Index
Thursday
Dec192013

SACRAMENTO: San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, proposed pension reform ballot, recommended opposition tactics to defeat measure: "Pollster gives unions roadmap to fight California pension proposal"....

***Following up on earlier item noted here (poll, Mayor Chuck Reed, proposed statewide pension reform ballot measure)....

* Sacramento Bee (The State Worker):  "Pollster gives unions roadmap to fight California pension proposal" - From the Bee:

A new memo from a Washington polling firm lays out tactics for labor unions to fight against a proposed public pension ballot measure that could go to California voters next year. Leaning on findings of its recent survey of voters, Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group suggests, for example, that the unions play up San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s measure as “eliminating” public employee pensions.

“Note that ‘eliminating’ fosters a visceral negative response from voters. Over 50 percent are VERY unfavorable to ‘Eliminating Police, Firefighters, and Other Public Employees’ Vested Pension Benefits’ (54% VERY unfavorable) AND “Eliminating Public Employees’ Vested Benefits” (51% VERY unfavorable),” the Garin memo says. “In short, ‘eliminating’ appears to nearly usurp the advantage that naming specific workers brings to the debate.”

“That is consistent with their messages so far,” Reed said. His measure doesn’t eliminate pension benefits, “but (the unions) have to mischaracterize what we’re doing ... We’re not proposing to eliminate public pensions.”

Californians for Retirement Security, a union coalition, paid the Garin group to take the public’s political pulse on pensions. The unions oppose the proposal Reed wants to put on the November 2014 ballot............................

Thursday
Dec192013

L.A. CITY HALL: Neighborhood councils, tightening of voting rules: "L.A. City Council clarifies rules for neighborhood council races"....

* Los Angeles Times:  "L.A. City Council clarifies rules for neighborhood council races" - "Once, only a coffee receipt was needed to vote in a neighborhood council election. Now 'Starbucks stakeholders' must prove more community investment." - From the LAT:

The Los Angeles City Council agreed Wednesday to tighten the rules for who can vote in neighborhood council elections after complaints that an overly broad definition of community stakeholder had allowed outsiders to manipulate results.

The new rules mark an ongoing attempt to refine the neighborhood governance system, struck in the late 1990s after the San Fernando Valley secession movement to give residents a stronger voice in city politics. Previously, anyone could vote in a neighborhood council race just by displaying a receipt for a latte from around the corner, as proof of having a vested interest in a community — a "Starbucks stakeholder."

Now voters must either work, live, own property or show membership in a community organization within council boundaries. The new language changes the voter definition from someone who "owns property" to someone who "owns real property."

About 100 neighborhood councils advise the City Council on issues affecting their communities. . . . . . . . .

   ****

Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles and the city charter reform commission that created neighborhood councils, said the definition of who can participate has been one of the toughest questions the system has addressed.....................

Thursday
Dec192013

SACRAMENTO: Public opinion, organized labor in California, commentary (George Skelton): "Unions need to give the public a break"....

* Los Angeles Times (George Skelton):  "Unions need to give the public a break" - "Public sentiment has been turning against public employee unions as pension obligations lead to cuts in government services. Transit strikes don't help either." - From the LAT:

SACRAMENTO — Even in deep blue California, where Democrats dominate, organized labor is losing public popularity. That's a general statement, based on nonpartisan polling.

Specifically, public employee unions are tarnishing all labor, according to the pollster. He pinpoints pension envy: public employees pulling down generous retirement benefits that private sector taxpayers began losing years ago. That's the long-term public gripe. And recently in the traditional labor stronghold of the San Francisco Bay Area, voters have especially soured on unions because of two very annoying public transit strikes.

"When voters are thinking about labor, they're by and large thinking about public employees," says Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll. Government workers "have a certain amount of negative drag to them." "Voters have been hearing about local government services being cut because of pension obligations, and that rubs them the wrong way." That's compounded in the Bay Area — "ground zero for labor support," he says — by rail transit strikes.

A Field Poll released last week reported that voter views of labor unions statewide "have taken a decidedly negative turn over the past 21/2 years. . . . . . . .

   ****

Queried about public employee unions specifically, 44% said they caused more harm, 39% more good. That's roughly the same finding as for all unions, and the pollster theorized voters were lumping public and private together. Of California's nearly 2.7 million union members, 56% are public employees and 44% work in private enterprise.

   ****

My eyes really opened when I read what longtime labor supporter Willie Brown had to say in his weekly column Sunday in the San Francisco Chronicle. "Today's unions are not bucket lunchers," wrote the former state Assembly speaker and San Francisco mayor.............................

Thursday
Dec192013

POLITICS/TRANSPORTATION (Bay Area): BART, proposed advisory ballot measure, ban on transit strike: "Pitch to voters: no BART strikes allowed".... 

* San Francisco Chronicle (Matier & Ross):  "Pitch to voters: no BART strikes allowed" - From the Chronicle:

Fresh from grinding labor negotiations and two strikes, BART board member Joel Keller on Thursday plans to propose a three-county advisory ballot measure supporting state legislation to ban the transit district's 2,500 union workers from walking off the job. Future labor disputes would instead have to be settled by binding arbitration - no strikes allowed.

"We have to do something to change the cycle, where the negotiations create chaos, disrupt the economy and people don't know from one day to the next if BART is going to be on strike," Keller said.

   ****

According to BART board Secretary Ken Duron, the directors have the authority to place a measure before voters in San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties - places where the district has elected representatives.

BART wouldn't be the first transit agency to ban strikes; San Francisco's Muni drivers already are barred.

Keller's move comes just days after a statewide Field Poll found that, for the first time, a plurality of California voters have a negative view of labor unions. The poll also found voters split on the right to strike, with 47 percent saying that public transit employees should have the right to walk off the job, while 44 percent said they should not.

Still, it would be up to the Legislature to change state law on transit strikes - and that's already proving a tough political sale...........................

Thursday
Dec192013

L.A. CITY HALL: Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Brian D'Arcy, IBEW, financial records, nonprofit trusts, editorial: "The DWP and the $40-million question".... 

* Los Angeles Times (editorial):  "The DWP and the $40-million question" - "Union chief Brian D'Arcy should face reality and release financial records showing how ratepayers' funds were spent by two nonprofits." - From the LAT:

The public has a right to know how public money is spent. That's a fundamental, common-sense premise of our government. Tell that to Brian D'Arcy.

D'Arcy is the business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, which represents Los Angeles Department of Water and Power employees. He's considered one of the most powerful men in L.A., able to make or break political careers as head of a well-financed political action committee. It's thanks to D'Arcy that the public is now watching an unnecessary and expensive standoff over the release of financial records showing how $40 million in ratepayer funds were spent.

The standoff involves two nonprofit trusts created more than a decade ago to improve labor-management relations at the DWP and to advise agency managers on training and safety issues. The DWP has funneled $40 million over 10 years to the Joint Training Institute and the Joint Safety Institute. But they have operated in secret, with virtually no public accounting of ratepayer money.

Since The Times reported on the nonprofits in September, the Board of Water and Power Commissioners, which controls the purse strings of the utility, and City Controller Ron Galperin have tried to find out how the money was spent. But they've gotten a big, fat "no" from D'Arcy.

How is it possible that a private individual can prevent the release of public information, you might ask? It's a testament to the IBEW's power in the city of L.A. that these nonprofits were established in such a manner that the union has been able to block it.

   ****

[But the] reality is that D'Arcy is not the powerhouse he used to be. The IBEW's PAC raised $4 million for Eric Garcetti's opponent in the mayor's race, but the heavy spending backfired and Garcetti won. As a result, the new mayor is not beholden to D'Arcy. He has a mandate to run an efficient, transparent utility, accountable to the ratepayers, not to the union.