing and unprecedented manifesto in support of fair and open competition, free enterprise, economic growth and job creation.” A charter needs to give a city full control of its municipal affairs, so it can implement “lower taxes, reasonable regulation, fiscal responsibility, limited government, local control and more freedom from corrupt urban legislators.”

Defenders of the status quo prefer California’s advocates of economic and personal freedom to be apologetic, mealy-mouthed, submissive and ineffective. I noted that an ideal charter, with its “defiance of excessive state authority,” would enrage numerous special interest groups.

Of course, aggressive opposition from special interest groups indicates a proposed charter would be effective in expanding local control. Should city councils and city staff regard this opposition as an insurmountable obstacle to achieving meaningful home rule?

My thinking is that even a slightly effective proposed city charter will agitate the unions, the environmental extremists, and any other parties who use the California State Legislature as an agent to impose their utopian visions on communities where a majority of people just want to mind their own business. Opposition from powerful special interest groups will come if the proposed charter is 100% effective or 10% effective in changing things. So why not pursue a goal of claiming 100% of the potential for a city’s governing authority over municipal affairs?

I Need Your Help to Develop the Ultimate Model City Charter for California!

Almost everyone squatting in the state legislature for the duration of their term limit wants to leave a legacy of some sort of accomplishment; that is, something inserted in California law that they can proudly show their grandchildren and cite in speeches to inspire youths to pursue public service. Think about how the California State Legislature enacts a parade of inane laws every year that interferes with or intrudes in municipal affairs.

In Sacramento today, I spoke to a group of free market-oriented policy intellectuals based in California about my plan to collect ideas for provisions in a model charter. I expect to get some great recommendations from them concerning transportation, land use and zoning, air quality, etc. You can help too. Below are resources to help you develop ideas to send me for the model charter:

1. At the end of this post, I cite relevant language from the July 2012 California Supreme Court case State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO v. City of Vista about the Constitutional right of charter cities to control their own municipal affairs. This citation also includes the four criteria under which an issue is a municipal affair versus an issue of statewide concern. Read the criteria and think about problems in your city that the city council can’t fix or evade under the status quo.

2. Here are links to a few of the city charters recently enacted by voters or to be considered by voters in the November 6, 2012 election. These are the current examples of charters now being circulated among California local officials:

City of Oceanside

City of Vista

City of Costa Mesa

City of Escondido

City of Grover Beach

3. Here is a link to my 94-page report (third edition) published by the California Construction Compliance Group about the status of policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”) in California’s 121 charter cities. It’s the first and only comprehensive report ever written about this right of charter cities:

Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions? – 3rd Edition – Summer 2012

4. The League of California Cities (which is NOT part of this project) has excellent information about charter cities and home rule: Resources on Charter Cities from the League of California Cities.

5. To send me your ideas for charter provisions, call me or go here on this web site and use the form to contact me in writing. Thank you for your ideas to advance economic and personal freedom!

California’s Home Rule Doctrine

(Excerpts from pages 6 and 7 of the City of Vista California Supreme Court Decision on charter cities and prevailing wages – citations removed and language simplified – see the decision itself for more technical guidance.)

Charter cities are specifically authorized by our state Constitution to govern themselves, free of state legislative intrusion, as to those matters deemed municipal affairs.

Article XI, section 5, subdivision (a) of the California Constitution provides: “It shall be competent in any city charter to provide that the city governed thereunder may make and enforce all ordinances and regulations in respect to municipal affairs, subject only to restrictions and limitations provided in their several charters and in respect to other matters they shall be subject to general laws. City charters adopted pursuant to this Constitution shall supersede any existing charter, and with respect to municipal affairs shall supersede all laws inconsistent therewith.”

The roots of this provision trace back more than 100 years. It was originally enacted upon the principle that the municipality itself knew better what it wanted and needed than the state at large, and to give that municipality the exclusive privilege and right to enact direct legislation which would carry out and satisfy its wants and needs. The provision represents an affirmative constitutional grant to charter cities of all powers appropriate for a municipality to possess and includes the important corollary that so far as municipal affairs are concerned, charter cities are supreme and beyond the reach of legislative enactment.

We set forth an analytical framework for resolving whether or not a matter falls within the home rule authority of charter cities.

  1. Does the city ordinance at issue regulate an activity that can be characterized as a municipal affair?
  2. Does the case present an actual conflict between local and state law?
  3. Does the state law address a matter of statewide concern?
  4. Is the law reasonably related to resolution of that concern and narrowly tailored to avoid unnecessary interference in local governance? If the subject of the state statute is one of statewide concern and that the statute is reasonably related to its resolution (and not unduly broad in its sweep), then the conflicting charter city measure ceases to be a municipal affair and the Legislature is not prohibited by Article XI, section 5(a), from addressing the statewide dimension by its own tailored enactments.”
Note: in the City of Vista case, the court ruled that “no statewide concern has been presented justifying the state’s regulation of the wages that charter cities require their contractors to pay to workers hired to construct locally funded public works. In light of our conclusion that there is no statewide concern here, we need not determine whether the state’s prevailing wage law is “reasonably related to . . . resolution” of that concern and is “narrowly tailored” to avoid unnecessary interference in local governance. The court didn’t need to consider #4 in the analytical framework listed above because the answer to #3 was NO.

Costa Mesa’s Bold and Meaningful Government Cost-Efficiency Plan on Hold Until November 6, When Citizens Vote on a Proposed Charter (Measure V) and for Three City Council Members

The Costa Mesa City Council has received significant state and national news coverage in the past 18 months as four of the five council members have attempted to implement bold and meaningful efforts to make city services more cost-efficient. (See “Costa Mesa Gets National Exposure” – Orange County Register – Column by Frank Mickadeit – June 1, 2011)

Of course, legislative initiatives are bold and meaningful when they challenge the agenda of public employee unions. Aggressive union opposition indicates legitimate potential cost savings for taxpayers.

The California 4th Appellate District Court, Division 3 issued an unpublished decision yesterday (August 17, 2012) in Costa Mesa City Employees Association v. City of Costa Mesa that affirms the July 15, 2011 decision of an Orange County Superior Court judge to suspend a plan of the Costa Mesa City Council to layoff city employees and contract out their jobs to private firms. The appeals court ruled that the lower court’s preliminary injunction to stop the plan was proper.

This means the Costa Mesa City Council cannot proceed with its cost-efficiency plan until the courts fully consider and decide the plan’s legality. It means that future advancement of such a plan will depend on two factors to be decided in the November 6, 2012 elections: (1) whether or not Costa Mesa voters approve Measure V and enact a city charter that gives the city more authority to contract out services; and (2) whether or not public employee unions and their political allies can replace three current city council members with pro-union city council members, thus bringing the cost-efficiency plan to a screeching halt.


As described in the unpublished court decision, “On March 1, 2011, the City Council of Costa Mesa approved an outsourcing plan to contract out for a variety of city services, including street sweeping, graffiti abatement, animal control, jail operations, special event safety, information technology, graphic design, reprographics, telecommunications, payroll, employee benefit administration, building inspection, and park, fleet, street and facility maintenance. Thereupon, on March 17 and March 31, 2011, the City’s Public Services Director sent layoff notices to over 100 city workers who are represented by CMCEA.” The decision notes that the plan did not “just target one particular position or department; rather, it is aimed at 18 different sectors of the City’s workforce that provide a wide array of services to the citizens of Costa Mesa.”

CMCEA is the Costa Mesa City Employees Association (a public employees’ union that is part of the independent Orange County Employees Association), which has a collective bargaining agreement with the city established in 2004 and scheduled to expire in 2013. It responded on May 16, 2011 to the city council’s cost-efficiency plan with a lawsuit against the city to stop it. Its complaint alleged the City’s government reduction plan violates the Government Code in that it calls for the outsourcing of jobs that do not involve “special services” (California Government Code Section 37103 and California Government Code Section 53060) and alleged the plan violates the parties’ collective bargaining agreement because the City did not meet with CMCEA to determine which specific services should be contracted out and how to best mitigate layoffs.

How meaningful was this government cost-efficiency plan? The appeals court felt it was highly meaningful:

Indeed, defendant Hatch, the City’s CEO, admitted in his declaration, “City leadership is earnestly pursuing the outsourcing of City services[.]” While he said there was a “possibility” the RFP process would not actually result in the outsourcing of any jobs, it is readily apparent CMCEA’s members were in serious peril of being terminated.

That was made evident by the many layoff notices that the City sent out. The trial court’s interpretation of the notices as a “significant step” in the outsourcing process is supported by the fact the notices set September 30, 2011 as the expected date the recipients would be terminated. The notices did state they were contingent on the recipient’s job being outsourced and were subject to being rescinded, but they also made clear the City Council was presently determined to pursue a plan that called for the recipient’s job to be outsourced. And, according to CEO Hatch, the City was pursuing that plan in earnest. The notices also referred the recipients to the City’s Human Resources Divisions for help with job loss issues and expressed regret “the City’s current conditions require that City employees be laid off.” (Italics added.) Clearly, the recipients of the layoff notices were facing a very real threat of losing their jobs.

Obviously no one wants to lose a job, and the CMCEA appealed to the emotions inherent in the government cost-efficiency plan:

Job loss is always a serious matter, and in this post-recession era of high unemployment, it cannot be taken lightly. Defendants admit that losing a job, and the income it entails, amounts to irreparable harm. (White v. Davis, supra, 30 Cal.4th at p. 559 [lost wages and other benefits during lawsuit over budget impasse constituted serious hardship to those affected by impasse].)

The court recognized this argument is balanced by “the citizenry’s interest in cost-effective government”:

Notwithstanding the prospect of city workers losing their jobs, however, defendants contend, “The residents and taxpayers of Costa Mesa have a substantial interest in a local government that is able to provide better municipal services while improving its financial security.” Defendants also submit that, unless the preliminary injunction is lifted, the City cannot even attempt to further that interest by putting its outsourcing plan in motion. We do not question the citizenry’s interest in cost-effective government… 

This court decision outlines the fundamental clash over the future of California. One side (the Costa Mesa City Council majority) tries to reduce the city bureaucracy and its control over most aspects of city operations, thus freeing the taxpayers from the costly commitments made through collective bargaining with unions when times were prosperous. The unions doesn’t want to lose jobs (both for economic reasons and because of the honest commitment of some of their members to be public servants).

Obviously the primary solution as seen by unions is to obtain more revenue for city operations through tax increases. In the meantime, they can derail any outsourcing plan by appealing to their collective bargaining agreement and using the courts to enforce it. Of course, they also have the threat of going on strike and of election campaign activity to change the city council.