Ron Nehring

Brown vs. San Diego: Governor’s Record Shows “Local Control” is Just Empty Rhetoric

Gov. Jerry Brown enjoys talking about local control.  During his 2010 campaign, he mentioned it constantly.  I’m sure it scores great in the focus groups.

However, seriously increasing local control in government decision-making has not been a part of his governing strategy, and there is even less indication that his Democrat colleagues in the legislature have any interest in this at all.

In fact, the opposite is true.

Faced with the imminent passage of a local ordinance to ban union-only Project Labor Agreements in San Diego, Democrats passed and Governor Brown signed SB 829, withholding state funds from cities that pass such measures.  The new law was rushed through and promptly used in union-funded advertising against the proposition.  San Diegans passed the measure, called Proposition A, anyway.

How about pension reform?  Shouldn’t localities have the power to fix their pension problems without state interference?  Again, no local control for you.  Brown’s Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) initiated a lawsuit against the City of San Diego over Proposition B, which moved San Diego City employee pensions to a fully funded 401(k)-style system.  The attempt to use the courts to overturn a local initiative that passed overwhelmingly was so ham-handed and weak that PERB later dismissed its own suit.

“The Superior Court lawsuit was a wasteful effort by this politically charged agency to deter pension reform initiatives in California,” San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said in response. “PERB lost its motions because we demonstrated it had no legal justification.”

How about schools?  Gov. Gray Davis signed SB1419 which made it financially impossible for local school districts to save money by outsourcing non-educational services like landscaping, busing, and catering.  The law, passed to please certain labor unions, forces school districts to spend more money on non-instructional services, thus diverting money from the classroom. Gov. Brown shows no interest in repealing this law.

“Local control” is a nice talking point.  It would be even better as policy.  Unfortunately, there is no sign Democrats have any interest in making the leap.