CURRENT NEWS

Residents, including disadvantaged and veteran workers, soon will have an easier time being recruited to work on public construction projects in the city.

The City Council on Tuesday voted 6-2 to have the city manager start negotiating a project labor agreement with the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building And Construction Trades Council and other trade groups. City Councilman Dee Andrews was absent.

This type of agreement requires contractors for city construction projects to follow labor rules set by the city.

Residents, including disadvantaged and veteran workers, soon will have an easier time being recruited to work on public construction projects in the city.

The City Council on Tuesday voted 6-2 to have the city manager start negotiating a project labor agreement with the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building And Construction Trades Council and other trade groups. City Councilman Dee Andrews was absent.

This type of agreement requires contractors for city construction projects to follow labor rules set by the city.

 

Although we’ve been pretty much as outspoken as one can be – given this supposedly is not our passion – we haven’t been outspoken enough. In spite of the fact we believe in the ideals of unions, and their courageous legacy, we have criticized the pernicious influence of public sector unions over and over again, most recently earlier today in a piece entitled “CEQA is Hijacked” where we reported on a recent Sacramento Bee editorial taking the unusual step of exposing how unions use environmental laws to stop development of environmentally beneficial projects.

When the CEO of the area's Building and Construction Trades Council stood before the San Jose City Council last week to explain his challenge to a new downtown high-rise based on environmental law, he didn't even bother pretending that the project might foul the water or air. No, the first point Neil Struthers made was about the developer's choice of workers.

"Bringing in subcontractors who bring in lesser-skilled, lower-paid workers from Sacramento hurts all workers in the construction industry," Struthers said before launching into some flimsy environmental and procedural criticisms.

There's a thriving perennial in the garden of last-minute legislation: the special CEQA exemption for sports venues.

Los Angeles twice secured special treatment for proposed NFL stadiums. The 49ers got an exemption for their new stadium in Santa Clara. This year's request comes from Sacramento, which is planning a new arena for its NBA team.

Those bills, and others like them, show that CEQA is ripe for reform. Rather than carving out special exemptions, lawmakers ought to craft a statewide solution.

CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act, requires assessments of potential environmental impacts for public and private projects and, wherever possible, mitigation of those impacts. The law, enacted in 1970, serves a noble purpose. But it's routinely abused.

Monday, 15 December 2014 14:18

Coercive State Laws Create City Crisis

As a result of union power plays executed by the state Legislature, the city of San Diego now faces a dire threat to its finances and its future.

The crisis’ origins came in 2011, when San Diego politicians and business interests were gearing up for a ballot measure that would ban the city from requiring the use of union-friendly project labor agreements (PLAs) on city construction projects.

There is nothing unusual about California cities imposing such restrictions. It’s part of the long fight in the Golden State between those whose first priority is to try to keep government costs down and those who believe government should be manipulated to benefit powerful special interests.

But the Legislature’s response was extraordinary. First it passed SB 922, which banned state funds from being used on city projects that were to be built under city PLA restrictions. Then it passed SB 829, which banned cities with any PLA limits from getting any state construction funds.

Both bans extended to charter cities, which under the California Constitution have supreme authority over “municipal affairs.” That means that in some key areas of governance, charter city laws trump state laws — unless a court holds the state has a “paramount” interest in holding all cities to a statewide standard.

San Diego voters rejected this bullying and overwhelmingly backed the PLA restrictions in 2012. They were reassured by a provision in Proposition A that held the restrictions would be dropped if they resulted in a loss of state or federal funds.

But will the administration of Gov. Jerry Brown allow this provision to shield San Diego? Will it adopt a reasonable interpretation of the California Constitution’s language on charter cities?

Or will it accept SB 829 as definitive?

It’s not yet clear — and if Brown sides with unions, beginning in January, the city will face a series of painful hits, in particular the likely loss of $350 million to $400 million in state loans that are needed as part of an elaborate compromise to fund a comprehensive upgrade of the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Thankfully, local politicians understand the stakes and are working across party lines to help avoid a shutdown of state funds for city projects. On Wednesday, Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said they were working with Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, to head off disaster. On Friday, Atkins said she was “confident” a solution will be found.

Yet there is no guarantee that state courts will be satisfied with this solution — or the governor. Brown signed SB 922 and SB 829, after all.

We’ll see. But we do not believe that the state Constitution’s goal of giving significant autonomy to charter cities is served by these coercive laws.

San Diego Union Tribune

For 10 years, Chief Executive magazine has conducted an annual survey of the nation’s CEOs, and every time California has been rated the state most hostile to business. The collapse of a plan to bring hundreds of well-paying jobs to economically depressed Palmdale in northern Los Angeles County shows why.

As reported here, the Long Beach City Council recently and unanimously approved a recommendation from Council members Lena Gonzalez, Robert Uranga, and Al Austin to “direct (the) City Manager to negotiate a Citywide Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, and specified Craft Councils and Local Participants.”

Our readers may review the specific Council Item, as well as the support documentation provided, by clicking here and I encourage them to do so.

You don't expect to be captivated by a discussion about a labor agreement for a wastewater treatment project. But when you toss in a $42 million budget, with dozens of construction jobs on the line, the entertainment value is heightened.

That was the setting at last week's Pinole City Council meeting, where a crowd packed with union tradespeople -- carpenters, electricians, ironworkers and others -- filled the 126-seat council chamber.

Apparently the $7.1 billion Proposition 1 water bond is going to win easily on November 4. Politicians already feel comfortable about using the money as leverage to help their political allies.

One California state legislator is already telling local elected officials in his district that they must favor unions in bidding for contracts on a water project. If they don’t follow the directive, Governor Brown won’t give them the $12.5 million (or even $15 million) allegedly reserved for them in Prop 1.

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