While activities at the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors have been routinely quiet over the last year, the election in June 2014 is unlikely to be so. There have been no fireworks of late and the Board has done little in the way of major policy improvements, or at least the media coverage would not evidence anything of note.
But don’t misjudge this calm. County employees and the unions that represent them are plenty concerned with the direction the county is going. The current Board of Supervisors has been happy to impose, or use the threat of imposition, to cut their wages and benefits. Recently, a State Judge overturned a contract imposed on the Public Attorney’s Union requiring members to pay a greater portion to their retirement because it violated collective bargaining requirements. Board members have refused to meet with employee representatives, (which was formerly a common courtesy) referring them to the Chief Executive Officer instead. Employee’s unions are, rightly or wrongly, extremely unhappy.
While some of these unions are suffering from internal chaos, their resolve to engage in the coming election cycle has NEVER, been more resolute. They feel stepped on, lied too, deceived and ignored by the Board, many of whom they have supported in the past. And it isn’t just the “usual suspects.”
Unfortunately for Supervisors, their inopportune decision to limit campaign donations to State Assembly levels has made fundraising extremely difficult. The million dollar campaigns of the past raised through their campaigns are now non-existent. The failure of the Board of Supervisors to understand that they are not State Assembly-members with thousands of special interests attempting to influence decisions was apparently lost on them…until they had to raise money for their own campaigns recently.
Additionally, any person or organization can put a Political Action Committee together that can spend unlimited funds in local or state races. And they have no limits on fundraising under the Constitution. I doubt Bloomberg cares too much about San Bernardino County politics, but others regionally do.
This creates a most exciting paradigm. Board members concerned about the influence of special interests, are even more threatened by the special interests they sought to subdue through campaign finance limits. Can you say “short-sighted” boys and girls? The three primary public employee unions now have approximately $3 million in their political action committees. And they are not limited in how they spend it. Add the potential for SEIU to put state-wide dollars into these elections and any political novice can see the danger to local incumbent Supervisors.
Are they really foolish enough add campaign finance limits into the Charter as well?