Tag Archive for Push for Charter Cities Enrages Unions

Bakersfield Becomes Latest of California’s 121 Charter Cities to Free Itself from Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates (So-Called “Prevailing Wage”)

As I anticipated in my July 2, 2012 article Prediction: An Explosion of California Cities Freeing Themselves from Costly State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate Laws, the past three months have seen a flood of California cities seeking voter approval for charters, as well as existing charter cities establishing their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”) for purely municipal construction (or private projects that receive government assistance only from the city).

These recent www.CalWatchdogs.com articles summarize what’s happening in California: Push for Charter Cities Enrages Unions and Cities Vying for Local Control on November Ballot.

Through its July 2012 decision in State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, ALF-CIO v. City of Vista, the California Supreme Court affirmed the right of California’s 121 charter cities to set their own prevailing wage policies for municipal construction and thereby free themselves from the costly, complicated, and nonsensical way that the State of California calculates state-mandated construction wage rates and defines public works.

For comprehensive information, see the 92-page guidebook Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

Bakersfield is the latest charter city to establish its own policy concerning government-mandated construction wage rates. Hoping to sustain its economic boom and resist union-backed public policies dragging down economic growth and job creation in the state and other cities, the Bakersfield City Council voted 4-2 (with one city council member recusing himself) on October 17, 2012 to set its own policy. Here is the city’s agenda item description: Resolution exempting the City from prevailing wage requirements for locally funded public works contracts except where required by law.

Here’s a July 17, 2009 video report on KBAK Channel 29 (CBS) news featuring a comment from me about the need for the City of Bakersfield to free itself from state-mandated construction wage rates set based on collective bargaining agreements for urban areas: Prevailing Wage Wastes Tax Dollars in Bakersfield.

It was reported to me that unions brought busloads of people from Los Angeles to pack the council chamber, but the city council majority was not fooled and not intimidated. Here’s news coverage, with excerpts (bold highlights are mine):

Council Shakes Off Prevailing Wage Requirement – Bakersfield Californian – October 17, 2012

City staff also informally surveyed local contractors and were told that without the prevailing wage requirement, project costs could be cut by 3.5 percent to 30 percent

But just as many people spoke in favor of the resolution as against it, saying it would result in more efficient use of taxpayer money and wouldn’t lead to unfair construction wages or lower quality in projects.

“As a city council member, I have a fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers and the community to utilize funds with care and strive to provide the best value possible,” Weir said in an email earlier Wednesday. “With the approval of tonight’s resolution, we will be able to build better parks with more amenities, increase the amount of street repaving, and provide other benefits without additional cost to the taxpayers. To not pursue this opportunity would be a breach of my responsibility.”

Councilmembers added a late amendment to the resolution as a step to better protect against unqualified contractors bidding for city work. Before the resolution passed, projects valued at $1 million or more required that contractors be “pre-qualified” for their suitability to do the type of project at hand before being allowed to submit a bid. With the resolution, that threshold was lowered to $250,000.

Contractors, Unions Object to City Prevailing Wage Proposal – Bakersfield Californian –  October 16, 2012

City Manager Alan Tandy said savings for the city means more work can be done. Taking an example of 20 percent savings, he said, “If we save 20 percent on resurfacing a street, we can resurface 20 percent more streets. We have more that need resurfacing than we have money to resurface.”

Council Members Tackle High Speed Rail, Prevailing Wages in Heated Debate – KGET Channel 17 (NBC) news – October 18, 2012

Congratulations to the Bakersfield City Council. Under pressure and threats, they refused to payoff the unionsCalifornia Political News and Views – October 19, 2012

Will This Charter City Movement Lead to Genuine (or Any?) Prevailing Wage Reform?

Perhaps union officials in Bakersfield are realizing that “prevailing wage” as calculated under state law and “public works” as defined under state law are so outrageous that cities are intent on escaping them. Bakersfield’s own Assemblywoman Shannon Grove introduced two thoughtful and reasonable prevailing wage reform bills (Assembly Bill 987 and Assembly Bill 988) to make state-mandated government wage rates only apply to legitimate government projects and be more reflective of actual local market rates, but union lobbyists opposed these bills and Democrats defeated them in committee in January 2012.

In fact, as I reported in my April 20, 2012 article State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate Requirements Remain on California Projects Worth $1001 to $2000, union lobbyists and Legislative Democrats wouldn’t even support Assemblywoman Grove’s Assembly Bill 1958, which made two very modest changes to the state’s prevailing wage laws. That bill increased the project cost threshold for coverage from $1000 to $2000 to match the $2000 threshold set by the federal prevailing wage law called the Davis-Bacon Act. It also indexed the threshold to the same measure of inflation that the Democrats want to use for indexing the state minimum wage.

There WILL be a day when unions no longer control the California State Legislature and the Governor’s office. In the meantime, charter cities are exercising their own right to determine their economic destiny, and many of them don’t want to follow the direction of the State of California to inevitable bankruptcy.

Campaign Mailer Opposing the Proposed Grover Beach Charter: Definitely NOT Photocopied at Dave’s Copies & Fax

UPDATE (October 22, 2012): here is the latest information from the Grover Beach City Clerk’s office regarding campaign finance reports for the mailers against Measure I-12:

From: Donna McMahon
Sent: Monday, October 22, 2012 12:00 PM
To: Kevin Dayton
Subject: RE: Request for campaign reports (Form 460s) filed to oppose Measure I-12

Dear Mr. Dayton:

Good morning. The Committee opposed to Measure I-12 has no Form 460 on file with the City Clerk’s Office. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Cory Black) was at City Hall on October 16th and stated that the Committee had not spent or raised more than $1,000 for the filing period that ended on September 30, 2012.

I will request the October 1-October 20 campaign finance report of this committee opposing the charter (Measure I-12) on October 26 (the day after the next filing deadline).


UPDATE (October 20, 2012): the mysterious campaign committee opposing Measure I-12 – the proposed charter in Grover Beach – has posted its two mailers on its web site:

http://www.protectgroverbeach.com/mail.htm

An article in www.CalCoastNews.com (Grover Beach Democrats Blast Party Leader Over Flyer – www.CalCoastNews.com – October 16, 2012) reports the following on the mailers:

Two Democratic candidates for the Grover Beach City Council are accusing San Luis Obispo Democratic Central Committee leaders of making false statements in a flyer that aims to persuade voters to reject Measure I-12…

A Sacramento businessman who printed the flyers and a San Francisco designer who created the No on Grover Beach I-12 website refused to disclose the person or people behind the committee…

The anti-measure I-12 flyer also appears to violate disclosure rules. While the flyer asks Grover Beach residents to join the San Luis Obispo Democratic Party and the Tri-Counties Building & Construction Trade Council in voting no on Measure I-12, it does not clearly identify who is behind the mailer as required by law. Instead, small print that blends into the flyer says it was paid for by No on Grover Beach I-12, a group that Grover Beach City Clerk Donna McMahon said has failed to file with the city…

Business as usual.


Irony In Grover Beach - union special interests ARE meddling in the city with this mailer.

Wow! I never heard of a grassroots movement of ordinary citizens in a town of 13,000 producing anything like this before. (They didn’t. But we are meant to think they did.)

Irony In Grover Beach - union special interests ARE meddling in the city.

Irony In Grover Beach – union special interests ARE meddling in the city with this mailer.

This slick campaign mailer in Grover Beach opposing the proposed charter (Measure I-12) on the November 6, 2012 ballot reminds me of the following dialogue in the movie Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope:

EXT. TATOOINE – WASTELAND

The speeder stops before what remains of the huge Jawas Sandcrawler. Luke and Ben walk among the smoldering rubble and scattered bodies.

LUKE

It looks like Sandpeople did this, all right. Look, here are Gaffi sticks, Bantha tracks. It’s just…I never heard of them hitting anything this big before.

Ben is crouching in the sand studying the tracks.

BEN

They didn’t. But we are meant to think they did. These tracks are side by side. Sandpeople always ride single file to hide their numbers.

LUKE

These are the same Jawas that sold us Artoo and Threepio.

BEN

And these blast points, too accurate for Sandpeople. Only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise.

Screenplay excerpt from The Internet Movie Script Database (IMSDb) – Star Wars.

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.

CalWatchdog.com Reports on California Charter City Movement: “Push for Charter Cities Enrages Unions”

An article posted on the www.CalWatchdog.com web site on September 30, 2012 (“Push for Charter Cities Enrages Unions“) notes that “the change from a general law city to a charter city is technical, even obscure, but very powerful.” That’s a good description of this Constitutional exercise of federalism in California.

The League of California Cities provides excellent neutral information on California’s city charters, while I provide information about city charters as a tool to circumvent the fiscally irresponsible, intrusive California State Legislature and the special interests that control it. A charter can advance economic and personal freedom on the local level. The article quotes me a few times:

“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,” according to Kevin Dayton, CEO of Dayton Public Policy Institute, an employment and labor specialist, and charter city expert.

“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,” Dayton said.

Dayton said that unions have steamrolled right over smaller cities’ efforts to adopt a charter. “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.

“Significant and recent developments in proposed city charters in California have been related to explicit provisions concerning the establishment of policies for government-mandated 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,” Dayton explained. “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.”

Dayton said that voters need to seriously consider approving the charter city proposals. “If you support lower taxes, reasonable regulation, fiscal responsibility, limited government, local control and more freedom from corrupt urban legislators, vote yes on the charters. If you believe citizens are not yet giving enough of their money to the government, vote no on the charter.”

Of course, one of the comments about the article had to cite the example of the corrupt City of Bell as a reason why cities should not have charters. That’s the prime talking point of the unions against all of the suburban cities trying to protect their middle class citizens and their small businesses from being taxed and regulated right out of the state and off to Texas.

Note: a reference to the www.CalWatchdog.com article is re-posted on www.reason.com:

Public Unions Battle CA Cities’ Efforts To Escape Labor Rules – www.reason.com – October 1, 2012