Union power grab in Pleasant Hill sets stage for 2014 campaigns

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.

power grab in pleasant hill jack weirWeir, 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

Employee Unit

Labor Contract Effective Dates


11/1/2011  to  10/31/2016


7/1/2012  to  6/30/2016

Local One

9/1/2012  to  8/31/2015


11/1/2011  to  10/31/2014

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  1. Wendy Lack says

    Pleasant Hill resident Karen Yapp had a thoughtful letter-to-the-editor published in today’s Contra Costa Times, regarding the recent Pleasant Hill Mayor election:

    Ms. Yapp’s sentiments mirror those of many other residents disappointed and suspicious about the actions of Council members Tim Flaherty, Ken Carlson and Michael Harris.

  2. Sam Van Zandt says

    This article claims a union power-grab and backing of unions of those councilmembers who did not vote for Jack Weir. I don’t see any facts to back that up. I do know at least one councilmember did not receive any union support and is not acting on their behalf. In what way are they a troika, a Russian term used to connote some kind of communist connection? Stories have circulated for awhile of Jack Weir’s abrasive style with city workers, and of his misuse of his “power” to push around people in no position to defend themselves. What I’m writing is what I hear – no “facts” back it up. Just as no facts back up this article’s power-grab charges.

  3. Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette says

    Wow! A soap opera in Pleasant Hill. In Lafayette, The City Manager and the City Council Member servicing the people for 25 years to life, are best of friends. That might explain the City manager getting a 2012 bonus, the year after the City Council cried poor & put another parcel tax on the ballot. The bonus would put the Lafayette City Manager’s compensation around $400,000 a year.
    .What’s worse. I heard an ex mayor of Lafayette say how wonderful Lafayette’s City Manager is. I wonder what the Lafayette City Manager does with all of his money?