O.C. REGISTER: Irvine ‘living wage’ rule unfair to many

By Christina Shea

In early June, the Irvine City Council, on a 4-1 vote, repealed a 2007 ordinance establishing a “living wage.”

Out of the hundreds of contracts entered into by the city, this ordinance covered 15 contracts, and required those employers to pay their workers a minimum of $10.82 per hour, and as much as $13.50.

Additionally, the ordinance didn’t apply solely to employees working in Irvine. It required the employers to pay “living wages” to all their employees, working throughout Orange County.

A hypothetical example: Acme Janitorial service, a regional company, cleans government buildings. They compete and win Irvine’s contract to clean City Hall. Acme is then required by this ordinance to pay this wage not only to their Irvine employees but to all their employees, companywide, throughout O.C.

Hence, all of Acme Janitorial employees are paid Irvine’s “living wage,” subsidized by our taxpayers. It is troubling, as no other city in Orange County requires a “living wage.” Therefore, Irvine citizens were subsidizing the cost to provide higher wages to all these employees doing work in other cities. This, in my opinion, is ethically wrong.

Because of the terms of the ordinance, it has been estimated that Irvine taxpayers paid an additional $1.5 million a year for contract services, as employers would bump up their bids to cover the cost to pay all employees they had working for them in the county. Over the approximate eight years that the ordinance was effective, that totals about $12 million.

Recently, in one contract alone, an otherwise-qualified contractor asked to withdraw his bid because it would cost an additional $100,000 to provide for this requirement.

When qualified bidders withdraw, or local business can’t compete, both our taxpayers and local employees are hurt.

The Register published a story July 28 headlined “Irvine’s faith leaders want city to revive living-wage law.” In it, the Rev. Paul Telstra of Irvine United Congregational Church and other Orange County religious leaders called for the City Council to reinstate the ordinance.

While Thomas Jefferson and James Madison correctly warned that our fledgling republic should avoid the blending of organized religion and government, its actually refreshing to me the clergy took the time to weigh in on civic issues.

However, I would suggest, before they dip their toes into the waters of public policy, they contact council members to familiarize themselves with the facts.

I maintain regular office hours, so I am always available to talk about any policy the city implements or proposes.

In my view, the clergy’s concern about Irvine issues would be better directed towards the squandering of $250 million wasted at the Great Park these past many years. Imagine how many jobs, and good wages, we could have created.

I consider myself a compassionate person who will lend a hand to many who are struggling. But, I also take very seriously my fiduciary responsibility to our residents and taxpayers.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…

Following Scandal, Irvine City Council Shows How To Run, and Fix Government

By Katy Grimes

Conservatives on the Irvine City Council have abolished a million dollar business license tax, to reduce the taxes levied on local businesses. This move followed the council’s recent vote overturning the city’s mandated “living wage” ordinance. Mayor Pro-Tem Jeffrey Lalloway authored the issue, with votes in support from council members Christina Shea and Lynn Schott, all Republicans.

While the business tax amounted to only $51 per business, these changes are exactly what every city and town in the State of California should be doing – whittling away at business-killing regulations, policy, taxes and fees.

In an interview with Irvine City Council member Christina Shea, she explained the City of Irvine now has large reserves and a growing economy, thanks to the fiscal conservatives on the city council, whose goal is giving back the community their own money, while remaking the city to be business-friendly. Shea describes Irvine as an island unto itself, in the business unfriendly state of California.

Irvine Then and Now: Corruption vs. Prosperity

Former Democrat Mayor Larry Agran was an Irvine councilman or mayor for all but eight years since 1978. Agran and his council clan spent more than $200 million earmarked for the development of the Orange County Great Park — but not on the park. “The ugly reality includes Agran’s penchant for secrecy, cronyism, narcissism and mismanagement, especially at the Great Park, a noble idea the career politician slyly converted into a biennial election tool to keep his council alliance in power, a circumstance that allowed him to give $167,000 per month in no-bid, public-relations contracts to his own political operatives,” the Voice of OC reported.

The Irvine Great Park land, formerly the El Toro military base, was given to the city of Irvine by the U.S. Navy following base decommission, along with $200 million provided by The Lennar Corp. Lennar made a winning bid of $649.5 million for El Toro. Immediately after escrow closed on July 12, 2005, Lennar agreed to transfer 1,347 acres to Irvine for a park and to pay $200 million in development fees for park construction.

However, over the course of seven years, Agran authorized spending the park money on numerous large unrelated contracts, which had little to do with development of the Great Park. Lennar also pledged to spend another $201 million for joint infrastructure and facilities such as roads and utility connections. The $201 million would come from a Community Facilities District bond sale secured by the property. Homeowners in a CFD (also known as a Mello-Roos district) pay a special tax, in addition to their customary county property tax, for infrastructure and other improvements, according to a Grand Jury report.

Continue reading at the Flash Report…

O.C. REGISTER: Irvine awakening to harm of living wage law

Irvine requires contractors doing business with the city to pay their employees a living wage. Some might say that the requirement is just the cost of doing business with Irvine. As it turns out, when you come to do business with Irvine, it becomes the cost of doing business with the entire county.

That’s because Irvine’s living-wage ordinance, required for contracts of at least $100,000 spent in a 12-month period, forces employers doing business with the city to pay workers $10.82 an hour plus health benefits, or $13.34 per hour without benefits – not just in Irvine, but on any contract or employee they have working anywhere in the county.

“It extends the ordinance’s requirement beyond our municipal borders,” Councilwoman Christina Shea said at the council meeting last week. It also created an “unfair economic burden on the taxpayer,” she said.

The ordinance, on the books since 2007, when a Democratic majority was in control, re-emerged recently as a point of contention after a contract fell through with a janitorial service after the company learned of the living wage requirements.

Continue reading at the O.C. Register…