Hayward Objects To Assembly Bill It Says Takes Away Local Control

By Steven Tavares

Asm. Das Willams’ bill
is coming under fire
in Hayward.

Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney has been quite upset over the past few months by Sacramento’s wanton grabs for control of local government as an antidote to its own woeful fiscal situation and he is not close to cooling off anytime soon.

Sweeney, a former state assemblyman himself, plainly asserted recently both Sen. Ellen Corbett and Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi be roundly admonished if they supported Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to dissolve redevelopment agencies. Lately, he has routinely inserted pointed jabs during council comments criticizing lawmakers for not acting in their constituent’s best interests.

It is obvious Hayward is hunkering down on its position against state control and is scheduled to take another stand Tuesday night when it discusses raising objections to an assembly bill regarding county free libraries and outsourcing. The city believes it is just another attempt to wrest control from its local authority even though it is supported by some unions and liberal groups.

The proposed bill (AB 438) authored by Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) would call for public hearings and approval by referendum if a city council or similar body chooses to outsource operations of local libraries to a private, for-profit contractor. Current law gives discretion to local governments to make the decision. And as more cities look for ways to trim local budgets while maintaining a full slate of city services, the option to outsource library functions to private entities has been on the rise.

The bill, which passed the Assembly Local Government Committee last week, heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for discussion in early May. It will need to pass that body before it is heard on the assembly floor.

In a memo from Hayward City Manager Fran David to the City Council, she said the proposed legislation would take control of an administrative function of the city to make its own decisions. “This legislation would potentially hinder the City Council’s authority to make responsible and timely fiscal decisions on behalf the city,” she said. “It has the effect of usurping local governing body authority to make the decisions that they were elected to make.”

David says the city already calls for public hearings anytime a change is sought in city contracts. Allowing for city-wide elections on the issue could be costly for the cash-strapped city. The League of California Cities opposed the bill saying it could set a “dangerous precedent.”

“Forcing a vote of the people on a city contract handcuffs the ability of the city to run efficiently,” said a spokesperson for the League. AB 438 is supported by the California Teachers Association, SEIU and the California Labor Federation.

Even though the bill passed its first hurdle in the assembly, some of Williams’ colleagues expressed some doubt it could survive with its current language, namely, passages passing the potentially high cost of running local elections to cities when its budgets are already being squeezed in every direction to maintain staff and services.