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Ever wonder why America observes Labor Day? Think back on what organized labor has done for you: Unions have made life better for all working Americans by helping to pass laws ending child labor, establishing the eight-hour day, the five-day week, and protecting workers’ safety and health. Unions also helped create Social Security, unemployment insurance and the minimum wage. Unions lead the fight today for better lives for working people, such as through expanded family and medical leave, higher minimum wages, improved safety and health protections and fair-trade agreements that lift the standard of living for workers all over the world. How do unions help working families today? Through unions, workers win better wages, benefits and a voice on the job—and good union jobs mean stronger communities. Unions built the American middle class. Union workers earn 30 percent more than nonunion workers and are more likely to receive health care and pension benefits than those without a union. Union members are 50 percent more likely to have paid personal leave, which strengthens families. And, of course, it is because of organized labor that you are enjoying a holiday this weekend!
In a “tentative” ruling, a San Diego County Superior Court Judge says the state can force cities using state funds to pay prevailing wages on construction projects. While the ruling is not yet final and is certain to be appealed, it appears to further weaken the case for Charter City status for Escondido.
While prevailing wages are not mentioned in the proposed Charter, they are, in fact, the primary motivation for those who back the change. The movement to get small and middle-sized cities to change from general law to charter status has been promoted by the construction industry in an effort to pay lower, non-union wages to construction workers.
To head off that effort, Democrats in the state legislature passed a law requiring charter cities to pay prevailing wages or lose state funding. The suit was brought by the cities of Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista and El Cajon to challenge the law.
Claimed savings by not paying prevailing wages has been a primary argument for Escondido changing from general law to charter city status. General law cities are required to pay prevailing wages on construction projects.
City of Carlsbad answers to prevailing wage survey.
by Don Greene, President
Part of the pro-city charter mantra we hear from Mayor Abed and the other members of the city council majority is about savings. Especially savings when it comes to eliminating prevailing wages from city construction projects. In a recently released survey, the ‘savings’ that Sam & Co continue to promote are becoming harder and harder to find.
This chart, while ‘showy’ doesn’t tell the real story about the city’s economy.
For those of us at the Mayoral Forum put on by the Escondido Chamber of Commerce, we really saw Mayor Abed come alive when he was able to show one of his props to the audience. And while the chart on “financial stability” that he presented paints a “pretty” picture, it is deceptive in the information which it provides.
Before we can understand how it is that this chart is deceptive, let’s take a moment to understand basic municipal finance. This is by no means a comprehensive look at municipal finance, but neither is the Mayor’s chart.
There were few surprises as candidates for Escondido Mayor in the November election met for a forum August 20, sponsored by the Escondido Chamber of Commerce. Mayor Sam Abed and Deputy Mayor Olga Diaz repeatedly demonstrated the starkly different choice before voters. Perhaps the ‘news’ was the presence of Stephen Siaw, an unexpected newcomer to the race and to city politics. It was Siaw’s first appearance at a public candidate forum. The approximately 100 people in attendance welcomed him warmly.
Chamber Governmental Affairs chair Kevin Svetich asked a wide-ranging mix of questions that covered the key issues. Here’s a quick summary of significant responses:
Deputy Mayor Olga Diaz announced in an email to supporters August 19 that she will support the Lakes initiative, Prop. H on the November ballot, as “the first and only written compromise” that “provides a path to resolving an expensive legal dispute.”
Diaz went on to say “I have considered the options, removing the emotion of loss (from both parties) and considered only the measurable outcomes to determine that The Lakes Specific Plan Initiative is worth supporting. I believe it is actually a pretty good plan. Not perfect, but good.”
In a Chamber of Commerce forum August 20, Mayor Sam Abed was asked his position and said “Let the voters decide and we will work with Stuck In The Rough. I’m committed to providing a solution.” (Stuck in the Rough is the developer’s firm seeking to build 430 homes on land previously used as the Escondido Country Club golf course.) But Abed never said whether he was for or against the initiative. He noted that he “never took sides” and from the beginning has sought a compromise. (See a history of his positions on the Escondido 2014 blog.)
Candidate Stephen Siaw, also at the forum, said “I’m a big individual liberty guy,” and that he supports the initiative because a property owner has the right to develop his property.
The three candidates who seek to unseat appointed Council member John Masson each criticized the Council majority and took positions on several hot-button issues in a forum before the August 9 meeting of Escondido Democrats. Nicole Downey, Chad Hunziker and Rick Paul each seek election in the Second Council District, which covers the north and northwest areas of Escondido. Incumbent John Masson, who was appointed in 2012 to fill the remaining two years of Marie Waldron’s term following her election to the State Assembly, has never stood for election.
Paul, who said he was running because of Masson’s long list of campaign contributions from developers, said he would “confront cozy cronyism” and would make “new development pay its way” if elected. He said the overriding issue is “the deteriorating quality of life in Escondido… caused by developer excesses.” Nicole Downey said “I don’t think our council is doing what’s best for the residents. They’re focused mostly on developers and developers’ needs and lining their pockets.” Chad “Shad” Hunziker criticized the current Council for its vote on the golf course project, saying “the Council could have made it a better situation by taking time to proceed. Instead they were looking for their own interests” in an election year. “I think we need leaders who are going to put the needs of the community before their own,” he concluded.
In the end, Escondido Democrats chose to rate Hunziker “acceptable,” took “no position” on Downey and Paul, and rated Masson “unacceptable.” Because none of the candidates is a Democrat, the Club is prevented from making an endorsement in the race.
The San Diego ACLU has formally appealed the decision of the Escondido Planning Commission denying permission to place a youth care facility for migrant children in a former nursing home in the city.
The appeal to the City Council is on behalf of Southwest Key, the firm that proposed to open and operate the facility. It argues that the facility’s impact on the surrounding area would be equivalent to its earlier operation as a nursing home, that traffic, parking, noise and security issues are not problematic. It also dismissed the commission’s claim that the facility would create crowding in the neighborhood.
“Because the city has a long history of trampling on the civil and human rights of immigrants in the U.S., and because this proposed shelter would serve unaccompanied immigrant children seeking refuge from increasing violence in their homelands, the ACLU seeks to ensure that the City of Escondido does not continue its history of discrimination by using unlawful pretexts to deny a permit,” said David Loy, legal director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.