The premise of public service is dead as it pertains to Santa Barbara County government.
In a series of colossal arrogant blunders by county supervisors, they are demonstrating their tendency to rule, rather than serve.
In what should be considered a form of a kickback, the board of supervisors are pursuing what is erroneously labeled a “Community Workforce Agreement.” The more accurate name is a “Union Workforce Agreement,” a public gift of jobs to union construction workers who compose a mere 15% of our local construction workforce. That is, a full 85% of local non-union contractors and their employees will no longer be able to competitively bid and work on county construction projects as the county seeks to implement a policy that effectively limits their ability to compete.
Moreover, this union-only workforce agreement is being negotiated between the county and local unions without any participation from the many contractors in our county, the 85% who are not unionized.
Supervisor Das Williams had little sympathy for the plight of our non-union workforce, quipping “if you don’t like the rules, don’t bid on government projects”.
The CWA is a solution in search of a problem. Eighty to 90 percent of all county construction projects are now performed by local workers (union and non-union), meaning the current system is not broken. Moreover, due to various regulations governing most government construction projects, both union and non-union workers receive the same pay by way of various mandates. So why bother with this power play?
Well, it appears some private sector unions need an infusion of cash to keep their pension plans afloat. Whereas our government sector can easily oblige public union workers by way of raising fees and taxes, and piling up debt, the private sector unions don’t have that luxury. Hence, this board is pursuing a unilateral, exclusive agreement that shuts out 85% of our local work force on multi-million-dollar construction projects.
County staff tried to be more moderate in their approach to the union workforce agreement in comparison to the city of Santa Barbara, only to be rebuked by Supervisor Gregg Hart.
For instance, staff suggested that future projects be bid two ways. That is, send out a bid to all contractors and a second one for union-only contractors to ascertain how much this proposal will cost taxpayers. Supervisor Hart wanted nothing to do with that. On a positive note, Hart will fit in quite well in Sacramento should he be elected to the state Assembly, as this is their business-as-usual model of governance.
On the same agenda as the CWA, was the now infamous Motel 6 homeless shelter proposed for Santa Maria. Mayor Alice Patino testified that she only caught word of the project a week or so before the county sought to finalize the purchase agreement for the property and apply for state funds to seal the deal.
When the mayor complained about the lack of transparency, it was Supervisor Greg Hart (again) that retorted that having this public hearing was “transparency in action.”
No, Supervisor Hart, an after-the-fact hearing is more akin to a “shoot first and answer questions later” approach. It was a sneaky, cowardly move to buy a motel and convert it — with fewer people knowing about it, the better. It was the equivalent of a bureaucratic drive-by.
Speaking of a drive-by, Mayor Patino informed the Board of Supervisors that a similar project the county foisted on the city — the North Depot Street apartments — has resulted in a 1,000% increase in the number of police calls to the neighborhood.
Of course, the county claimed ignorance, which is all too typical of them. They spend more than a billion dollars a year and consider that activity an accomplishment. No questions asked.
Andy Caldwell is the COLAB executive director and host of “The Andy Caldwell Show,” airing 3 to 5 p.m. weekdays on KZSB AM 1290, the News-Press radio station.