Items on the "consent calendar" of the El Cerrito City Council typically are non-controversial and are passed collectively as a group without amendment or discussion.
So it was somewhat unusual when Mayor Bill Jones pulled one of the nine consent calender items from Tuesday's consent calendar – a resolution expressing council opposition to state Proposition 32, a measure on the Nov. 6 ballot that critics call an attempt by conservative corporate interests to block political spending by unions.
Propriety of language quetioned
Jones objected to the tone and language of the measure, not its underlying message. He said he was certainly opposed to Prop 32, calling it "nothing more than a transparent attempt to undermine, control and greatly reduce the rights to organize and negotiate labor terms and conditions."
But, he said, the council "represents the image of the community" and its "resolutions and proclamations – the formal and official records of city business – must reflect the proper professional decorum expected by the community."
So he proposed several changes in the wording "in order to eliminate unnecessary rhetoric and rancor while still providing responsible reasoning for our actions," he said.
He called for removing "ultra-conserative" from the clause saying the measure had been placed on the ballot by the "ultra-conservative Lincoln Club of Orange County."
He suggested removing a clause saying Prop 32 "is more appropriately called the 'Special Exemptions Act.'"
In a sentence saying Prop 32 targets "the voices of everyday working people," he recommended saying it targets "the rights of working people." He also recommended other changes.
"I feel these changes will reflect the proper standard for formal presentations that El Cerrito City Councils have always strived to maintain in the city's official documents," Jones said.
Councilwoman Ann Cheng, who had proposed the resolution, said she found all the changes acceptable, and the council passed the amended resolution unanimously.
Prop 32 supporters say it not only prohibits unions from using payroll deductions for political purposes but also bans unions and corporations alike from contributing to political campaigns. Opponents say it provides loopholes for corporate political spending.
A mark-up version of the amended council resolution, showing all the delections and additions, is attached to this article.
Measures E and G endorsed
The council also voted unanimously – without comment as part of the consent calendar approval – to endorse two property tax measures to raise money for the West Contra Costa Costa Unified School District, which includes El Cerrito schools.
One is Measure E, a $380-million, long-term bond program, to replace or upgrade school facilities. It would add an estimated $48 per $100,000 of assessed valuation.
Measure E needs approval of 55 percent of the voters to pass. The tax would be added to existing taxes on West County property tax bills from five previous school facility bond measures, totaling $1.23 billion, passed by voters since 1998.
The other measure endorsed by the council is Measure G, an extension of the current parcel tax that funds academic programs in schools. It requires a two-thirds yes vote to pass.
The current parcel tax is 7.2 cents per surface square foot of building area and expires June 30, 2014. Measure G would also be 7.2 cents per square foot and last five years, beginning July 1, 2013.
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