This is a Stick-up!

0 September 2, 2010  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

There is an interesting story on Fox & Hounds Daily (California politics and business blog) about big Labor and their allies push for costly project labor agreements (PLAs) even on privately funded projects built to benefit society – like museums.

Here are the highlights with our emphasis added (L.A. to Eli Broad: ‘Stick ’em Up’, 9/2/10):

It’s sickening to see the way Eli Broad is being mugged by Los Angeles.

Here’s a statesman who’s trying to make a gift to the city, and one that’s exceedingly generous. So you’d think the so-called leaders of Los Angeles County and the city would have the decency to say thank you.

Instead, they’re leveling the blued-steel barrel of government power at him and saying, “Stick ’em up.”

Broad is being forced to march through L.A.’s band of brigands, paying a little extra here, a few million more there, and it’s stomach-churning to watch.

Broad’s gift, of course, is a downtown L.A. museum – that he would pay $100 million to build – that would display terrific art, which he would supply. And he’ll even endow it with $200 million to pay for its future operations. Got that? Broad’s gift would be akin to creating a city or county museum – an outstanding one – except he’s paying for all of it; taxpayers are getting a gift.

Well, Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich didn’t see that. He saw a chance for a shakedown. There’s no reason for local governments to give Broad a $1-a-year lease for the land that Broad wants to build on, he said, asking, Why should we do a favor for some rich guy?

Well, here’s why: Broad wasn’t asking for a favor. He was requesting the same kind of consideration that cultural institutions from sea to shining sea have always received because cities and counties benefit tremendously from such museums. A dollar-a-year deal was given to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena and the Museum of Contemporary Art on Grand Avenue downtown (which is across the street from Broad’s proposed museum).


But the holdup of Broad didn’t end there. The cutpurses down at the Community Redevelopment Agency told Broad he needs a big garage for his museum. Actually, the museum only needs 100 or so parking spaces, and it could lease those from nearby buildings, so, no, it doesn’t need a big garage at all. The CRA said Broad didn’t hear correctly. He needs a big garage.

So, without complaining, Broad agreed to loan the CRA $15 million to help pay for a 300-space garage under the museum. And Broad’s museum will lease parking spaces from the CRA. Money that the CRA can use to help repay the loan. Neat, huh?

But the CRA wasn’t done with Broad. At a recent meeting, the CRA required the museum be built under a Project Labor Agreement, which means it must be constructed with union labor.

Now, Broad would have done that anyway, but it provided Madeline Janis, who chaired the meeting for the CRA, a chance to let her union buddies take the stage and testify how they’d support the museum – so long as there was a PLA. (Does anyone else see an itty-bitty conflict in allowing Janis, who founded and oversees a union labor organization, to chair meetings in which the CRA becomes an unalloyed union-boosting agency?)

As they say, no good deed goes unpunished.

Visit our earlier posts for more information on the effort to ensure that public construction contracts are awarded based on open competition and value for taxpayers, and not special interest handouts to Big Labor.

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