CITY BANKRUPTCY AND MEDIATION BILL FINDS ANOTHER WILLING FOOT SOLDIER
By Steven Tavares
steven.tavares@eastbaycitizen.com
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

Former State Sen. Liz Figueroa once said a freshman lawmaker needs to be wary of Sacramento’s unavoidable group of marauding lobbyists who search for a rookie legislator willing to carry stale legislation on their behalf–sometimes not even knowing they have been duped. After all, it happened to her, she said.

Under this fact of life in the Capitol, it begs the question whether Fremont Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski was lulled by the Sirens of J Street into carrying legislation calling for state mediation before a municipality can file for bankruptcy.

AB 506 is the third attempt at turning the bill into law in as many years leading some to believe Wieckowski is making an attempt to further secure union support. Editorials in the Sacramento Bee and San Jose Mercury News both accused Wieckowski of doing the bidding of city employees.

The League of California Cities believes the bill could make it extremely difficult for local cities to file for Federal bankruptcy by stacking the deck in favor of city employee unions. The mediation process, for instance, would be instigated by political appointments who may have a case to rule on the side of patronage and city employees. It also could play out as another attempt by Sacramento to control the fate of local cities.

The best case against the bill, though, comes from those who say the legislation is aiming to fix something that is hardly broken and nearly non-existent in California—municipal and county insolvency. It has happened just once at the county-level and twice at the city-level in the past 60 years. The notorious exception being neighboring Vallejo. The bewildering collapse of that city government has become a boogie man for local pols, including San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy, who has use it a cautionary example in the past, while waving the flag of fear for “Vallejo-style” bankruptcy in his city.

Lobbyists are paid big money to cajole laws in their favor from willing lawmakers. In this case, it isn’t the merits of the bill that should worry detractors; it’s the prevalence of special interests drafting the latest unsuspecting freshman lawmaker to seal the deal.