The Riverside Press-Enterprise newspaper published an editorial (“3 for RCC,” 9/21/10) endorsing three candidates (two incumbents and a candidate running for an open seat) for the board of trustees of the Riverside Community College District, which serves residents of Riverside County, California. The editorial explicitly connected its endorsements to the “fiscal sobriety” of these three candidates, including their opposition to the project labor agreement (PLA) approved by the college board of trustees in a contentious 3-2 vote on March 16, 2010.
Blumenthal, Green and Davidson are voters’ best choice for careful management of district finances — the central issue of this election. A majority of the board this year muscled through a special-interest deal governing bond-funded construction, with little discussion or scrutiny. The agreement tilted construction toward labor unions, bloating projects’ cost and wasting public money to curry favor with a special interest.
Green and Blumenthal vigorously fought this deal. Davidson also opposes such agreements, saying that as a supporter of the bond he felt burned by the agreement. Proper fiscal oversight is crucial for a district facing the unpredictability of state budgeting and pursuing large construction projects. Voters have no reason to entrust that job to people who see nothing wrong with recklessly spending public funds to serve a special interest.
More than 150 jubilant union members celebrated on March 16 after the board of trustees for the Riverside Community College District narrowly voted 3-2 to require contractors to sign a PLA for remaining projects of $1 million or more funded by Measure C, a $350 bond measure approved by 61% of voters in March 2004. The San Bernardino and Riverside County Building and Construction Trades Council faced off against more than 150 non-union workers, contractors, and representatives of construction trade associations in a three-hour verbal battle with more than 60 speakers – about half in support of the PLA and half against it. The unions even brought students and several pseudo-intellectual professors to speak in support of the PLA.
The ABC Southern California Chapter and its numerous business allies spent three months fighting the PLA after the board of trustees voted 3-2 to negotiate it on December 15, 2009. Despite mailers, a phone call campaign, editorials from the Riverside Press-Enterprise, numerous public comments at successive board meetings against the PLA, high-profile resignations from the college foundation, and opposition from the Riverside Chamber of Commerce, the three supporters of the PLA on the board never wavered in their quest to “curry favor with a special interest group.”
An effort by local business groups to have the college develop a “fair PLA” utterly failed, and some of the provisions acclaimed on March 16 by the chancellor as improving the PLA from its original form actually made the PLA worse for contractors. To add injury to insult of the taxpayers, the college district than hired an “administrator” for the project labor agreement for a cost not to exceed $1.6 million.
Considering polls showing almost 90 percent of voters opposed to the concept of project labor agreements on taxpayer-funded construction, this editorial will help Riverside County voters to see a clear distinction between candidates for the Riverside Community College District board of trustees who support fiscal responsibly and candidates who intend to coast on union political machines to achieve personal ambitions for public office. The best way to fight PLAs is to make elected officials accountable to the voters when they cut competition and increase costs for the benefit of a special interest group.