Taxpayers Lose Twice: 54-46 and 52-48

0 October 3, 2011  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

It’s rare to see elected officials repeal a bad decision. It’s usually easier to let taxpayers pay for the mistake.

But taxpayers had a second chance on September 12 when the Sacramento Regional Transit (RT) District Board of Directors debated the repeal or amendment of a 2009 resolution requiring construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with unions to build a $270 million planned extension of the South Sacramento Corridor light rail line.

The RT board consists of three Sacramento County supervisors, four Sacramento City Council members, and one city council member from Rancho Cordova, Folsom, Citrus Heights, and Elk Grove. RT board members are appointed by their respective local elected boards.

To vote on RT business, the board uses an unusual weighted voting system established by a state law enacted in 2006. The power of each board vote is based on a formula that includes the percentage of funding that the local government contributes to RT. All votes total to 100, even with absences, as long as there is a quorum.

On December 14, 2009, with the support of union lobbyists, the RT board narrowly voted 54 to 46 to negotiate and implement a PLA with the Sacramento-Sierra Building and Construction Trades Council for the South Line extension.

RT staff subsequently developed a draft PLA that is a bonanza for the unions. It requires contractors to obtain workers from the union hiring halls and pay workers’ fringe benefits exclusively into union programs. Workers must pay union dues and fees if they want a job.

But in the meantime, the RT board changed because of new appointments from the local governments. In addition, some RT board members read the draft PLA (exposed through a public records request) and realized taxpayers would not be getting the best quality construction at the best price. RT staff were even advertising for a consultant (cost not to exceed $50,000) to help them negotiate with stubborn union officials.

So on September 12, the RT board considered rescinding or amending the original PLA resolution. After some exciting and passionate public comments and debate among the RT board members, Elk Grove Councilman Pat Hume proposed amending the original resolution to require fair terms in the PLA and to direct staff to bring the negotiated PLA back to the board for a final vote.

The vote was going to be razor-close between the fair and open competition faction and the union-at-all-costs faction. The board and audience stared at the screen as the computer began calculating the weighted votes.

The motion lost, 52-48. Despite the fact that the board majority voted in support of the motion, Big Labor will keep control of $270 million in taxpayer-funded construction.

In the meantime, local business owners are 75% toward their goal of collecting enough signatures to comfortably qualify Fair and Open Competition measures for the City of Sacramento and County of Sacramento on a future ballot. These would prohibit the city, the county, and its affiliates from forcing contractors to sign PLAs with unions.

If there was any doubt these measures are needed, consider the 52-48 vote of the RT board on September 12.

No local news media in the Sacramento area reported on this vote. To ensure that elected officials are accountable to voters, presents the vote record for the PLA. (A YES vote means make the PLA fair; a NO vote means keep the PLA as the unions want it.)

1. Angelique Ashby, Sacramento City Council Member – Absent
2. Steve Cohn, Sacramento City Council – No
3. Darrell Fong, Sacramento City Council – No
4. Pat Hume, Elk Grove City Council – Yes
5. Roberta MacGlashan, Sacramento County Board of Supervisors – Yes
6. Steve Miller, Citrus Heights City Council – Yes
7. Andy Morin, Folsom City Council – Yes
8. Don Nottoli – Sacramento County Board of Supervisors – Yes
9. Bonnie Pannell, Sacramento City Council – No
10. David Sander, Rancho Cordova City Council – Yes
11. Phil Serna, Sacramento County Board of Supervisors – No

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