Last night the Santa Rosa Junior College Board of Trustees had an extremely important decision to make, should the JC approve the negotiated Project Stabilization Agreement for a single project on the campus, or reject it. Over the past several months I have heard from many people on both sides of this issue, I have read through countless emails, and numerous studies on the issue. I came to the conclusion that PSA's were beneficial to the college community and ultimately supported the adoption of the agreement last night.
That being said, the process from when PSAs were first mentioned, to the culmination of the vote yesterday has been rough. The anti-labor groups in Sonoma County, more specifically, the North Coast Builders Exchange, have made it their sole mission for the past several months was to attack the Junior College trustees who have been supportive of the idea of a PSA, and in some cases have blackmailed the Junior College by suggesting businesses and individuals should boycott and not financially support the SRJC centennial celebration next year if the board approved a PSA.
As your representative on the JC board, I am dedicated to hearing from you, and at the same time, maximizing transparency on all my decisions. Therefore, I felt it was best to send you my statement in its entirety from last night's meeting.
Thank you again for your continued support, and as always, please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have.
Project Stabilization Agreement Statement
September 12, 2017
SRJC Board of Trustees Meeting
I’d like to start by thanking everyone who has spoken today for their thoughts. At the same time, I feel I must address a few things that have been troubling me for some time. Over the past year, the process of getting to the point we’ve reached today has created great animosity between the community and the board, produced a mailer full of lies and anti-union rhetoric that was sent to thousands of Sonoma County residents, generated a robocall by a former board member, and set off an avalanche of harassing and sometimes threatening emails from PLA opponents.
But for what exactly? From everything that has been presented to me, from those who have reached out to me, and from the considerable research I have done on my own, I have concluded that a project stabilization agreement for the Junior College’s Burbank Auditorium will best serve the college community.
The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and North Coast Builders Exchange tactics are a disgrace. They use fear and deception to gain support for their position. Consider the hundreds of anti-PSA emails I’ve received. A large majority of these messages echo the ABC and North Coast Builders Exchange claim that PSA s are discriminatory and would prevent non-union contractors from bidding on projects. That is just plain false. The people who have written me saying that – have been misled. Nothing in this PSA prevents nonunion contractors from bidding on projects at the JC, and more importantly, rather than being discriminatory, this PSA levels the playing field for all bidders with pre-negotiated rules, benefits and expectations for everyone.
I am also dismayed at the ABC and North Coast Builders Exchange claim that PSAs were never discussed during the 2014 election, so we should therefore not consider a PSA now. This is another falsehood. I so wish I could have spent my nearly hour-long pre-election interview with the Press Democrat editorial board in 2014 discussing the direction I wanted the SRJC to move in, rather than having to respond to their wish to talk about something – PSAs – that I had never even heard of before the election.
I would much rather have talked about my thoughts on energy efficiency policy and how I envisioned the Junior College as a leader in environmental sustainability. Which is, in fact, what I’ve been pursuing since being elected. It’s gratifying to see the college undertaking a 14 million dollar photovoltaic project, in which I played an instrumental role, for both the Santa Rosa and Petaluma campuses which will save the district millions of dollars over the next several years, as well as reducing our carbon footprint.
I would also rather have discussed with the Press Democrat editorial board my desire to help the Junior College slash its structural deficit with cost-cutting measures like restructuring departments, combining positions and eliminating wasteful spending, all while avoiding cuts in the classroom. That is just what I’ve been doing, and I’m proud to have helped cut our structural deficit from nearly 7 million dollars a year before my election, to just under 2.4 million dollars this year, a roughly 65% reduction.
I’d also rather have spoken about my views on social justice issues that affect our students and the college community – like homelessness, DACA, free bus transportation, and so on. So I’m proud to have supported our Safe Haven Resolution, which protects undocumented students, and our free bus program with the county and now the City of Santa Rosa, both of which strengthen our commitment to “equal access for all students.”
But instead of all these great visions – now accomplishments – the editorial board focused more on my views on project stabilization agreements. It seemed very clear that that was the only thing they were truly concerned about, so it was not surprising that the Press Democrat endorsed all three incumbents – whom the voters soon rejected – citing PSAs as a main reason for its support.
So how is it that after several articles in the Press Democrat, countless letters to the editor, mailers, robocalls, and an SRJC Trustee debate on this very question … that those who staunchly opposed even the idea of a PSA lost the election, and those who were open to the possibility of a PSA won? The answer is that more people understood that PSAs, after all, are not discriminatory, that they are more likely to come in on time and on budget, with high-quality workmanship, with safe working conditions, without undue disruptions, strikes, stoppages and lock-outs, and that they provide a pathway for apprentices to earn Associate Degrees from the JC.
As an institution of higher education, it is one of our responsibilities to ensure that future generations are learning skilled trades. This project stabilization agreement gives us an incredible opportunity to enhance the career technical education we offer by creating real paying jobs that train the future carpenters, plumbers, masons and electricians of our county.
I am sure by now you can guess I will be voting in favor of the proposed PSA. I am looking forward to working with whoever the contractor is – union or non-union – on the Burbank Auditorium project. I also hope the ABC and North Coast Builders Exchange will stop trying to mislead the people of Sonoma County, lying to the voters, and using fear to promote their agenda.
And rather than jumping to conclusions before the first shovel hits the ground, I would like to express the hope that the community would have an open mind in the process, and the Press Democrat and its editorial board will provide unbiased coverage of this project stabilization agreement’s anticipated success in ensuring fair and equitable working environments, reducing cost overruns, and promoting an amazing apprenticeship program for our Santa Rosa Junior College students.