Fair and Open Competition Initiative Qualifies for the City of San Diego 2012 Ballot

The Libertarian Lass, Gayle Falkenthal The Libertarian Lass, Gayle Falkenthal 20 Comments


Backers of an initiative that would prohibit project labor agreements (PLAs) on City of San Diego construction projects were notified by San Diego City Clerk Elizabeth Maland that the signatures submitted are sufficient to qualify the measure for the next citywide ballot. (The required minimum was 62,057). So it seems voters in the City of San Diego will have the opportunity to consider and vote upon a Fair and Open Competition initiative in 2012.

A bit of poliwonk trivia: the Fair and Open Competition measure is the first City of San Diego initiative to qualify for the ballot via citizen signatures since 1998.

“The fact this measure qualified so easily is an indication that voters are eager to have their say as to whether city contracts should be open to all bidders,” said Jim Ryan, Executive Vice-President of the Associated General Contractors of America, San Diego Chapter.

If approved by the voters, the measure will prohibit the City from forcing contractors to participate in Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) for City construction projects. The measure allows contractors to voluntarily participate in PLAs.

PLAs are pre-construction contracts requiring contractors bidding for the work to agree up front to contribute union dues and adhere to other union restrictions. Merit shop contractors are effectively prohibited from competing. With fewer bidders in the process to drive down prices, PLAs have been shown to increase taxpayer funded public construction costs.

Voters in the cities of Chula Vista and Oceanside and in the County of San Diego approved similar measures in 2010.

“The fair and open competition initiative simply guarantees the right of all contractors including the 87% of contractors who are non-union to compete for city contracts on a level playing field with their union counterparts,” said Scott Crosby, President of the Associated Builders and Contractors of San Diego. “Everyone stands at the same starting line with no advantage. Fair and open competition insures the best quality and best price for the taxpayers.”

Fair and Open Competition San Diego provided a list of FAQs regarding this initiative which we provide below:

Frequently Asked Questions About the Fair and Open Competition in Construction Ordinance

Q. How many signatures were required to get this measure on the ballot?
A. 62,057 or 10% of all registered voters in the City of San Diego.

Q. When will the fair and open competition measure appear on the ballot?
A. We expect it to be on the June 2012 ballot.

Q. What other governments have passed fair and open competition legislation?
A. Most recently, voters in the County of San Diego passed a fair and open competition measure in November 2010 by an overwhelming 76% of the vote. The City of Chula Vista passed a fair and open competition measure in June 2010 by 56% of the vote. The City of Oceanside passed a similar provision in their 2010 charter by 54% of the vote.

The governing bodies of Orange County, Stanislaus County, Placer County, and the City of Fresno have enacted similar ordinances.

The following states have enacted fair and open competition laws: Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Tennessee, and Utah. By Executive Order, PLAs were banned on federal projects from 2001 – 2009.

Q. How do we know PLAs raise contract costs?
A. In July, the National University Institute for Public Policy Studies released a study of the effect PLAs have on public construction projects in California, focusing on Los Angeles school construction. The result: PLAs add 13 to 15 percent to the cost of public construction. See The Cost of PLAs.

Q. How many non-union private construction workers are there in California?
A. Merit shop (non-union) workers are by far the majority (84.3%). In 2010, only 15.7% of workers in California private construction were members of unions.
See these union membership statistics.

Q. What does the Ordinance say?
A. A copy of the proposed ordinance is posted on the Fair and Open Competition San Diego website: http://www.fairandopencompetition.com/

FULL DISCLOSURE: Associated Builders and Contractors San Diego is a client of my public relations firm, Falcon Valley Group.  Independent of this business relationship and speaking strictly as the Libertarian Lass, I am firmly in support of banning project labor agreements.





Comments 20

  1. Congratulations to the ABC for their success in
    (1) qualifying this measure for the 2012 ballot,
    and (2) for their sound judgment in making the
    Libertarian Lass a key team member.

    How will the Lass equal the ‘Librarian vs. the
    General’ billboard of 2010? Somehow, we
    know she will do it ! 🙂

  2. Post
  3. LL:

    Thank you for that correction. Hat Tip to John and TJ.

    Whoever the woman model/volunteer was who posed
    for theat Librarian picture …. was Brilliant. The look on
    her face was priceless.

  4. Considering that SB 922, currently awaiting the Governor’s signature, would ban any state funding for any project in a city that enacts an ordinance banning PLA’s and that the City of San Diego has never even entered into a PLA before, do you really think passing this ordinance would be a good idea?

  5. That’s NOT what that Bill (SB 922) would do, even IF
    Governor Brown 2.0 should sign it. Here’s the official
    analysis by the State Assembly consultants:


    “Provides that, if a charter provision, initiative, or
    ordinance of a charter city prohibits the governing
    board’s consideration of a PLA as described above
    or from allocating funds to a city-funded project
    covered by such an agreement, then state funding
    or financial assistance shall not be used to support
    THAT project. ”


    (1) San Diego IS a Charter City, and thus has
    additional home rule authority.
    (2) State funding would be barred only for that
    specific project, it is not a ban on all State funding
    for anything happening in San Diego.

  6. JIm,

    Wouldn’t the initiative “prohibit the governing board’s consideration of a PLA” on ANY City project therefore making every City project THAT project?

  7. Fair point.

    Your original comment could be interpreted as
    predicting a ban of ALL state funding in ALL
    categories, not just construction.

    The savings realized by avoiding PLA s might very
    well equal or surpass the ‘benefits’ of State funds,
    owing to the multitude of burdensome and control-
    freak strings whcth accompany them.

  8. To make matters worse, the initiative doesn’t ban PLA’s; it only bans the City from mandating them. You could actually end up forgoing state funds for a major project (like a new City Hall), but still have the chosen contractor opt for a PLA. Please explain to me again why this is a good idea.

  9. Please tell us why a World in which Government
    MANDATES economic decisions is a GOOD thing,
    but a World in which people make VOLUNTARY
    economic decisions (with no interference from
    Big Brother) is a BAD thing.


  10. I think my comment previous to “To make matters worse…” got lost in cyber space. To paraphrase, I don’t think Jim could back up his claim about the cost of PLA’s, but even if he could, the fact remains that the City of San Diego has never mandated a PLA on any of it’s projects yet this initiative will (if SB 922 is signed) cost us State funding on all of our projects.

    You might as well spend millions of dollars on an elephant-detection system because we all know that if an elephant got loose in the City it could cause a lot of damage.

  11. Jim,

    As a general rule, it is NOT a good idea for the government to mandate economic decisions. However, that question only deflects attention away from the real question at hand. That question: Is it a good idea to potentially give up tens of millions of dollars in state funding to outlaw something which has never before happened?

  12. Clearly, the local initiative was in circulation prior to the state law being conceived. In fact, the state law was authored as a way to usurp local efforts to limit or ban PLAs. So, the intent of the local measure was never to keep San Diego from reaping state funds. But, assuming the state bill has been or will be signed, that may change the view of the local effort.

  13. T.A.,

    Of course you are correct (aren’t you always?); no one in their right mind would have started this initiative if they knew it would result in us losing State funding for all of our construction projects.

    The question (assuming SB 922 is signed by the Governor) is whether or not anyone in their right mind will continue to support the initiative.

  14. Without mandated PLA’s, there are more competitive bids. If some fool wins the best bid and wants to build the project while including a PLA agreement, that’s HIS business (and what are the odds of that being the case?). The taxpayers still get what they want and need — better bargains from more qualified competitive bids.

  15. Sometimes PLA’s can be a GOOD thing. For instance, doubtless the CA HSR project — IF BUILT — will be a PLA project. That helps make the project even MORE unaffordable and senseless — impossible to undertake in California’s foreseeable future. In essence, the PLA cost boost will help price the nutty HSR project into oblivion.

  16. No Man with Honor, and No Woman with Courage, will forfeit their principles because of a threat to withhold the very * Tax Dollars * those Men and Women earned and then sent to Sacramento IN THE FIRST PLACE.

    Horatio Alger’s heroes would not submit to an extortion note… and neither will San Diegans.

  17. Sacramento sycophants want locals to bow the knee and live in fear and servitude, “Don’t you get uppity when speaking to your betters. You should be happy that the Sacramento Saints are so generous and benevolent in taking care of you incompetent ingrates.”

    Why live in fear of the petty little Sacramento tyrants and their minions when you can use your vote to slap some sense into them?

  18. Businesses sacrifice their principles every day in order to comply with ridiculous governmental regulations; they also many times gear their business plans not around what makes the most sense from a business perspective, but by what will result in the most AFTER-TAX profit. What makes this principle so different that all of sudden it is worth sacrificing tens of millions of dollars for?

  19. All this talk of “state funding” is amusing. It is still money out of our pockets. Not magic money growing on trees in Sacramento.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.