As more and more California cities head down a path toward becoming “charter cities,” more and more officials reveal their true intention: to avoid paying the prevailing wage. Unfortunately, for those cities that become charter cities and allege “emancipation from Sacramento,” woeful inefficiencies and abuse of power become the norm.
In Costa Mesa, CA, such a push is coming in the form of Measure V which promises to save taxpayers money by declaring certain types of independence from the state. Much of the prop-V propaganda comes in the form of demonizing unions and prevailing wages. Yet, as guest commentator Jeffrey Harlan, an urban planner who lives on the Eastside of Costa Mesa, points out in The Daily Pilot, supposed savings are most frequently offset by the price of low quality work. Debunking the attack on the bidding system, Harlan notes:
Just ask the residents of Oceanside how their charter’s prevailing wage exemption delivered a half-constructed harbor aquatics center by a contractor who was financially unable to perform the work and meet its contractual obligations. Ultimately, the delayed project was taken over by a surety company, and the city was forced to reduce the project’s scope by $1.4 million.
Charterization can lead to inept leadership, imbalanced budgets, and scandal. The desire to be set apart from the rest of California’s cities confounds Harlan:
Please explain how on earth the other 361 California cities without a charter (75% of the state’s municipalities) manage to operate at all under the heavy hand of Sacramento?
The charter city movement in Costa Mesa, as most other places where this battle is being fought, is a thinly veiled anti-union attack akin to Michigan’s “Emergency Financial Manager” law. It aims to put legislation into place that undermines the bargaining power of labor organizations under the auspices of fiscal responsibility. It’s playbook Right Wing stuff which Harlan views as insulting to local residents:
What we, the citizens of Costa Mesa, deserve is leadership that respects our intelligence, appreciates different viewpoints and treats its employees and the community with dignity and gratitude.
We deserve a government that can be entrepreneurial, creative and collaborative with existing tools and resources, not one that resorts to fear to secure additional and unnecessary powers.
And we deserve a genuine charter that is thoughtfully crafted, driven by necessity not ideology, and worthy of our community’s diversity and resilient spirit.
Read Harlan’s full letter here.