Tag Archive for San Francisco Chronicle

Five Winning Issues for a Republican Candidate for California State Treasurer – My Article in www.FlashReport.org

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders began her January 15, 2014 column “Who Wants to Lose to Gov. Jerry Brown?” with the following observation:

How near death is the California Republican Party? It’s this bad. Democrats hold every statewide office. Term limits have opened up a few offices; still, no serious Republican plans to run for attorney general, lieutenant governor, treasurer or controller this year. If the lead Democrat for any of those offices dies in September, there will be no Republican in the race to win in November.

Saunders identified two Republicans “fighting over the honor of losing to Gov. Jerry Brown,” (Tim Donnelly and Abel Maldonado, who dropped out two days later), a state senator running for Insurance Commissioner (Ted Gaines), and a public policy institute director running for Secretary of State (Pete Peterson). She also pointed out the lack of Republican candidates to challenge the weak Democrat incumbents for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General and to run for the open seats for Controller and Treasurer.

This column inspired me to write a commentary posted on www.FlashReport.org today (January 20, 2014): “It’s Winnable! Conditions Are Ripe for a Republican to Get Elected in 2014 as California State Treasurer.” I provide five issues “for a libertarian populist-style Republican who can credibly argue to The People against crony capitalism and build a majority coalition of support from voters on the Left and Right.”

Are you such a potential candidate?

Jim Brulte’s Three Objectives as California Republican Party Chairman: Start a Party Fundraising Program, Encourage Local Grassroots Activism, Recruit Candidates Who Reflect the People of California

UPDATE (January 18, 2013): The Republican Party of San Diego County has posted two YouTube videos of Jim Brulte’s remarks at their January 14, 2013 meeting.

Here’s a video of the entire 13-minute speech:

Here’s a two-minute video summary, featuring highlights:

I’ve been compiling the written, credible advice from California Republican Party leaders and activists concerning how Republicans in California can improve their election performance and become more effective at state and local governments in protecting economic and personal freedom. (See Proposed Changes for the California Republican Party in 2013-2014: A Compilation of Advice from Party Leaders.)

Now, we’re getting an idea of what plan the next party chairman will implement.

Jim Brulte kicks off his campaign for California Republican Party chairman on January 14, 2013 in San Diego.

Jim Brulte kicks off his campaign for California Republican Party chairman on January 14, 2013 in San Diego.

On January 14, 2013, former state legislator Jim Brulte spoke at the monthly meeting of the Republican Party of San Diego County.

This was an appropriate setting for Brulte to officially kick off his candidacy for California Republican Party chairman and outline his plans, because the San Diego County Republican Party successfully turned itself around (in ten years) to became effective in carrying out the basic tasks of a political party operation while maintaining a consensus set of principles. (I write about this in my June 19, 2012 column in www.FlashReport.org, The Untold Story: Years of Challenging, Unglamorous Work Led to Big Republican Election Night in San Diego on June 5)

In fact, Brulte called the Republican Party of San Diego County the “gold standard” for county committee operations, and he said he intends to model the state party’s operations based on the San Diego County “back-to-basics blocking and tackling” approach. Brulte is going to focus on mechanics (or “political technology,” as the Leadership Institute calls it) and leave the policy messages to elected officials and candidates.

Brulte has identified grassroots activism as one of his three area of focus.

Brulte has identified grassroots activism as one of his three area of focus.

At the end of the meeting, the San Diego County Republican Central Committee unanimously endorsed Brulte for California Republican Party chairman. San Diego County Republican Party chairman Tony Krvaric sent an email to activists with these links to news coverage of the speech and event. (I selected the article excerpts for the summaries and chose the bold highlights.)

Brulte Kicks Off CRP Bid at San Diego GOP Meetingwww.FlashReport.org – January 14, 2013

Senator Brulte laid out his plans which include the need for the CRP to establish its own statewide fundraising network, so that the party would not be reliant on the top of the ticket, or financial support from legislative leaders.  He talked about the need to export the “San Diego GOP model” for grassroots activism all around the state — because a resurgence in our “ground game” would be essential for future victories.  Finally Brulte talked about the importance of recruiting local candidates for office that reflect the changing demographics of our state…Brulte’s message of a return to the “nuts and bolts” of winning campaigns will be well received all around.

Statewide ‘Republican Renaissance’ Seen if San Diego GOP Is Used as Model – Rancho Bernardo Patch – January 15, 2013

  • “Our party is right,” Brulte said…“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Republican principles…We just need to get back to the basics of trying to win elections.”
  • “The California Republican Party has to be as good and capable and competent and excellent and outstanding as the San Diego County party.”
  • Brulte made no suggestions on how to reframe Republican policies, saying others could explain “the issues.”
  • His only hint that the party needed to improve diversity was saying: “The table will be big enough for anyone who wants to sit at it and pull in the same direction.”
  • Brulte said: “I want to be the most boring chairman in the history of the California Republican Party. I want to be the nuts-and-bolts chairman that helps begin the process of bringing back the Republican Party and a two-party state in California.”
  • STEP ONE: the path to GOP success lies in launching a statewide party fundraising operation, growing the grassroots and recruiting more candidates. “For too long,” he said, “the California Republican Party has been reliant on members of the Legislature, on Republican governors” and wealthy GOP candidates for governor to share funds with other Republican candidates. “The party that says welfare should not be a permanent state has become a welfare recipient,” he said, noting the lack of a fundraising arm.
  • STEP TWO: “You can’t build the party from the top down…you have to build a party from the bottom up – and that means re-invigorating the grassroots.”
  • STEP THREE: recruiting candidates from “every neighborhood in California…It is axiomatic that in a neighborhood election, the candidate who most looks like, sounds like and has the shared values and the shared experiences of the majority of people in the neighborhood tends to win.”

GOP Leader Lays Out Rebuilding VisionSan Diego Union-Tribune – January 14, 2013

  • “We just need to get back to basics,” Brulte said, laying out a theme for fundraising, candidate recruitment and training and better grass roots organizing
  • “We have to rebuild from the bottom up,” he said, adding the party needs to recruit candidates that look, sound and talk like their neighbors…Republicans know they have major work to broaden the party’s appeal…
  • work to rebuild the party starts with wiping a roughly $500,000 debt and creating a large-scale, statewide fundraising operation…
  • “We ought to be a help to Republican Party officials and candidates, not the other way around,” he said, referring to the GOP’s reliance on self-funded candidates for statewide office and a small cadre of wealthy donors.

According to a January 14, 2013 San Francisco Chronicle blog post (Jim Brulte: Will Take CA GOP 6 years to Rebound), it’s going to take a while to turn things around, but it needs to start now or a turnaround will become unfeasible:

“A minimum of six years,” Brulte told The Chronicle. “This is a corporation that is bankrupt. There is a lot of heavy lifting that needs to be done and we all need to share in doing it.”

That’s not to say he’s kissing off the next cycle. Republicans need to “either stop the bleeding and/or start turning it around” in 2014 or Brulte said the party will be in the pits “for the rest of the decade.” The legislative supermajority gives Dems a supermajority of fundraising power that will be hard for Republicans to overcome…

Remaking the Republican Party: Experienced Hand Seen as Key to Revitalizing a Wounded GOPSan Diego Union-Tribune – January 18, 2013

Brulte’s agenda is straightforward:

  • Raise money to wipe out a roughly $500,000 debt.
  • Establish a statewide fundraising operation.
  • Early recruitment and training of candidates in every electoral district in the state, including traditionally Democratic ones such as those dominated by African-Americans, Asians and Latinos.

“If we do that, 2014 can be a great for us”…Brulte says the right mix of money, candidates and grass-root efforts will make 2014 “the year we can begin the Republican renaissance, and the year we can begin to take back California. The team will be big enough for anyone who wants to join and pull in the same direction.”

Of course, some of the comments posted under these articles (not necessarily representative of the ordinary voter) blast the Republican Party for its policy positions rather than the mechanics of its campaigns. Brulte is assuming that a majority of California citizens believe in limited government, and therefore funding, volunteers, and appealing candidates can get people to switch their votes to Republicans or to start voting – and vote for Republicans.

It will be an interesting test to see if the population of California is now inexorably committed to democratic socialism and its related philosophical tenets. In the meantime, the demographic base of the Republican Party will likely continue to move out of the state (see the January 15, 2013 Fox & Hounds column California’s Demographic Dilemma).

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Publishes Guide on “Sabotage, Stalking & Stealth Exemptions: Special State Laws for Labor Unions” – California Is Featured

I was pleased to see that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report on August 10, 2012 through its “Workforce Freedom Initiative” on a fairly obscure topic that is usually left to the National Right to Work Committee and its research wing, the National Institute for Labor Relations Research: special exemptions from prosecution for union officials when their actions normally regarded as crimes are committed in the context of “lawful labor union activity” protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) or state labor relations laws (such as California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act).

“Sabotage, Stalking & Stealth Exemptions: Special State Laws for Labor Unions” concludes that “The most glaring examples of union favoritism under state laws tend to occur in criminal statutes and allow individuals who engage in truly objectionable behavior to avoid prosecution solely because they are participating in some form of labor activity.”

As you might guess, much of this report focuses on California laws, in particular laws that compromise private property rights when union officials are trespassing on private property on union business. It cites several examples:

  • criminal trespass and trespassing laws in California Penal Code Section 602 that do not apply to “persons engaged in lawful labor union activities”
  • rules in California Penal Code Section 640 against willfully blocking the free movement of another person in a public transportation system facility or vehicle except when related to “collective bargaining, labor relations, or labor disputes”
  • criminal laws in California Penal Code Section 420.1 against preventing, hindering, or obstructing someone from entering, leaving, or passing through land, except when the perpetrator is engaged in “lawful labor union activities”
  • laws in California Penal Code Section 552.1 criminalizing trespassing on or loitering at industrial facilities, except when people are lawfully “engaging in any organizational effort on behalf of any labor union, agent, or member thereof, or of any employee group, or any member thereof, employed or formerly employed in any place of business or manufacturing establishment described in this article, or for the purpose of carrying on the lawful activities of labor unions, or members thereof” or acting for the “purpose of investigation of the safety of working conditions on posted property by a representative of a labor union or other employee group who has upon his person written evidence of due authorization by his labor union or employee group to make such investigation.”

I’ve been told by management-oriented labor law attorneys that the “lawful labor union activities” in the California Penal Code are often raised by unions as a justification to trespass, but these exemptions generally pertain to union officials who have a valid claim to observe working conditions and monitor an employer’s compliance with a collective bargaining agreement (or a Project Labor Agreement).

Here is some additional information to flesh out some of the California examples in this guide:

Restraining Orders and Preliminary and Permanent Injunctions

The report dedicates a few paragraphs to the Ralphs Grocery v. United Food & Commercial Workers Union cases now to be considered at the California Supreme Court. These cases deal with two union privileges in state law that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce report does not specifically cite. Here’s a bit more detail:

On July 19, 2010, the California Third Appellate Court issued a decision invalidating the so-called Moscone Act, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 1975, that limited the ability of state courts to issue any restraining order or preliminary or permanent injunction to stop a variety of actions related to labor disputes. (The Moscone Act is California Code of Civil Procedure Section 527.3.) This decision on a rather obscure topic actually generated an article in a major California newspaper: the July 20, 2010 San Francisco Chronicle: Pro-Union Law Struck Down by Appeals Court.

To summarize very crudely in layman’s terms, the court determined that the owner of private property with some degree of public access (such as a grocery store) can get an injunction from a state court to stop peaceful speech activity (such as picketing and handing out flyers) on that private property even when it is related to a labor dispute.

The appeals court also declared a second labor law to be invalid: California Labor Code Section 1138.1, which was part of Assembly Bill 1268, signed into law by Governor Gray Davis in 1999. This bill declared that unions and union officials and members were not responsible for unlawful acts committed by union members during labor disputes unless there was “clear proof of actual participation in, or actual authorization of those acts.” It also established very high standards for a court to issue a temporary or permanent injunction in any case involving or growing out of a labor dispute.

The most informed and aggressive opponent of AB 1268 was my former employer, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of California. It was one of ABC of California’s “Dirty Dozen Most Unwanted Bills of 1999” during the first year of the Gray Davis administration.

ABC of California asserted that AB 1268 would encourage violence during labor disputes. A contractor who was then a member of ABC testified against the bill in a committee hearing along with attorney Brad Newman (now with the Paul Hastings, LLP law firm in Palo Alto), who also submitted a 17-page brief during the April 21, 1999 hearing to the bill’s author, State Senator Shelia Kuehl, pointing out the bill was unconstitutional. He also submitted a follow-up brief on the amended version of the bill. (Mr. Newman was vindicated after eleven years!)  ABC of California also had its members send faxes to Governor Davis asking him to veto the bill. I spoke on a Modesto conservative radio talk show about the bill. The Contra Costa Times published an August 29, 1999 editorial opposed to it. Davis signed it anyway.

The California Fifth Appellate Court issued a similar decision striking down the Moscone Act and AB 1268 on January 27, 2011.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) appealed both court decisions to the California Supreme Court. See information about the appeal of the Third Appeals Court decision to the California Supreme Court here and information about the appeal of the Fifth Appeals Court decision to the California Supreme Court here.

Warning to Employers: Unions Assert Special Rights to Trespass in California

I’ve been told by management-oriented labor law attorneys that California employers can best protect themselves against trespassing issues by treating union trespassers in the same way as other trespassers. They tell me that if an employer treats visitors, solicitors, lunch trucks, and tool trucks differently than union “visitors,” that inconsistency can be exploited by union lawyers.

In addition, “An employer clearly acts at his own peril if he effects a citizen’s arrest of a union visitor on private property in California.” This was the advice given in 2001 by a California management-oriented labor law attorney in the wake of the June 13, 2001 Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision in Radcliffe v. Rainbow Construction Company.

Indeed, union representatives who visit job sites sometimes come armed with letters from their union attorneys claiming that this court decision and other state laws allow union officials and “non-employee union organizers” to enter private property for the purpose of engaging in labor compliance and other “lawful labor union activity.” I have a collection of such letters.

There seems to be demand from California employers for a guide concerning union trespassing, including information on union access to workers to pressure them to sign of union authorization cards. In the meantime, if your company is having problems with union officials and union organizers trespassing on your property or job site, you should consult with a management-oriented labor law attorney before you take any action.

Additional Coverage of This Guide:

States Exempt Labor Unions from Stalking, Trespassing Laws – August 10, 2012 – The Foundry: Conservative Policy News Blog of The Heritage Foundation

Speculation About Condoleezza Rice Running for Major Office Is Nothing New: the San Francisco Chronicle Printed My Letter to the Editor About It in 2001


Editor — California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres says Condoleezza Rice wouldn’t make a good governor because “you need someone who understands the problems of working people in this state.”

Apparently Torres thinks an understanding of working people’s problems is attained through raising $26 million in campaign contributions from big corporations and special-interest groups.

Actually, Rice would probably be a provocative candidate with a more insightful and focused perspective on working people’s problems than Gov. Gray Davis.

If the same old broken record of class warfare is all that Democratic Party officials can muster against Rice, then she could be a formidable candidate against Davis in 2002.



Letters to the Editor – San Francisco Chronicle – May 7, 2001

News Coverage So Far: City of Vista Wins California Supreme Court Ruling – Charter Cities Can Set Their Own Policies Concerning Prevailing Wage

Updated as of September 14, 2012.

Articles: Traditional California Newspapers

State High Court Supports Charter Cities’ Exemptions from Prevailing Wage Law – Sacramento Bee – July 9, 2012

Vista Wins Prevailing-Wage Ruling – San Diego Union-Tribune – July 3, 2012

Court Ruling Lifts Union Wage Mandate for Charter Cities – Orange County Register – July 3, 2012

Court Lets Cities Set Wages on Public-Works Pacts – San Francisco Chronicle – July 2, 2012

VISTA: Supreme Court Says Some Cities Can Pay Less than Prevailing Wages – North County Times – July 3, 2012

Ruling Could Mean End of Prevailing Wages – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – ‎July 3, 2012

Court Lifts Prevailing Wage Mandate for Charter Cities, Redding Quiet on Charter City Efforts – Redding Record-Searchlight – July 7, 2012

Columnists: Traditional California Newspapers

Dan Walters: City-State Relations Take a Turn – Sacramento Bee (columnist) – July 9, 2012 (also published in other newspapers throughout the state, including the Fresno Bee)

Editorials: Traditional California Newspapers

State: Wage-Law Sanity – Riverside Press-Enterprise – July 19, 2012

Editorial: Will Cities Seize the Opportunity of Wage Ruling? – Sacramento Bee – July 11, 2012

EDITORIAL: A Big Win for Charter Cities – North County Times – July 3, 2012‎

Editorial: Union-Backed Lawmakers Seek to Thwart Pension Reform Votes (includes two paragraphs at end praising court decision) – Orange County Register – July 5, 2012 (also published as Our View: Lawmakers Thwart Pension Reform Votes – Marysville Appeal-Democrat – July 9, 2012 and Union-Controlled Lawmakers Resist Pension Reform Votes – Victorville Daily Press – July 10, 2012)

Moment of Truth for Local Democrats (includes a paragraph praising court decision) – San Diego Union-Tribune – July 5, 202

Articles: Traditional California Business Newspapers

State’s High Court Rules Charter Cities Don’t Have to Use Prevailing Wages – San Diego Daily Transcript – July 3, 2012

Articles: California Web Publications

State Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Charter City Authoritywww.PublicCEO.com – July 6, 2012

Court Backs Cities on Prevailing Wagewww.CalWatchdog.com – July 6, 2012

Stockton Skipped Chance to Save on Prevailing Wagewww.PublicSectorInc.com – July 11, 2012

Articles: National Traditional News Sources

Big California Cities Exempt From Prevailing-Pay Law  – Business Week magazine, from Bloomberg News – July 3, 2012

Dayton Public Policy Institute (your most complete source on this issue!)

Prediction: An Explosion of California Cities Freeing Themselves from Costly State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate Laws – Dayton Public Policy Institute – July 2, 2012

California Supreme Court Declares that the State’s 121 Charter Cities Have a Constitutional Right to Circumvent the Union-Controlled State Legislature and Establish Their Own Policies Concerning Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates for Taxpayer-Funded Construction (by Kevin Dayton) – www.unionwatch.org – July 3, 2012

Commentary: Vista Ruling Benefits Local Governments, Residents (by Kevin Dayton) – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – July 13, 2012

Viewpoints from Local Elected Officials and Candidates

Jerry Kern: Taxpayers Win with California Supreme Court Decision (by Oceanside City Councilman Jerry Kern) – www.sdrostra.com – July 3, 2012

Finally Victory for Local Control (by Escondido City Councilwoman Marie Waldron) www.sdrostra.com – July 2, 2012

Commentary: Candidate Is Wrong about Charter Cities (support of the city’s proposed charter with its prevailing wage exemption by Colin McCarthy, candidate for Costa Mesa City Council) – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – July 10, 2012

Articles: California Legal Publications and Blogs

California Supreme Court Holds That California Prevailing Wage Law Must Yield to Constitutional Provisions Protecting the Rights of Charter Cities to Local Autonomy in Developing and Managing Construction Projects – Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo (law firm of Robert Fried, who wrote the amicus brief for Associated Builders and Contractors of California) – July 2, 2012

Charter Cities Exempt From Prevailing Wage Law, S.C. Rules – Metropolitan News-Enterprise (a Los Angeles legal newspaper) – July 3, 2012

Calif. SC: Charter Cities Can Set Policies on Prevailing Wageswww.LegalNewsline.com – July 3, 2012

Over Sharp Dissents, State Justices OK Side-Step of Prevailing Wage Law – The Recorder (a San Francisco legal newspaper) – July 2, 2012

Calif. High Court’s Wage Ruling May Spur More Charter Citieswww.Law360.com (a LexisNexis company) – July 3, 2012

State Bldg. and Trades Council v. Vista: Supreme Court Holds that State’s Prevailing Wage Law Does Not Apply to Charter Cities – The California Employment Law Blog (by Steve Pearl) – July 2, 2012

California Supreme Court: Charter Cities Need Not Pay Prevailing Wages to Private Construction Workers on Locally Funded Municipal Public Works – www.Lexology.com – July 10, 2012

Prevailing Wage Update: Charter City Public Works Projects Are Not Subject to Prevailing Wage Requirements – Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP law firm  – July 9, 2012

California Charter Cities Do Not Have to Pay Prevailing Wages on Local Public Projects Involving Local Public FundsNixon Peabody LLP law firm – July 10, 2012

Charter Cities Are Exempt from Prevailing Wage LawsCalifornia Land Use & Development Law Report from the Perkins Coie LLP law firm – July 14, 2012

California Supreme Court Rules That State’s Prevailing Wage Law Is Not Quite So Prevailing: Charter Cities Need Not Require Prevailing Wages On Publicly Funded Municipal Construction ProjectsLittler Mendelson law firm – July 16, 2012

UPDATE: Charter City Not Required To Pay Prevailing Wage On Municipal Construction ProjectsKronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann & Girard law firm – July 18, 2012

California Supreme Court Restricts Application of Prevailing Wage Law in City of Vista Decision – Rogers Joseph O’Donnell law firm – July 2012

Charter Cities Can Exempt Themselves From Prevailing Wage Requirements For Locally Funded ProjectsAbbott & Kindermann Land Use Law Blog – August 6, 2012

Charter Cities Can Opt-Out of State Prevailing Wage Requirements on Locally-Funded ProjectsBest Best & Krieger law firm – July 5, 2012

Supreme Court Confirms Prevailing Wage Laws Are Not Mandatory For Charter CitiesRichards, Watson & Gershon law firm – July 2, 2012

California Supreme Court Rules that Prevailing Wage Laws Do Not Apply to Charter CitiesAllen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis LLP law firm – July 6, 2012

Prevailing Wage Laws: Are Cities Exempt?Ahlers & Cressman Construction Law Blog (Seattle, Washington) – September 7, 2012 (How will this decision have an effect on Washington’s prevailing wage statue? Do the same arguments apply to the Washington State Constitution?)

Ahlers & Cressman law firm

Opinion Pieces: Web

State Supreme Court Stands Up for Charter Cities, Taxpayerswww.FlashReport.org (by Jodi Nagel, chairwoman of Associated Builders and Contractors of California) – July 5, 2012

Labor Unions Suffer Defeat on Taxpayer Revoltwww.TownHall.com (by talk show host Gina Loudon) – July 3, 2012

CA Supreme Court Says Cities Can Determine Their Own Construction Wage – Right on SCV blog (by Kevin Korenthal) – July 3, 2012

California Supreme Court Affirms State Prevailing Wage Requirements Do Not Apply to Charter Cities – California Political News and Views blog (by Stephen Frank) – July 3, 2012

Opinion: Court Issues Charter Cities a Break on Prevailing Wage – Lake Tahoe News – July 13, 2012

Press Releases and Bulletins from California Organizations

California Supreme Court Affirms State Prevailing Wage Requirements Do Not Apply to Charter Cities – League of California Cities – July 2, 2012. Also, see the League of California Cities amicus brief submitted to the California Supreme Court in support of the City of Vista here.

California Supreme Court Rules in Favor of City of Vista – City of Vista Press Release – July 2, 2012

California Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Local Control for California Charter CitiesAssociated Builders and Contractors of California – July 3, 2012

Prevailing Wage Laws Do Not Apply to Charter CitiesHR Watchdog: California Labor Law UpdatesCalifornia Chamber of Commerce – July 5, 2012

Charter Cities are Exempt from the Prevailing Wage LawCalifornia Building Industry Association (BIA) – July 9, 2012

California Supreme Court Confirms the Right of California Charter Cities to Set Their Own Policies on Government-Mandated Prevailing Wage for Taxpayer-Funded Projects – MarketWatch (press release from Associated Builders and Contractors – California Cooperation Committee) – July 2, 2012

As Public Art Multiplies in California, Local Governments Bind Artists and Unions in Creative Symbiosis with Project Labor Agreements

Part 1: A Little Background on Recent Developments for Public Art in California

The Sacramento Bee reported today that a group called Americans for the Arts Public Art Network (PAN) has given special recognition in its 2012 Year in Review program to the red rabbit sculpture entitled “Leap” installed in the new Terminal B at Sacramento International Airport.

“Leap” (aka the Red Rabbit) – public art at Sacramento International Airport.

At its August 11, 2008 afternoon meeting, the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission selected Denver artist Lawrence Argent to provide the red rabbit on an 11-0 vote. A staff report for the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors meeting on October 28, 2008 indicated that Argent was one of three selected artists to each get “a total budget of $400,000 – $800,000” for completion of design, fabrication, and installation of public art for Phase 1 of the Airport Art Plan. The Sacramento Bee and other publications report that the red rabbit contract ended up costing $800,000, but I have not found the contract or a specific final number in official documents on the web. (Interested readers can probably obtain it with a Public Records Act request to the commission.)

Ordinances in the City of Sacramento and the County of Sacramento require those two governments in routine circumstances to provide two percent (2%) of their Capital Improvement Project construction funding to the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission for spending on public art. There are some minor variations between the city and the county laws (for example, the county sets minimum project cost thresholds for applying the requirement), but the laws are similar: see code text for both local governments here.

The county ordinance gives the Board of Supervisors authority to spend less than 2% of funds on specific projects, and according to this Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission memo, the supervisors did indeed approve “an amount less than the normal 2% called for by the County’s Ordinance for the airport art budget.” But it was still enough to pay for the red rabbit.

Obviously public art can invite trouble. Professional artists tend to make statements that challenge the standards and sensibilities of the establishment and ordinary citizens. For example, columnists Philip Matier and Andew Ross reported in the San Francisco Chronicle that the $196,000 “Berkeley’s Big People” public sculpture by artist Scott Donahue approved by the Berkeley Civic Arts Commission in 2003 and installed in Berkeley in the fall of 2008 includes small but frank depictions of what dogs do at the dog park. These statues are impossible to miss while driving through Berkeley on I-80, but studying the medallions in question (circled in yellow below) requires a close look.










In addition to the controversy often inherent in art, taxpayers are understandably concerned whether or not public funding should be spent on art at public facilities at a time when money is tight for routine services. The Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission claims that taxpayer funds are not paying for the $6 million in airport art, as if the money just popped up out of nowhere: “The total terminal construction budget, including the art, is funded through bonds, grants, fees from airlines, an existing surcharge on passenger tickets, concessions, parking and rental cars. This money cannot be used for any other public expense because of Federal law mandating that money earmarked for airports can only be used for airports. Funds did not come from taxpayer dollars.” Well, ordinary people are still paying for it.

With two potentially compelling arguments against public art, artists and other people who make a living from public art have established their own trade association. (Everyone is a special interest nowadays.) According to its web site, “PAN is the only professional network in the United States dedicated to the field of public art. As a program of Americans for the Arts, PAN strengthens efforts to advocate for policies and best practices that serve communities creating public art. More than 350 public art programs exist in the United States at the federal, state, and local level…” (I’m guessing a disproportionate percentage of these 350 programs are based in California.)

So when the new Sacramento airport terminal opened in the fall of 2011 and travelers saw the giant aluminum red rabbit hanging from the ceiling, reactions were mixed, as you can read among the hundreds of comments posted on various news articles and blogs about the sculpture. My kids were delighted by it, along with some other people, and a restaurant in midtown Sacramento even named itself the Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar. But many people were uneasy, confused, or aghast about the sculpture and its price. The sculpture provoked intense critical community dialogue on the meaning and value of art, so maybe it was worth the $800,000.

Now, with all this free money floating around California for public art, it doesn’t require a genius to predict that unions have a scheme to use the government to grab some of it.

Part 2: How the Unions Get a Piece of the Public Art Pie

Neither the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors nor the construction manager required contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions for construction of Terminal B at Sacramento International Airport. But if these entities had negotiated a Project Labor Agreement with a public art provision, it would have been interesting to see how Mr. Argent would have reacted to a government mandate to sign a union agreement and abide by the applicable collective bargaining agreements to transport, assemble, and hang the red rabbit. Perhaps he used union contractors and workers, but maybe he didn’t. He had a choice, however.

As far as I can tell, terms and conditions of public art in government-mandated Project Labor Agreements in California first appeared in the 2007 union deal for the Richmond Civic Center project. It simply indicated in Section 2.8(h) that “All artisan work covered by the City of Richmond Public Art Program, dated April 13, 1999” was exempt from the union agreement.

But union officials or union attorneys eventually realized that artists need workers in the trades to help install the art. Making sure no artist could bring in his or her friends to help install the art, the Project Labor Agreement now in effect for the $4 billion Transbay Transit Center projects in San Francisco contains the following language:

Section 7.6  All hiring for Project Work related to public art not excluded pursuant to Section 4.9 (m) of this Agreement shall be subject to the following limitations:

(a)  The artist/contractor shall be allowed two (2) core employees. Thereafter, if the artist/contractor has additional core employees, the Union shall refer to such artist/contractor one (1) journeyperson employee from the hiring hall out-of-work list for the affected trade or craft and will then refer one (1) of such artist/contractor’s core employees as a journeyperson. This process shall be repeated, one and one, until the artist/contractor’s crew requirements are met or such artist/contractor’s core workforce is exhausted.

(b)  Core employees shall not be subject to the requirement that the employee’s name appear on the artist/contractor’s active payroll for at least five hundred (500) hours in the calendar year immediately prior to the award of the Contract.

(c)  The artist/contractor shall be entitled to approve or disapprove Union referred employees in their sole discretion based upon the referred employees’ demonstrated skills and qualifications.

But the unions kindly exclude “inspection of aesthetic and functional features of the Art Program” from union control in Section 4.9(k) of the Project Labor Agreement and exempt “all work related to public art, provided, however, to the extent installation work falls within the scope of a Schedule A agreement, it shall be subject to Section 7.6 of this Agreement.”

Unions apparently want their trial Project Labor Agreement policy in the City of Berkeley to explicitly cover aspects of public art installation (it does not do so now), as shown in this excerpt from a May 15, 2012 staff report to the Berkeley City Council:

Public Art

One area of uncertainty during the first year of implementation has been Public Art. Because the CWA applies to all subcontractors, Public Art projects are subject to its requirements. Staff researched Project Labor Agreements in other cities, and none contain provisions for Public Art, so there was no established model to consider regarding handling Public Art projects. Staff reviewed requirements with bidding artists, and while all the artists agreed with the CWA in concept, it was very difficult for them to comply since their work is very specialized. Having workers unknown to the artist assist with installation of the functional art could result in damage to the artwork. The artists do work with the contractors and architects before and during the art installation.

The Public Art component of the CWA also requires significant staff time to respond to artist queries, troubleshoot potential problems, assess which trade would be applicable to the artist’s work and to participate in artist presentations during the artist selection process. The Joint Administrative Committee agrees to review Public Art on a case-by -case basis to assist in determining the applicability of the CWA to each Public Art project.

It would be interesting to find out which trade union would have claimed jurisdiction over attaching the dog bronze medallions onto the Berkeley’s Big People sculpture (discussed above). Is that work claimed by the Laborers, the Sheet Metal Workers, or the Iron Workers? Someone needs to get a prevailing wage coverage determination from the California Department of Industrial Relations, so there aren’t needless delays when arbitrators designated under Project Labor Agreements that cover public art are unable to resolve future disputes on such matters.

Public art cannot be delayed by work stoppages and slowdowns!

Which California Cities Will Be the First Wave to Ban Soda Sales? Predictions from the Dayton Public Policy Institute.

Regarding taxes, I agree with the five “Principles of Sound Tax Policy” advanced by the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation. One of its five principles is Neutrality, which includes these statements: “The primary purpose of taxes is to raise needed revenue, not to micromanage the economy,” and “The tax system should not favor certain industries, activities, or products.”

Perhaps the Tax Foundation should add “favor or disfavor certain industries,” as politicians and special interest groups turn to SIN TAXES as an increasingly popular way to raise revenue. In California, Proposition 29 – a new tax on cigarettes, allegedly to raise money for cancer research – was on the June 5, 2012 ballot. According to the numbers posted as of today on the Secretary of State’s web site, Prop 29 is losing by only 17,534 votes out of 4,902,114 counted.

Taxe increases on alcohol and cigarettes have a long history, but a recent development is soda taxes. And in the crusade against sugary drinks, California is falling behind New York City and Cambridge, Massachusetts in the progressive vanguard.

While liberals in California are still fumbling with the strategy to use the government to change people’s soda-drinking habits, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Board of Health and Mental Hygiene have proposed to the city’s Board of Health that it institute a new code section setting maximum beverage sizes (with a $200 fine per violation) for “food service establishments.” This evening, the Cambridge City Council (in Massachusetts) approved a resolution to study a ban on sodas and sugary beverages from being served in city restaurants.

Not that California has been immune from this New Prohibition movement. In 2003, Governor Gray Davis signed Senate Bill 677 banning soda sales in elementary and middle schools, and in 2005 Governor Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 965 banning soda sales in high schools. Democrats voted YES on these bills and Republicans voted NO.

In 2011, Assemblyman Bill Monning (D-Santa Cruz) introduced Assembly Bill 669, which would have imposed a one-cent tax per fluid ounce on every distributor for “the privilege” of distributing in California bottled sweetened beverages, concentrate, or drinks derived from that concentrate. According to the legislative analysis for AB 669, “this act is intended to discourage excessive consumption of sweetened beverages by increasing the price of these products…” The taxes and penalties (estimated at $1.66 billion for fiscal year 2012-13 and $1.72 billion for fiscal year 2013-14) would have gone to a newly-created Children’s Health Promotion Fund, meant to fund programs targeted at reducing childhood obesity.

The bill died without being voted on in committee, and it would have required a 2/3 vote in the Assembly and Senate to be approved. (Democrats hope to get 2/3 control of both houses of the legislature in the November 2012 election.) According to the legislative analysis for AB 669, three other bills have been introduced in the California legislature to tax soda – one back in the 2001-02 session and two recently in the 2009-10 session.

At California local governments, the Richmond City Council (in the San Francisco Bay Area) voted 5-2 at its May 15, 2012 meeting for a resolution to place two measures on the November 6, 2012 ballot, the first to impose a business license fee of one cent per ounce of sugar-sweetened beverage served, provided, or traded by businesses within the City of Richmond, and the second to provide advice to the city council on whether or not the taxes and penalties should be used to fund programs to prevent child obesity.

The San Francisco Chronicle claimed in an article on May 18 that Richmond would become the first municipality in the country to tax soda, if voters approve the ballot measure. It reported that soda taxes have been proposed in San Francisco and San Pablo.

MY PREDICTIONS!!!! Which California cities may soon consider adopting a soda tax or even banning food service establishments from selling sodas?

Off the top of my head, I picked a few larger causes and movements for which some cities in California have recently taken a stand.

First, any cities on the list of cities that have living wage policies, as compiled by the UC Berkeley Labor Center (affiliated with the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program):

  1. Albany
  2. Berkeley
  3. Davis
  4. Emeryville
  5. Hayward
  6. Fairfax
  7. Irvine (I don’t believe a soda ban would pass here.)
  8. Los Angeles
  9. Oakland
  10.   Pasadena
  11.   Petaluma
  12.   Port Hueneme
  13.   Richmond
  14.   Sacramento
  15.   Santa Barbara
  16.   Santa Cruz
  17.   Santa Monica
  18.   San Diego
  19.   San Fernando
  20.   San Francisco
  21.   San Jose
  22.   San Leandro
  23.   Sebastopol
  24.   Sonoma
  25.   Ventura
  26.   Watsonville
  27.   West Hollywood

(Speaking of labor issues, I wanted to identify the cities that passed resolutions in the late 2000s in support of the federal Employee Free Choice Act [card check unionization], but it looks like that campaign fizzled out before it gained a lot of momentum, and the records appear to have disappeared from the web. I did identify Los Angeles, Pacifica, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Ana, Santa Rosa, and South San Francisco as some of the California cities that passed resolutions in support of card check.)

Second, cities that officially signed onto the “Cities for Peace” movement sponsored by the Institute for Policy Studies:

  1. Arcata
  2. Berkeley
  3. Coachella
  4. Davis
  5. Los Angeles
  6. Oakland
  7. Richmond
  8. Sacramento
  9. San Francisco
  10.   Santa Barbara
  11.   Santa Cruz
  12.   Sebastopol

(I was not able to find a complete formal list on the web of California cities that opposed the war in Iraq, although I found this list that includes the usual suspects.)

Third, cities that were party to the lawsuit or filed an amicus brief to support the lawsuit to overturn Proposition 8 (ban on same sex marriage):

  1. Berkeley
  2. Cloverdale (I don’t believe a soda ban would pass here.)
  3. Fairfax
  4. Long Beach
  5. Los Angeles
  6. Oakland
  7. Palm Springs
  8. San Diego
  9. San Francisco
  10.   San Jose
  11.   Santa Cruz
  12.   Santa Monica
  13.   Santa Rosa
  14.   Sebastopol
  15.   Signal Hill

Notice that some cities appear twice or even three times on these lists. Surely these cities will not pass on the crusade against soda.