Compromise or Die?
Our ECA Founders and subsequent Boards were wise to not get involved in “Labor Issues”. Sometimes, labor issues pit two sides against each other when both sides would win if they could focus on the “big prize”.
Today the Santa Rosa City Council will hear arguments from well-meaning Leaders in our Community on the pros and cons of specific language inclusions in a proposed housing bond measure that will go before the voters in November.
At stake is a $124 million housing bond measure funded by property tax assessments of $29/100,000 value on land and homeowners. The generated funds would be used to construct “affordable” housing, which some also refer to as “subsidized” housing and sometimes “workforce” housing.
As we have come to realize with our self-taxation for road improvements, the “reward” for having a housing bond measure that is self-funded by local taxpayers is that it opens up the “spigot” for matching funds to come from the much larger State housing bond measure that is polling very well. The State housing bond measure is estimated to be a $2 billion “pot” that will be distributed back to local municipalities that have their own local housing bond measures in place. So, we would have to “pay to get paid”.
The positives of a housing bond seem obvious at a time when we were in a housing crisis before losing 5,000 homes to the fires of October, 2017. The negatives, if special interest groups would not try to impose language into the Measure that serves their interests, would also be quite clear-that property owners would have to pay $29/100,000 of assessed value to fund a much-needed pot of money to be used to build affordable housing.
But here is where it gets tricky. Labor unions are trying to get specific language included into the Measure that will enable more of the work generated to be done by signatory workers than if the specific language were not included. I have been involved in several of the meetings with labor leaders to see what they might include that would not create opposition to the housing bond. I tried to represent the ECA members that are both signatory and non-signatory in my comments at these meetings. The bottom line that I held to was that this housing bond is a tough sell to voters so any additional language or requirements that favor any group could doom the Measure. I understand labor wants to insert language that favors their rank and file. I also understand that labor believes they are asking for very little to be included in the Bond Measure language. The problem is idealistic. Those that believe inserting any language that advantages one group over another is a bad use of public money do not care if what labor is asking for is minor. The fact that they are asking for anything is a “line in the sand” for them.
Behind the scenes, there have been lots of discussions/negotiations/compromises in an attempt to craft a Bond Measure that will not create opposition. It just might not be possible. Today’s City Council meeting will be one of the livelier in recent years. The outcome of a Housing Bond Measure that could open the spigot from the State may lie in the balance of the discussion this afternoon.
I for one am glad we are not on the front lines on this one. If we opposed the housing bond, we could be criticized for not supporting a much-needed boost to housing starts. If we supported the Measure, we could be criticized for “selling out” to either pro-labor or anti-labor backers. My personal opinion has not changed-for the good of the many, some compromise by both sides seems to be the wise choice.
We shall see—
That’s All Folks!