Some candidates in the election for City Council have decided to make opposition to binding arbitration central to their campaigns. They act as if the initiative were on the ballot this year. It is not.
I was on the City Council in 2000 and I opposed the binding arbitration initiative. I feared that if a council proved stubborn, or imprudent, or mishandled labor negotiations, that an impasse could result. I was concerned because I feared that having an outside arbitrator, rather than City Council, make a major financial decision could result in a severe blow to the city budget. The voters, however, so greatly valued the service of our police and firefighters, that they passed the binding arbitration initiative by approximately 57 percent. The will of the people is now “the law of the land,” and if elected to City Council, I will follow the voters’ lead. Campaign rants to the contrary, no one elected to City Council in November can remove the binding arbitration provisions of the City Charter.
So why are they making this “red herring” a campaign issue? It is not just to try to discredit those candidates who have won the endorsement of the firefighters and police. It is also to distract the voters from the fact that the police worked without a contract since 2005, the incumbent City Council allowed labor negotiations to reach an impasse in 2006, and they failed to adequately plan for the possible financial consequences if their actions triggered binding arbitration. Instead of taking responsibility for this failure, they blame the recent financial shortfall entirely on the binding arbitration process voted in by the residents.
Technical note: Even if San Luis Obispo voters did decide to remove binding arbitration provisions from our charter, it is still unclear whether we would not be subject to it because this is a hotly contested area of state constitutional law. According to our city attorney, California Code of Civil Procedure section 1299 et seq. “imposes binding arbitration on general law and charter cities, except for charter cities with binding arbitration provisions adopted prior to 2004, unless such charter provisions are later amended or repealed ... (this law) is still on the books, but there have been successful challenges to the law at the trial court level in different parts of the state, and the one appellate court action we are aware of was settled prior to adjudication, thus suggesting that the constitutionality of this law is very questionable.”
Incumbents might be faulted for selling city land to developers for less than fair market value, even though our General Plan says that new development must pay for itself. The money they left on the table in negotiations with the downtown developers could go a long way toward easing the budget crunch. Instead of taking responsibility for the shortfall and implementing the priorities of the residents when cutting back, incumbents have broken promises to residents by taking away the police officers for anti-graffiti and neighborhood services.
I have the expertise, budgetary understanding, and negotiating skills to avoid triggering binding arbitration, and I can be trusted to speak out in favor of Measure Y priorities, especially those concerning the health, welfare, and safety of city residents.
-- Jan Marx - Candidate for City Council
-- Jan Marx - SLO