A “special interest bill,” SB7, passed by lawmakers in the state of California after losing a legal fight against the City of Vista in 2012 was among important topics discussed by council members last night.
“The voters of Vista approved the charter back years ago with the idea of being able to save tax dollars, and [the motion by the state] it’s just disappointing to me,” said Deputy Mayor John Aguilera. “Again the state is just grabbing more power and telling us what we can and can’t do in our city, and it’s really unfortunate.”
Aguilera noted that the City of Vista has been out on the “forefront” in fighting the state to keep the rights originally granted California’s 121 charter cities. (Debra Bowen was the Secretary of State who notified Vista by letter on the ratification in 2007 of the Charter status. )
Councilmember Amanda Rigby also protested what she sees as “Sacramento trying to take away the rights of the city to determine what is best for our community.”
‘Everyone is in the dark’
Rigby did ask the City Attorney Darold Pieper for clarification on the State website text to help her answer a question about the city resolution in front of the council.
“Some people are concerned … that the state can just withhold monies at will for anything that we are owed.”
To which Pieper answered her this:
“There is disagreement among all of the public agency lawyers as to what the scope of the withholding would actually be. The state was required to issue regulations that would make all of that clear. Needless to say those have never been issued. Everyone is in the dark….”
Rigby voiced more frustration with the State of California’s actions, stating it was frustrating that “after we won in court” the state legislature “turns around and now we have to sit here tonight with Sacramento trying to take away the rights of the city to determine what is best for our community.”
Pieper also had another interesting comment. “The problem with putting too much faith in what the legislature appears to say is that the legislature has always been able to manuever around their words.”
Ritter commented on the phrase “prevailing wages.”
The concept of “prevailing wages,” said Mayor Judy Ritter, might be one amount in a big city but something else in another location. She did see the threat, however, as she stated that “the state gives us a significant amount of money that they can withhold from us so if we don’t do this then they will withhold that money and that would [affect] our budget. I don’t know, we would have to cut more things or something, because we are dependent on the state. Our sales tax goes to the state, some things which they can withhold.”
Councilman Campbell said when the issue of litigation came up he was the one who voted no. Campbell added this:
“You know ultimately, at the end of the day, this is an issue that whether you agree or disagree with prevailing wage and SB7, this is an item I feel that we have to pass, frankly because the risk is too great to the community.”
He made the motion to accept and adopt the ordinance on city compliance with state prevailing wage statutes and Councilman Dave Cowles seconded.
The resolution passed with Ritter, Campbell and Cowles voting yes and Aguilera and Rigby voting no.
Supreme Court of California ruling
The July 2012 press release by the city’s communications director Andrea McCullough about the win against California stated:
“Today, the Supreme Court of California ruled in favor (5-2) of the City of Vista in State Building & Construction Trades Council v City of Vista, culminating a three-year legal battle. In ruling in favor of the city of Vista, the State Supreme Court upheld the authority of charter cities to exercise control over their “municipal affairs,” including whether a charter city should pay prevailing wages on contracts funded with local revenues.”
At that time Vista City Attorney Darold Pieper was quoted.
“We are more than pleased with today’s ruling, as it acknowledges Vista’s right to exercise prudent fiscal controls resulting from its charter status.”
Rec fees going up
The other big issue addressed concerns prices for some city-run recreational programs, including day camp programs and the Wave Waterpark.
Councilmembers voting against the increases were Rigby and Campbell, but it did pass with Ritter, Aguilera and Cowles voting for it.
The blame for the increases seem to be placed on the state-mandated minimum wage hikes and utility costs which keep increasing.