Ready for a Power Grab in Pleasant Hill? Every December the City of Pleasant Hill rotates its Mayor among Council members. In the customary rotation schedule, Vice-Mayor Jack Weir was expected to succeed outgoing Mayor Michael Harris. At Monday night’s Council meeting, in what appeared to be a pre-planned power grab of the Pleasant Hill City Council, Council members Michael Harris, Tim Flaherty and Ken Carlson elected Flaherty as Mayor. Thereafter Flaherty nominated Concord Police Officer Ken Carlson as Vice-Mayor, which then was approved by a Council majority.
The Contra Costa Times report characterized the move as “a stunning rebuke” and quoted Councilmember David Durant as saying, “”It just seems crass to have deprived Jack of the honor of serving as mayor.”
Pro union power grab in Pleasant Hill
Council members Flaherty and Carlson are newcomers to the City Council, first elected in November 2012.
Council terms for 12-year incumbent Michael Harris and first-term incumbent Jack Weir will expire in 2014. Both are expected to run for re-election, though no formal announcements have been made.
Weir, the top vote-getter when first elected to City Council in 2010, has been a vocal champion of fiscal responsibility, transparency and government accountability. Weir’s vocal opposition to a City-proposed tax measure in 2010 – rejected by voters and supported by a Councilmembers Durant, Flaherty and Harris and City employee unions – positioned him as a reform-minded City Hall outsider from the start.
Following failure of the 2010 City tax proposal, Pleasant Hill labor relations became rocky due to belt-tightening necessitated by budget shortfalls and skyrocketing pension and other labor costs. This month’s hasty election of labor-friendly Councilmembers into powerful Mayor/Vice-Mayor roles may signal growing influence of employee labor groups on Pleasant Hill’s budget priorities.
Next year’s City contract talks with management employees are expected to frame issues for the next round of labor negotiations with other bargaining groups as well. From labor’s perspective, there’s no better time for employee-friendly Flaherty and Carlson to assume greater power at City Hall, as employees seek to recover ground lost in 2011′s austerity-oriented labor negotiations.
Clearly, the power grab in Pleasant Hill is timely, as the ruling troika gives notice to Pleasant Hill residents that a raid on city coffers and their wallets is in the works.
Notably, longstanding tensions between Pleasant Hill’s management and rank-and-file employees remain, largely due to management compensation levels that rank among the region’s highest.
Rising CalPERS pension costs and a brittle economic climate add to the budget challenges the City will face during the coming year.
Conflict between competing interests of public employees and residents is likely to feature prominently in the 2014 City Council campaign.
In a related development, the City currently is seeking to replace its human resources manager who will retire this month. This position plays a key role in managing the City’s labor relations.
During 2014 Pleasant Hill residents are well-advised to keep a sharp eye on the City’s labor talks, budget process and City Council race.
~ Editor Note: See additional coverage at Claycord.com on the power grab in Pleasant Hill, including a clip of Jack Weir’s comments during the Council meeting.
City of Pleasant Hill Bargaining Status
Labor Contract Effective Dates
11/1/2011 to 10/31/2016
7/1/2012 to 6/30/2016
9/1/2012 to 8/31/2015
11/1/2011 to 10/31/2014