When Santa Monica City Council members passed a ban on doing business with Arizona companies because of that state’s controversial anti-immigration law, SB 1070, little did they know they were about to see a proposed $3 million contract on the agenda with Cavco Industries, Inc., a Phoenix-based company that produces mobile homes.
The contract was for the purchase of 20 mobile homes for residents of the City Hall-owned Mountain View Mobile Home Park. These residents, who are surrounded by a freeway, a waste transfer station and the future maintenance yard for Exposition Light Rail, have for roughly two years lived in the midst of a construction zone as crews dug up roads and replaced electrical and gas lines as part of a multi-million dollar upgrade to the park. Anyone who has lived near a construction site or has had to move out of their home because of a remodel or some other renovation can attest to the disruption and stress this causes.
Well, these Mountain View residents are getting the shaft again, this time courtesy of the City Council, which has rejected the Cavco contract and has ordered city staff to go out on the open market to find a new deal. While it is possible a better deal can be found, it is likely that this move will end up costing taxpayers more, as much as $2 million, according to Economic Development Director Andy Agle. And that doesn’t include staff time needed to negotiate.
Either way it means Mountain View residents will have to wait longer for their new homes, and for what? The council has a history of sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong. It was fine when it had to do with the war in Iraq. It didn’t cost taxpayers a dime to come out against the war. It’s not like City Hall had a custodial services contract with Halliburton. However, in this precarious financial climate where residents are being asked to approve an increase in the sales tax because of looming budget deficits, it doesn’t make sense to potentially waste money to enter into a national debate when we have more important issues to take care of at home. And contrary to an argument made by Councilmembers Terry O’Day and Gleam Davis, who weren’t even elected by the people to begin with, that the money to purchase the homes comes from a federal grant and therefore it doesn’t matter if City Hall spends more, it’s still taxpayer money no matter where it comes from. Elected officials need to remember that they are making decisions with our checkbook, not theirs.
Word has it that when O’Day proposed the boycott, no one on the dais was even aware of the Cavco contract, which is the biggest proposed deal with an Arizona company in recent memory. Why wasn’t someone there to inform him and his colleagues that this contract was looming? On the flip side, a key administrator in the housing department had no clue that the council even passed the boycott. Where’s the communication?
When the contract came to light, the council had no choice but to reject it and save face. It is beginning to feel more like an act of hubris rather than a principled stand.
Ironically, the very people that the council was trying to protect with its overreaching action are the one’s being hurt by it. Cavco President Joe Stegmayer said many of his employees, the ones who make the mobile homes, are Hispanic “and they work very hard.”
“If we don’t have the business, our people don’t have as much to build and they don’t get as many hours to work,” he said.
The council recently debated ways to shorten meetings by eliminating staff reports and keeping a close eye on how long each council member speaks. Maybe they should look at cutting out the nonsense like this boycott and focus on the issues impacting Santa Monicans most like replacing the California Incline and Santa Monica Pier bridge, or renovating parking structures to cut down on congestion in Downtown. How about monitoring development agreements more closely so developers don’t walk all over us.
We’re all for protecting our basic Constitutional rights and we are not supporters of racial profiling or harassment by law enforcement, but let’s keep it closer to home and pass boycotts when there is an issue impacting Santa Monicans.