Toward a business-friendly city 

The unofficial Big 3 Mayors Summit Panel at last Thursday’s Bay Area Council meeting generated an interesting mixture of the disheartening and the insightful about future prospects for our regional economy. Most revealing was Mayor Gavin Newsom’s disappointing response to an audience comment that San Francisco and Oakland were not business-friendly cities.

Doing business in San Francisco will never be the "best financial deal," Newsom told the group of business leaders, but The City’s "extraordinary work force" keeps it globally competitive."

Unfortunately we are all too familiar with that semi-comforting rationale for not enthusiastically promoting a full spectrum of job growth. A similar viewpoint has been promulgated in numerous regional think-tank studies, where it seems more like a desperate sales pitch than a true deal-closer.

What made Newsom’s answer especially jarring is that he is no think-tank consultant without real power to implement anything. Rather, he is the elected mayor of the Bay Area’s most prominent socioeconomic center and he has ample authority to make simple, productive administrative changes.

Newsom could convenean ongoing task force of business leaders and city officials to develop new ways of cutting the red tape excess that is such an onerous burden on local business expansion. He could use City Hall as a bully pulpit to make the public understand why the "challenges associated with the cost of living and mandates like health care and minimum wage" are sabotaging an increase of good middle-class job opportunities in San Francisco.

Local employers are even more worried about The City’s "philosophical outlook" on the private sector than about the costs of doing business in San Francisco, Nathan Nayman, executive director of the business advocacy group Committee on Jobs, said after the meeting. What businesses want most "is some sense of constancy — don’t change the rules in the middle of the game, don’t increase costs, don’t make it take more time to get our job done," he said.

On a more positive note, Newsom and newly elected mayors Ron Dellums of Oakland and Chuck Reed of San Jose each expressed willingness to cooperate more energetically toward achieving regional goals. As a good idea, this one would seem almost breathtakingly obvious. Yet the Bay Area’s urban centers have generally been more apt to compete against one another for funding and business development, rather than competing as a unified force to attract new companies and give existing companies better incentives to stay.

As Mayor Reed put it, he believes the San Francisco 49ers — now considering a move to Santa Clara in order to build a new stadium — "should stay in San Francisco if they can. But if they can’t, Santa Clara is fine, as long as they stay in the Bay Area. They’re a regional asset."

Words of wisdom, these, from Bay Area mayor with the benefit of another vantage point.

Why is the AFL-CIO bullying Colorado?

National AFL officials seem determined to remove any remaining doubt in anybody’s mind that Gov.Bill Ritter did the right thing in February by vetoing Colorado House bill 1072. That hurriedly approved measure repealed a long-standing Colorado law requiring that, once a company’s employees approve a union, they have a second, secret-ballot vote on how dues will be assessed, with a 75-percent supermajority required for approval.

Why is the AFL-CIO so worried about an obscure Colorado bill? Because the vetoed measure was of a piece with the "Employee Free Choice Act of 2007" now being rushed through Congress by national Democrats, led by Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez. That bill abolishes all secret ballot voting in union representation contests. Doing away with workers’ right to cast a secret ballot when voting on whether to unionize is the AFL-CIO’s top national priority because union leaders think it will help them reverse their decades-long slide in membership. Less than 10 percent of all private sector workers now belong to unions.

AFL-CIO officials say they will urge Democrats to move their 2008 national convention from Denver if Ritter doesn’t agree to sign a re-introduced version of 1072. Since a quarter of the delegates to a typical Democratic National Convention are union representatives, the AFL-CIO threat is not a hollow one for DNC officials. But the AFL-CIO’s threats against Ritter and Colorado workers shows exactly why secret ballots must be protected in all workplaces nationwide. Otherwise, workers will be exposed to endless threats and intimidation from thuggish union organizers.

Ritter should man-up and tell the AFL-CIO to take its aging school-yard bully tactics elsewhere. And DNC officials ought to beseech their union buddies to cool it before voters get the idea Democrats approve of Big Labor’s workplace intimidation.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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