A California Assembly bill, backed by government unions, that would set limits on how cities contract for services has drawn vehement opposition, and some support, from Menlo Park residents who emailed the City Council in recent days.
Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith, who was absent from the May 2 council meeting, said she planned to add the matter to the the council's May 23 agenda.
The bill, AB 1250, was introduced by Assembly Member Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer Sr., D-Los Angeles, on Feb. 17.
Backed by union organizations – the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, and the California State Council of the Service Employees International Union – the bill would require cities and counties to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of using city employees to do the job versus hiring a contractor. Government agencies would have to show that no city workers would be displaced, demoted or given fewer hours because of the contract. Also, the contractor would have to reimburse the city for the cost of the analysis.
Opponents to the bill include the California Chamber of Commerce, the California State Association of Counties, the League of California Cities, and 54 cities. Supporters are state, county and special district unions and employee associations.
In a statement, the League of California Cities claims the bill "is a multifaceted attack on local discretion and places substantial burdens on local agencies by adding onerous, over prescriptive and unnecessary requirements that have significant impacts on local governance."
Many cities, the league says, are already "near breaking point" when it comes to paying for unfunded pension liabilities and actual pension costs. Cities should not add more pensioned city workers when contractors can do the same job without requiring pension contributions – at least until the the state adjusts from a recent CalPERS policy shift that will significantly increase cities' pension obligations, according to the statement.
Last December, CalPERS, the state public employee pension system, lowered its expected rate of return to 7 percent from 7.5 percent. "This action alone is projected to increase total pension obligations in some cities to 65-70 percent or higher of total payroll by (fiscal year) 2022-23," according to the league's statement.
The extra work the bill creates for cities to contract for services will add significant staff time costs, it reports.
Menlo Park's Mayor Keith sits on the league's board of directors.
Former Menlo Park councilwoman Lee Duboc sent an email to residents asking them to contact council members and urge them to actively oppose the bill. "This bill would essentially eliminate all contracted services, increase the number of unionized public employees, increase costs and pension liabilities and further burden cities with a plethora of new regulations," Ms. Duboc said in her email.
Most of those who emailed the council expressed opposition to the bill.
"As a longtime Menlo Park resident, I urge you to find ways to reduce the payroll and pension expenses that taxpayers are facing," Sanj Goyle, a Menlo Park resident, wrote. "We all want good services from the Town but would hope that you're exploring the most efficient ways to obtain them."
Karinne Collinsworth called it "too expensive," and Frank Tucker said that it "will impose onerous and costly constraints on cities' ability to use contractors when needed to provide city services."
A small number supporters emailed the council, such as Menlo Park resident Tom Buch, who wrote: "I realized that the unions in this country are, and have been for some time, under assault from the business community without regard to the benefits the unions provide to millions of workers, both private and public. … I hope the Council does NOT take up the agenda of the assault on workers rights."
Meredith Ozbil wrote that she supports the bill because it is harder to maintain quality with contractors and staff time must still be spent to provide oversight of contractors, among other reasons.