Commentary: Vista ruling benefits local governments, residents


On July 2, the California Supreme Court ruled that the state’s 121 charter cities have the constitutional right to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates on purely municipal projects (“Ruling: Charter can set wages,” July 3).

This was a solid victory for California citizens who believe that a city council might know more about local market conditions and the specific needs of a community than corrupt state legislators from Los Angeles and San Francisco.

It was also a victory for California citizens who pay for local government services and want them provided efficiently and at a reasonable, competitive price.


It will be a victory for the citizens of Costa Mesa, if they approve the robust, assertive charter to be brought before them for consideration in the November election.

But it was a humiliating defeat for factions that want to hold power over a government-controlled economy. They had tried to derail or neuter numerous proposed charters throughout the state with the claim that any meaningful provisions in those charters were unconstitutional.

Unions argued in their opening brief to the California Supreme Court that cities can’t be allowed to manage their own affairs for construction contracts because “construction workers today routinely commute to projects outside the cities in which they happen to live” and “it is not uncommon for today’s construction workers to commute more than 100 miles to work at a job site.”

Aren’t these unions constantly telling local governments they are champions of “local hire?”

Now they have to argue that city charters are dangerous. Better to let the wise statesmen at the state capitol set policies on city contracting than to risk giving such decisions to your own neighbors.

I actually agree that city charters are dangerous, at least to the entrenched special interests. Charters encourage beleaguered citizens to rebel and circumvent the costly, burdensome and foolish mandates of the Legislature.

Let’s be clear about the opponents of the proposed charter for the city of Costa Mesa: When forced to explain their positions without a packed City Council Chamber hollering in the background, they reveal their disdain for the ordinary taxpayer.

Judges in California’s 4th District Court of Appeal proved that when they questioned the lawyer for the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California in the court case that charter cities ultimately won.

One year after devastating fires in San Diego County, two judges asked that lawyer about the city of Vista using its charter authority to build fire stations under its own prevailing wage policies, instead of submitting to state laws that would prevent the city from building them.

The union answer: “When the people as a whole deal through the Legislature with a problem that does have real extra-municipal dimension, the interests of an individual locality have to yield.”

Where is the humanity in such an answer? What does the Legislature know about fire threats in Vista and the need for more fire stations?

It’s important for the unions and their sycophants in the Legislature to make sure Costa Mesa remains firmly under their thumb.

It’s even more important for Costa Mesa residents to throw off the yoke of the Legislature and govern their own city affairs, by voting for their charter in November.

KEVIN DAYTON is president and chief executive of Labor Issues Solutions LLC in Sacramento.