Tag Archive for Tomi Van De Brooke

Exclusive: Local Government Election Results in California Highly Relevant to Labor Issues

California’s primary election night was overshadowed by the support from Wisconsin voters for state elected officials who implemented a modest reform of collective bargaining for public employees. But here is an exclusive report on how the June 5, 2012 election also brought good results for advocates of fiscal responsibility and economic and personal freedom in California.

Some might say that voters are being hoodwinked by FOX News, conservative talk radio, and the Dayton Public Policy Institute. To me, it’s clear that a majority of Californians do not see tax increases, more government spending, and expanded government programs as the solution to the state’s economic struggles.


Similar to what’s taking place in numerous states throughout the country, voters in the San Diego region are actively responding to a challenging economy by calling for smaller and more efficient government. I will elaborate in a future post about the ten years of behind-the-scenes tedious work that led to this development in San Diego County, but for now I’ll outline the good news.

I’ve already posted on the easy 58% victory in the City of San Diego for Proposition A, which enacts a Fair and Open Competition ordinance prohibiting the city from requiring construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement to work on taxpayer-funded construction. I also reported already on the 57% victory in the City of El Cajon for Proposition D, a new charter that includes a Fair and Open Competition provision and also gives the city authority to establish its own government-mandated construction wage rates (prevailing wages) for city projects. (Boy, unions hate it when local governments take power away from the state!)

There will be a heated campaign up to November 5 for San Diego Mayor. Advocate of economic freedom (and San Diego City Councilman) Carl DeMaio will face leftist Congressman Bob Filner. This election will feature a passionate debate over the benefits of capitalism versus socialism! If DeMaio is elected as Mayor, there will be a dramatic change in political culture in the City of San Diego. I will write more about DeMaio in a future post.

(See Filner’s letter here telling the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce to oppose Proposition G in part because it would be a “fool’s errand” to seek federal funding for the city if Proposition G passed. It did pass, and somehow the federal money continues to be piped in, as shown by evidence of continued federal grants to the city’s Capital Improvement Program here.)

Also, Councilman DeMaio’s Proposition B to reform public employee pensions in the City of San Diego won with 66% of the vote. And this was not the only successful urban public employee pension reform measure to win voter approval in California on June 5: Mayor Chuck Reed’s Measure B to reform public employee pensions in the City of San Jose (a much more liberal city than San Diego) passed with 70% of the vote. Apparently Californians are a lot like people in Wisconsin: they understand that future economic growth and job creation cannot be anchored on excessive government payouts obtained by public employee unions through politically-manipulated collective bargaining.

Also in the City of San Diego, Scott Sherman won a city council seat. He supports economic freedom and fiscal responsibility. Ray Ellis – also an advocate of economic freedom – will face Sherri Lightner in November for another city council seat.


Even in much more liberal Northern California, there was good news beyond the win for public employee pension reform in the City of San Jose.

In Placer County, construction unions flushed $30,000 down the toilet in funding 92% of the campaign of Pam Tobin, who challenged incumbent Kirk Uhler for a seat on the Placer County Board of Supervisors but lost, 60% to 40%. I was at the Uhler election night victory party in Granite Bay and was pleased to see the result. See my exclusive investigative report revealing and analyzing the union sources of Tobin’s campaign contributions here.

But Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery won re-election. She voted in 2010 against the currently-in-effect Fair and Open Competition policy banning Project Labor Agreements on county construction projects.

Elsewhere in Placer County, 65% voters in the City of Auburn rejected Measure A, a proposed charter that would have given authority to the city to establish its own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (prevailing wages) on city projects.

In an earlier post I compared the City of Auburn’s charter campaign to the charter campaign of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes (in Los Angeles County) in 2011. In both cases, large and politically sophisticated construction unions used their well-funded labor-management cooperation committees, political action committees, and general budgets to steamroll over a home-grown local grassroots movement.

ADVICE to CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS and CITY STAFF seeking a CHARTER: contact Labor Issues Solutions, LLC for a free consultation and some honest assessments of what it takes to win against aggressive self-interested union opposition. You’re fighting a political machine, as city council members and community activists have recently learned through experience in Rancho Palos Verdes, Auburn, Redding, Paradise, South Lake Tahoe, Folsom, and Elk Grove. You CAN win like Oceanside did in 2010 and El Cajon just did on June 5, 2012 (see below).

There was a gratifying victory in Contra Costa County, where Danville Mayor Candace Andersen won 60% of the vote and easily defeated Contra Costa Community College District Governing Board member Tomi Van De Brooke for the open seat held by the late Supervisor Gayle Uilkema. Van De Brooke only received 28% despite receiving the “benefit” of nasty union-funded mailers about abortion sent to district voters. This is yet another case in which Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) in California made a politician accountable to the voters for supporting costly union-backed policies in order to lock up union campaign support. Regrettably, the Project Labor Agreement imposed by Van De Brooke in December 2011 for community college district construction projects will remain as a legacy of this election.

In Sonoma County, there will be a clash between two ideologically opposite members of the Santa Rosa City Council for an open seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. The candidate for economic freedom, John Sawyer, will face off against pro-union candidate Susan Gorin.

In Solano County, pro-union challenger Skip Thomson defeated Mike Reagan, the one solid advocate for economic freedom on the Solano County Board of Supervisors. Reagan barely held onto the seat against Thomson four years ago. The Project Labor Agreement policy for Solano County construction projects will continue, now without an opposing view on the board.

In Yolo County, incumbent Duane Chamberlain survived a challenge from union-backed Woodland Mayor Art Pimentel for a seat on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.

Voters rejected Measure J, a $59.5 million school bond measure to modernize a high school in the City of Antioch. That was a whopping target for a Project Labor Agreement, as shown by the construction union funding of the campaign to support Measure J.

Disappointing results were seen in the elections for Sacramento City Council, where candidates backed by business groups lost, as usual. The Sacramento City Council continues to be dominated by politicians lukewarm toward economic growth. I believe this results in part from voter distrust of candidates funded by housing tract developers, and NOT because voters love unions. In fact, I think union connections would be a liability for incumbents if campaigns chose to focus on them aggressively.


Voters in the City of Yreka (near the Oregon border on I-5) voted 720-650 to approve possession of up to six backyard hens (no roosters) in residential areas of the city. As Yreka City Councilman Bryan Foster said to KDRV News Channel 12 (ABC) in Medford, Oregon: “The chicken issue, for me, it centers around private property rights and really, government interference.” Isn’t it refreshing to hear that kind of statement from a California elected official, even when it’s broadcast from an Oregon TV station? See my earlier post on this hotly-contested issue here.

Dueling Campaign Mailers for Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors Election: Positions on Project Labor Agreements Distinguish the Two Candidates

In the San Francisco Bay Area, two candidates are running in a highly competitive race for the 2nd District open seat on the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors. Candace Andersen – the mayor of the Town of Danville – is running against Tomi Van De Brooke – a member of the Governing Board of the Contra Costa Community College District.

In most contested races for Contra Costa County board supervisor, labor issues present a clear distinction between the two candidates. This race is no exception.

The two politically experienced female candidates are similar enough in views related to important county issues that unions have strategically decided to make abortion a key issue in their mailers. (See Wedge Social Issues Take Center Stage in Contra Costa Supervisor Campaign – Contra Costa Times – May 31, 2012.) In this very affluent Bay Area district, voters are relatively liberal on social issues, but union positions are unpopular.

Yet construction labor issues may be what establishes the most significant policy distinction between the two candidates.

Andersen, a Republican, opposes the county’s policy (enacted in 2002 but not implemented, and then re-enacted in 2003) of requiring construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with unions for taxpayer-funded construction projects worth $1 million or more.

Tomi Van De Brooke was once a Republican and also worked from 2007 to 2011 as chief of staff for Republican Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho, but realized – like so many other local politicians in the Bay Area – that a candidate usually needs the support structure of the dominant Democrat Party machine and the local labor unions to successfully pursue political ambition. In addition, she worked from 2004 to 2007 as the Bay Area Government Affairs Director for the California Alliance for Jobs, a labor-management cooperation committee.

As a Democrat, she voted on December 14, 2011 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions to work on projects of $2 million or more funded by Measure A at the Contra Costa County Community College District. That locked up support from the Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council and earned the enmity of the Golden Gate Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC).

Here’s what the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California reported about that vote:

December 15, 2011 – Despite a concerted and prolonged attack of falsehoods from ABC and other extreme right groups, the Contra Costa Community College District approved a five-year agreement with the Contra Costa Building Trades Council this week for all construction projects valued above $2 million for the next five years. The vote came after months of delays brought on by ABC challenges to board members’ voting eligibility.

Contra Costa BTC Executive Officer Greg Feere commended board members John Marquez, Sheila Grilli, and Tomi Van de Brooke for refusing to fold under the ABC attacks…

This vote created a clear difference between the two candidates. Here’s a candidate comparison mailer from Associated Builders and Contractors:

Andersen Versus Van de Brooke – PLAs are Bad

Here’s the countering candidate comparison mailer from unions:

Andersen Versus Van De Brooke – PLAs are Good

The county’s PLA policy had been approved (and reapproved) 4-1, with Republican supervisor Gayle Uilkema (from the 2nd District) opposing it. After Republican Mary Nejedly Piepho defeated Democrat Millie Greenberg (appointed by Governor Gray Davis) for the 3rd District seat in 2004, union officials were worried that a third supervisor would be elected who would provide a 3-2 majority on the board to repeal the PLA policy or increase the project cost threshold from $1 million to $20 million. During the next three elections, unions managed to fend off repeated efforts to elect fiscally conservative candidates to two other seats (in the 4th and 5th Districts).

Now, redistricting has occurred. Supervisor Piepho is running unopposed in the 3rd District, and Supervisor Uilkema died on May 19, 2012. (She was planning to retire from the 2nd District seat she held since 1996, and Andersen and Van De Brooke had been running to replace her.) Unions will continue to push hard to keep their Project Labor Agreement trophy in Contra Costa County, and the June 5 election for the 2nd District Board of Supervisors seat is key in their strategy.