Today’s main page is loaded with great content. Top of the main page: coverage of the Tea Party’s big win in Texas as well as a great original piece from Assemblyman Dan Logue. But, there are other stories below the fold that shouldn’t be ignored. Rather than worry about arranging the headlines, I’ll just highlight today’s five must read stories.
5. Union Elite: The Top 1% Steal from Rank-and-File Members
There’s no question that government needs to reform union contracts, lower pension costs and reduce health care benefits. (Read Joel Fox’s latest Fox and Hounds blog post to understand why.) But, too often, Republicans turn this debate into a philosophical attack on unions. That’s an ineffective strategy, especially when the union leadership is busy stealing from rank-and-file members. The Top 1%, the union’s elite leaders, have pilfered from union coffers to pay for lavish parties, even one former leader’s honeymoon.
The LA Times reports that Tyrone Freeman, the one time leader of the Service Employees International Union, is facing a 15-count federal indictment for his corruption. Remember, this man stole from the 190,000 union members that earn as little as $9 an hour. “Freeman was indicted on federal charges of stealing from those workers to enrich himself — even billing the union for costs from his Hawaiian wedding,” the Times reported.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross cover the extravagant Las Vegas party for the Top 1% of the California School Employees Association. “The union represents school janitors, clerical workers, food service employees and other support staff – all of whom have been hit by the downturn in California’s finances,” Matier and Ross point out. Gov. Jerry Brown has even flown to Vegas to speak to the convention. “I didn’t plan the party – all we did is respond to the invitation,” Brown press secretary Gil Duran said.
There are 215,000 members of the California School Employees Association and only 1,400 are lucky enough to attend the Las Vegas blowout. Do the math: 1%.
4. Ventura County’s Plastic Bag Ban
The Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to move forward with a plastic bag ban. The VC Star has the story. Only Supervisor Peter Foy opposed the measure. Upside: Supervisor Linda Parks’ big government beliefs never made it to Congress.
3. Open Government Fight: Air Board’s Secret Contracts
Bravo to Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack for fighting for the public’s right to know. The South Coast Air Quality Management District is awarding $53 million in government contracts, but won’t release any public documents about the process. The Desert Sun reports, “The South Coast Air Quality Management District rejected a public records request from Rep. Mary Bono Mack asking for information related to grant submissions for $53 million in air quality improvement funds.”
Sunlight is always the best disinfectant. Anyone, remember Solyndra? And you’ll never believe the SCAQMD’s reason for secrecy.
“Most importantly, it protects the public. The public must know the process is fair, that the choice of bid is the best possible one,” Executive Officer Barry R. Wallerstein wrote as a reason for keeping the information secret.
The public can only “know the process is fair” if it never knows anything about it.
2. San Diego Pension Win:
Councilman Carl DeMaio and San Diego’s pension reform movement won an important legal victory on Tuesday. In June, San Diego voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition B, which reformed San Diego’s pension system. Special interest groups immediately filed lawsuits to challenge the measure.
“The state Public Employment Relations Board, along with employee unions, had asked for an injunction through at least October as the agency investigated a union complaint,” the Union Tribune San Diego explains.
The lawsuits are far from over, but this is good news.
1. Cal State Faculty Get Rolled by Trustees
The California State University has tentatively reached a deal with the faculty union to approve a new four-year contract that contains no pay raises for faculty members. After handing out pay raises to dozens of Cal State presidents over the past year, the trustees told professors that there was no money in the budget for them. Faculty members haven’t had a pay raise in five years.
“It’s a fair agreement in the context of hard times,” said Lillian Taiz, the California Faculty Association’s chief. “We are disappointed we were not able to get a raise, but that wasn’t in the cards. It was a tough pill to swallow, I won’t kid you.”
She’s right: there isn’t money for faculty pay raises given the state budget situation. But, why doesn’t that also apply to Cal State presidents?
Flashback to old news reports: “CSU officials said salaries need to be “competitive” to attract the best people to serve as campus presidents.”
Oh, that’s right, now I get. We need the best people to serve as campus presidents, but not the best in the classroom.