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Proposition P Aims to Gut the Prevailing Wage in Escondido, CA

The ongoing struggle of the Escondido, California City Council to remake itself as a charter city in order to avoid paying prevailing wages on construction projects is now in the hands of the voters.

Proposition P will appear on the November. Its supporters claim charterization will save taxpayers money while opponents have said the amount saved has been greatly overstated and that the shift will entrust too much power to the city council.

California “charter cities” have governing power that allows them to surpass (i.e. undercut) orders from Sacramento, a move most chartered localities have used to avoid paying the prevailing wage. In the ballot statement opposing the charter, opponents warn the change will encourage “backroom deals” and favoritism. From the statement:

“Becoming a charter city is a dangerous and uncertain change for Escondido. This will shift the power from the people of Escondido into the hands of a powerful few for now and far into the future.”

At a September 4th forum, four of the six candidates for city council went on record as saying they plan to vote against the measure.

The cost saving figure being used to persuade voters is that $16 million can be saved on the city’s upcoming $163 million in construction projects. Opponents claim that this number is blown out of proportion because prevailing wages will still be mandated on federally and state funded projects, which are being included in the figure.

Among Prop P’s opponents is the group Escondido Charter Watch, which notes that prevailing wage jobs often go to middle class workers. According to the North County Times:

“It seems dubious to use low-wage workers who travel across the state looking for jobs,” said Rick Moore, a leader of Escondido Charter Watch. “Prevailing-wage workers are more likely to be local.”

As we noted in August, a new Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury Report shows that charter cities in California have been plagued by bankruptcy, scandal, and imbalanced budgets.


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