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UPDATE: Meeting was apparently postponed until this morning and was to begin at 10:00.
1. Big Labor Meeting Will Discuss ‘the Greg Diamond Problem’
As the moon rises tonight, it won’t be on its way to becoming the beautiful ruddy “blood moon” that many of us enjoyed last night. But some people in the Building Trades, and perhaps other unions, will be out for blood at a special Executive Board meeting of the Orange County Labor Federation — and, as it happens, it’s mine. SEE UPDATE: MEETING WAS POSTPONED UNTIL WED. MORNING.
I have applied for exactly two institutional endorsements in my late-starting run for District Attorney: that of the Democratic Party of Orange County and that of the Orange County Labor Federation. Given my issue positions and the work I’ve done in support of both, that seemed appropriate. The former goes to a vote of the DPOC Central Committee on April 28. I did not receive the latter one. In fact, to my knowledge I was one of only two candidates I know of who were not running against someone endorsed by the OCLF Council who was specifically recommended not to receive an endorsement.
A vote of the 93 various locals within could have collectively overridden that decision, but a faction within OCLF — the Building Trades — were apparently working hard to ensure that that wouldn’t happen. To seal that non-deal, shortly before OCLF “Solidarity Dinner,” the Trades sent out a letter attacking me and threatening to withhold further support from the Democratic Party of Orange County if I were not removed as Vice-Chair. I composed what I thought was, under the circumstances, a pretty gentle and understanding reply. I came to the dinner anyway and enjoyed the chance to learn more about and applaud Labor’s accomplishments.
Next, the Building Trades called for tonight’s special Executive Board meeting to discuss the problem. I don’t begrudge that meeting; they have to do what they have to do. (Or, in this case, what they think they have to do.) But I think that it’s ironic — and I want to explain why. And I also think that it’s counterproductive — because it means that I have to do what I have to do — write pieces defending my actions and bringing the controversy further into light. Frankly, I don’t think that that hurts me as much as it hurts them.
2. The Construction Bonds for the Convention Center Expansion (Plus Another $120 Million)
Apparently, I didn’t receive that OCLF endorsement because of my actions regarding a $300 million bond sale put out by the City of Anaheim’s Anaheim Public Financing Agency (“APFA”) — or, as I believe it should properly be called, “The City of Anaheim.” The APFA was an Joint Powers Agreement between the Anaheim Redevelopment Authority (“ARA”) and, representing the City, the Anaheim City Council. When Jerry Brown, legislative Democrats, and a few honorable Republicans such as Chris Norby eliminated Redevelopment Agencies because they had become expensive boondoggles, the ARA’s powers devolved to a “successor agency” — the Anaheim City Council itself.
That means that the APFA is now an agreement between the Anaheim City Council and the Anaheim City Council — and I think that it is fair to conclude that the APFA’s powers cannot exceed that of the Anaheim City Council, no matter what hat the Council is wearing.
Does this mean that the APFA — meaning the Anaheim City Council — cannot take on bond debt for a purpose such as expanding the Convention Center? No, it does not. What it means is this: under the City Charter spelling out the powers of the City Council, the bond measure has to go to a public vote.
When the City passed the Bond Indenture on March 11, they did not put it on the ballot for a public vote. That means that it’s illegal. Both Cory Briggs, a Government Accountability attorney who has been done this particular path before, and Cynthia Ward, President of CATER (the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, for which I am General Counsel), warned the City Council — respectively in writing and verbally at Public Comments prior to their vote – not to put out these bonds without a prior public vote.
The Council did so anyway. Two weeks later, on March 25, I came to Public Comments and told them that they should hold off on the bond sale, slated for April 1, because they were going to be sued over this: either Briggs would sue them, or CATER would — or we both would. They did not reconsider and — so far as I know — the city did not inform investors of threatened litigation as required by law. (This needlessly put the City’s credit rating at risk.)
What’s really ironic about this is that had the Council acted just a week or two earlier, it could have put the issue before the voters on the June ballot. They actually had to time this so that they would miss the deadline to make that ballot — meaning that now, barring a special municipal election, it cannot be voted on until November. I didn’t make that stupid decision; they did. And, in doing to, they hurt the interests of the Building Trades and other unions.
Why don’t they want this to go before voters? It’s not clear, but I can think of two related reasons:
(1) They may think that the proposal may lose.
I don’t think that this is a realistic fear. Particularly, if they authorized only $180 million in bonds rather than $300 million — the Convention Center expansion is budget to cost only $180 million — I think it would be a slam dunk. If the voters oppose it, then I think that they should be able to prevent it — that’s democracy — but I don’t expect it. I personally favor it, as do the officers of CATER — and I’d do my part to help it pass, by endorsing such a ballot measure. Let me state that really clearly:
I endorse voters approving $180 million in bonds to fund Convention Center expansion!
So, if I’m really interested in killing construction jobs — then I’m not very good at it. I want to see workers in the Building Trades employed in construction and additional jobs for hotel workers and service employees. Why? Because that helps build the middle class and protects the national and local economy.
However — I do want to see it done legally. Partly, that’s because doing things legally tends to bring sunlight into the process — and that helps to prevent corruption. And I think that Anaheim can use more fending off corruption! And that brings me to the second reason why they may want this to come to a vote:
(2) They want to use the Convention Center Expansion as a way to get money for other purposes
If you’ve followed recent Anaheim politics, you’ll recognize the ploy: it has a lot in comment, for example, with using the threat of the Angels leaving as a way of giving Arte Moreno a 66 to 99-year lease allowing control of 150+ prime acres of property around Angels Stadium that he can assign to someone else for a profit — that “someone else” possibly (personally, I’d go with somewhere between “probably” and “definitely”) being someone associated with, and a contributor to and/or fundraiser for, the people on the City Council making the decision. (CATER is already suing the City of Anaheim over those agreements. Discovery in that case should help nail down which adverb I should use above.)
So, again: they’re asking to issue $300,000,000 in bonds. The Convention Center expansion itself costs only $180,000,000. They say that $20,000,000 will go to popular initiatives like building firehouses and doing street repairs — by the way, you don’t use long-term bonds to do street repairs that won’t last for decades — to toss some crumbs to the public.
And then there’s the other $100,000,000. What’s that all about?
You (and the City Council members) were supposed to be able to figure that out by reading this March 11 staff report (warning: it’s a PDF.):
Good luck figuring it out. It appears to involve refinancing $45,000,000 in existing bonds from as far back as 1992 — that sounds reasonable, but it does raise certain questions — such as the use of “capital appreciation bonds” (much like “balloon payment mortgages”) and their implications for city finances that I’d want answered first. I’m also not sure about the intended use of the other up-to-$55,000,000 of bond indenture. I’d like to know. Wouldn’t you like to know? In an election, I would think that voters might demand to know.
And that may be the real reason why the City Council and City Staff — probably not so much the Building Trades, who just want that $180 million approved, but who themselves have nothing to hide — don’t want this to go to an election. If it happens quickly and quietly, no one has the chance to ask any uncomfortable questions.
CATER and I think that those uncomfortable questions need to be asked. That’s why we’re willing to sue. Not because we don’t like the Convention Center or the Building Trades — but because we don’t like corruption.
If that is the reason that the Building Trades want to take action against me, that’s a shame. It doesn’t speak well for them — and it contributes to the low opinion that many (not all) voters have of unions as out only for themselves, a stereotype that the OC Labor Federation itself has done a great deal to oppose. That’s why I have had a good relationship with the Labor Fed for years — because they represent Labor at its best.
So why didn’t they endorse me? Hey, let’s check the statement I gave them when I ran!
3. What I Said to the Labor Fed
I had an interview with the Labor Fed Executive Board, which out of courtesy I’m not going to discuss except that I said one thing that is an absolute truth regardless of what they do tonight: if elected, I will make protecting the right of workers to organize a top priority. I doubt that that’s the reason that I wasn’t endorsed. (I also doubt what other District Attorney candidates have ever said that to them. And, again, I would not be doing it for them, I’m doing it for all of us, who collectively benefit from the strong middle class accompanying unions. But I think that they’d appreciate it more than they apparently do.)
I don’t want to give out the questions to the written questionnaire I filled out — but I think that you can learn a lot about my positions from my answers. So here, in somewhat edited form, are the answers of a candidate for District Attorney of a conservative county who did not get the endorsement that his opponent, endorsed by the Republican Party (and, I think, Labor’s great enemy the Lincoln Club), did not even bother to seek. I’ve recast it as a speech that I would have been happy to give publicly — and in fact I still would.
My key priorities as District Attorney would be (1) cleaning up Orange County politics and business practices and (2) Ensuring proper respect for people’s constitutional and statutory rights – including the right to organize and collectively bargain. I’ll serve the interests of the public, not of corrupt interests and cronies. I’ll be guided by doing what’s right, without concern over what plays well with the voters. And, unlike his Chief of Staff (Susan Kang Schroeder), I’m not vindictive with people who disagree with me or don’t do what I want.
I’d be happy to feature the OCLF endorsement on my campaign materials. I’m already in regular contact with the OCLF on important issues involving California’s workers; that would continue. When I ran for State Senate in 2012, I made “yes on 30, no on 32” one of the issues in my platform and pitch to voters. (I still have the “No on 32” bumper sticker from the Building Trades on my Taurus!) I also opposed Prop 187, even from out of state. I oppose any effort to make California a so-called “right-to-work” state. I wouldn’t seek the endorsements of the Lincoln Club or the OC Taxpayer’s Association, although if they wanted to endorse me in some election I wouldn’t care. (I don’t expect to ever face that situation.)
I support card check and other members to facilitate collective bargaining. I can’t recall a proposal on that topic that I’ve opposed, so long as it was constitutional. I’d urge employers to remain neutral during organization drives.
I’ve joined with Labor in rallies for worker’s rights in the past. I may not do so as DA if it seems inappropriate – but what I can do in that office to protect labor rights is more important. I would use my power to go after illegal efforts to stifle organizing, such as intimidation. In saying that, I’m not promising you anything that you don’t already deserve: enforcement of the law.
I support greater health care benefits for workers, including providing health care coverage to all Orange County children regardless of their immigration status. (Maybe our whooping cough problem would have been better with this!) I favor fully funding safety net services such as public hospitals, community clinics, and emergency rooms.
I’ve been involved in supporting the economic status of workers for decades — including NAFTA (to my detriment, as a political science professor in a conservative department) which it was first introduced and assigning one of the public first stories (on the blog I help manage) opposing TPP. As a plaintiff’s employment lawyer, I have opposed and will continue to oppose any efforts to weaken basic worker protections, such as the eight-hour day, guaranteed lunch breaks, and prevailing wage — and I have supported efforts to enforce labor law in the “underground economy” — including with my own clients.
As to general public policies, I oppose privatization of or contracting out government services except in cases of truly intractable corruption and truly incorruptible and efficient private alternatives – and I don’t think I’ve seen one here. I favor requiring contractors to pay prevailing wage rates to workers and developers agreeing to Project Labor Agreements (PLAs). I strongly oppose privatizing retirement benefits, including public pensions in California and Social Security benefits at the national level. I have brought claims against employers who intentionally misclassify workers as independent contractors to avoid providing benefits and workers compensation insurance — and I’d like to see harsher and quicker penalties for it.
And there’s more I could say along those lines. BUT, I’m willing to sue to prevent Anaheim from passing a murky $300 million bond indenture without following the legal requirement that it take it to a public vote — so … to hell with me — because that makes me an “enemy of Labor”!
Here’s the letter sent to organizations, from which someone leaked it to Dan Chmielewski, in case any readers missed it. I’ll let you know, after I find out, what happened at the OCLF Executive Board meeting tonight.