hiring.jpgA border dispute between San Francisco and San Mateo County is heating up once again–this time over a new local hiring mandate by the Peninsula’s neighbor to the north.

San Mateo County officials raised concerns earlier this month about a proposal in San Francisco to charge “congestion pricing” tolls to motorists entering San Francisco from the south during peak commute hours. The idea was scrapped at a Dec. 14 hearing of San Francisco’s transportation authority.

But on Tuesday, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution asking San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to veto the city’s local hiring ordinance, which the Board of Supervisors passed, also on Dec. 14.

The measure–which would require 20 percent local hiring for city-funded construction projects in its first year–had drawn concern from some local contractors and building trade unions.

Supervisor John Avalos, who sponsored the legislation, called it “a new deal” for San Francisco that would bring more jobs to economically depressed neighborhoods in the city, and praised it as “the nation’s strongest local hiring mandate.”

The San Mateo County resolution, however, expressed dismay about “the serious negative impacts to the region’s work force as well as the environment.”

San Francisco is anticipating spending billions of dollars in capital projects in the coming years. Some of those projects are taking place in San Mateo County, including at San Francisco International Airport and along the Hetch Hetchy regional water system.

In their resolution, San Mateo County supervisors worried that the new law would drain jobs from its local economy.

“In the past, residents of San Mateo County have experienced the inconvenience of San Francisco’s construction efforts, but at least our residents have had an equal opportunity to participate in these construction projects,” their statement read.

It went on to claim that a greater number of San Francisco residents driving to San Mateo County worksites, as well as displaced San Mateo County workers forced to commute elsewhere for jobs, would impact the environment.

Proponents of the law in San Francisco had argued that it would help the environment because fewer workers living outside San Francisco would have to commute to work on projects in the city.

The San Mateo County resolution called for a “regional, rather than an provincial, approach to addressing employment and environmental issues.”

Assemblyman and former San Mateo County supervisor Richard Gordon, whose district covers parts of both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, also joined the fray, in opposition to San Francisco’s legislation.

“I understand the desire to create jobs for San Franciscans, but … we live in a region, and we need to be thinking regionally,” Gordon said today.

“There’s unemployment, job creation needs across the region, and I think if we work together, hopefully we can create more jobs in all of our communities,” he said.

Gordon said he opposed mandatory local hiring laws in any jurisdiction.

Both Gordon and the San Mateo County supervisors raised specific concerns about the loss of their workers to projects at SFO and Hetch Hetchy.

Avalos responded today with indignation, wondering if the San Mateo County supervisors had read his legislation.

“I think they’ve just been told what to do by the Building Trades Council (of San Mateo County),” Avalos said.

Avalos said the law specifically exempts projects at SFO and Hetchy Hetchy from having to adhere to the local hiring mandate.

Gordon said his understanding was that only current projects at those sites would be exempt, and not future ones.

Newsom has until Friday to sign or veto the legislation, or let it be approved unsigned, and representatives from his office said today that the mayor is still considering his options.

Community members from San Francisco’s Bayview, Chinatown and Mission districts descended on Newsom’s office this afternoon to deliver “two Santa Claus bags” full of Christmas cards asking the mayor to sign it, according to Joshua Arce of the Brightline Defense Project, a civil rights advocacy group that supports local hiring.

“We’re asking the mayor to think of the thousands of unemployed and job-hungry San Franciscans first, and San Mateo County politicians second,” Arce said.

“He definitely understands and hears their perspective, and he’s also weighing the views and concerns of San Mateo County and others,” Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker said.

Winnicker said Newsom was still evaluating the local and regional impacts of the policy, including “the benefits and unintended consequences.”

A potential veto may not matter, however. Eight of 11 San Francisco supervisors voted in favor of the legislation, which is a veto-proof majority.

Avalos said board members who voted for it knew there would be “a lot of political pressure on this.”

“I think everyone’s still holding strong,” he said.

Gordon offered some historical perspective on the relationship between the two counties, noting that at one time, until the mid-19th century, they were one county. More recently, he said, the two counties sparred over jet fuel tax revenues from SFO, which is owned by San Francisco but located in San Mateo County.

Gordon said his experience as a county supervisor during Newsom’s time as mayor of San Francisco was that relations between the two counties were “generally positive.”
“There was a very collaborative, cooperative relationship,” he said.

Gordon said he respected San Francisco’s progressive policies, especially being “cutting edge on environmental concerns.”

“But it’s really important that we function as a region, and not one city versus another city, and one county versus another county,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s a pretty small space that we all share here.”

Ari Burack, Bay City News

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