Editorial

Arbitration, Measure Y are separate

Denial of the voters’ will was undeniably disappointing, but half-cent sales tax should be decided on its own merits

letters@thetribunenews.comMarch 13, 2014 

It’s frustrating that the fate of binding arbitration — which was overwhelmingly repealed by voters in 2011 — will be up in the air for as long as a year while the city appeals a judge’s decision that found the election invalid.

To non-attorneys, this seems like bureaucratic nonsense that ignores the obvious: The voters of San Luis Obispo have spoken. They did away with binding arbitration after police officers were granted a 30 percent raise for the period of 2006-09, and this being a democracy, the voters’ choice must be respected.

We share that pain and disappointment.

San Luis Obispo voters should not, however, let that influence how they vote on the extension of Measure Y — the half-cent sales tax — if the city decides to place it on the November ballot.

Yet soon after the judge’s decision on binding arbitration was announced, some already were calling for the defeat of Measure Y.

“Government employees now make greater salaries than their private sector equivalents and, in addition, receive pensions and often lifetime healthcare ...” said a post from one reader who responded to the initial report of the judge’s decision.

Since then, however, the City Council unanimously decided to appeal the ruling from the administrative law judge, who found that the city had failed to abide by a “meet and consult” requirement.

(According to an online definition provided by the California Public Employers Labor Relations Association, “meet and consult” is “informal discussion where labor and management meets but do not have to reach agreement.”)

The city disagrees with the judge’s finding, and the City Council this week unanimously agreed to appeal the decision.

Even if the city is unsuccessful in its appeal — and we aren’t speculating that it will be — all is not lost. The issue could be put to a vote again; in fact, the citizens could take matters into their own hands by circulating petitions to do so. We suspect results could be even more lopsided in favor of the repeal.

Bottom line: Measure Y should be decided on its own merits — more specifically, on whether or not the city has wisely used the revenue generated thus far — and not on speculation over what may or may not happen with the binding arbitration case.

The voters have indeed spoken and, one way or another, the days of binding arbitration are numbered.

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