One of the hot topics of discussion by Santa Rosa’s Charter Review Committee is whether to repeal Santa Rosa’s binding arbitration provision which voters adopted 15 years ago. This is slated to be the main agenda item at committee’s next meeting on Nov. 17.
But Palo Alto is one step ahead. Voters there went to the polls on Tuesday and decided it was time to take away that provision. Binding arbitration is essentially a guarantee that any impasse between the city and police and fire unions over pay, benefits and other issues will go to an outside arbiter who will decide who is right based on benefits of comparable cities.
Measure D in Palo Alto, calling for repealing of binding arbitration, won by more than a 2-1 margin.
Public safety unions vigorously support it, but critics contend that it’s one reason pay and benefits have escalated so rapidly – because cities are wary of going through the expense and complication of such a process. Opponents also contend that it unfairly steers public spending toward police and fire at the expense of other departments. Proponents of the Measure D in Palo Alto noted that spending on public safety had increased 80 percent in the past decade while spending on other departments has been essentially flat.
Santa Rosa voters approved binding arbitration in 1996. Only about 5 percent of California cities have the provision. San Luis Obispo overwhelmingly voted to repeal it on Aug. 30.
Santa Rosa could be voting on something similar a year from now.
- Paul Gullixson