Public trust means keeping your word-MY TURN with Mike Harrison

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While having a reputation for high moral character, one of the best examples of integrity from Lincoln’s life didn’t come from Honest Abe himself, but rather one of his rivals. After losing a much-contested Presidential election in 1860, Senator Stephen Douglas graciously committed to be of service to Lincoln in any capacity.

While having a reputation for high moral character, one of the best examples of integrity from Lincoln’s life didn’t come from Honest Abe himself, but rather one of his rivals. After losing a much-contested Presidential election in 1860, Senator Stephen Douglas graciously committed to be of service to Lincoln in any capacity. On Inauguration Day, while looking for a spot to place his stovepipe hat and make his speech, Lincoln was met with the outstretched hand of the “Little Giant.” To Douglas, giving his word to serve in any capacity meant even holding the hat of the man who defeated him.

I cannot help but think of this when watching the situation unfold with the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District and its recent consideration of adopting a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for its construction projects and infrastructure needs. There exists a legitimate political and practical argument against government-mandated PLAs on public construction projects. PLAs are anti-competitive construction contracts that prohibit an open and fair bidding process. Less competition, coupled with inefficient union rules, increase the cost of construction projects subject to PLAs. 

A study conducted by National University found that projects operating under the administration of a PLA increase costs by nearly 15%. PLAs also have an adverse effect on local small businesses and their employees. Only 14 percent of the 2014 U.S. private construction workforce belongs to a union. Meaning, a PLA by the District would openly discriminate against more than eight out of 10 construction workers and their families here in East San Diego County. It is for these reasons that other municipalities in the San Diego region have already banned PLAs.

More importantly, aside from PLAs being a poor economic and anti-free market approach, this situation is a matter of integrity for the District and keeping its word to citizens here in our community who placed their support behind a bond measure with the understanding that a PLA would not be pursued. Some on the Board attempt to argue that, technically, the bond language allows for this action. But the fact of the matter is that the language was specifically written and support was specifically solicited from the public and outside groups like our local Chambers of Commerce and the San Diego County Taxpayers Association with the understanding this would not occur. The effort to incorporate a PLA at this point is in effect changing the nature of the bond agreement with the public without allowing that same public to have any voice in the matter or opportunity for reconsideration. This is unfair and unbecoming of the trust voters placed in members of the Board to represent them at the District. 

The story of Douglas and Lincoln reminds us that actions reveal character and keeping your word is an integral part of the public trust. The Board has an opportunity to demonstrate real leadership by tabling this proposal indefinitely. Otherwise, if it truly believes that PLAs are the best course of action, they should proceed through the proper protocol of bringing a revised bond measure back before the public for a vote.

Mike Harrison

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