Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Questions from the Press.

At the Niners-Saints Game, Nov 27, 2022. 

 I serve as a trustee of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District, in the northern part of the San Francisco Bay Area. In that capacity, sometimes the press asks me questions about a given subject. I generally prefer when they do that in writing, because I can answer the questions and post them, so that constituents and stakeholders can see not just what was put in the newspaper, but the context of the conversations. 

 I think that making sure the press gets answers is important. I don't know of anyone who has figured out how to make a democracy work without newspapers. Press freedom is properly the fourth protection guaranteed in the First Amendment for a reason.

 On Tuesday December 6, I received the following questions from Dan Johnson, a reporter for the Sonoma Index-Tribune (Sonoma County has three "major" newspapers, the I-T, the Petaluma Argus-Courier and the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, all of which are owned and controlled by the same company). I have printed his questions and my written answers to them below. The questions concerned the settlement of a dispute between the school district and the local construction trades council (a group of construction unions, such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters, amongst others).   

So, without further ado:

1. Why did you vote in favor of the settlement?

It seemed to me that the general sense of the board was that the agreement was in the interests of the District, and I agreed with that evaluation. 

2. What is your reaction to the passing of it? Were you surprised? 

The PSA that was approved had been discussed for some months by the attorney representing the District and the attorney representing the building trades, and the final document reflected careful work by both lawyers. Given that the District and the building trades had told their attorneys to try to come to an agreement, I think that the success of the negotiation, and ultimate approval of the proposed PSA resulting therefrom, is not a surprise.

3. How will the settlement help the district?
I think that the agreement will provide jobs that prioritize a locally based skilled and trained workforce, and joint apprenticeship opportunities for Sonoma Valley students. These joint apprenticeship opportunities will afford students access to career pathway options that will provide family supporting wages, healthcare and retirement benefits, and the ability to live and work in their own community. 

4. Do you think that critics of the settlement made some valid points, and if so, what were they?

I thank the members of our community who took the time to share their thoughts with the board, both those who were in favor and those who were against. The democratic process depends upon constituents and stakeholders taking the time to express their beliefs. I don't have any other comment in response to this question. 

5. It seems to me that the two main changes in the ultimate agreement are shortening the agreement to five years and covering all work costing more than $212,500, rather than $50,000. Were there other significant changes in the agreement?

Regarding the specific changes from the agreement passed on 11-17-20, the issue was briefed by our attorney, Glenn Gould, for the board, and I would point you to that presentation. 

6. How could this process have been handled better by the board?

The settlement was handled in the fashion that one would expect. The board received legal advice that was of high quality, and acted accordingly. 

7. Several trustees said that they felt it was time to move on and focus on the needs of the students? Do you share this feeling?

I am always focused on the needs of our students. As far as my fellow trustees are concerned, I believe their words speak for themselves. 

8. How will the board be able to deal better with such matters in the future?

This was the final act of this board, and it will have no other matters to deal with in the future. 

9. Would you like to say anything else?


10. I’m wondering how the changes I mentioned in question No. 5 came about. It seemed that The North Bay Building Construction and Trades Council opposed negotiating with SVUSD about the agreement, and yet two main concessions were made. Did the council end up negotiating with SVUSD attorneys?

After Sonoma Valley Unified lost twice in court hearings, Michael Allen, a former state assemblyman and representative of the building trades, reached out to the District to see if a compromise could be reached, which was what led to the settlement. 

11. Initially, the document was referred to as a project labor agreement, but at some point, it began being referred to as a project stabilization agreement. Why the change and what did it mean?

It has always been referred to as a project stabilization agreement.