The St. Petersburg City Council continues its longstanding history “leading from behind” on the issue of a politically motivated local hiring ordinance pushed by the so-called “Social Justice” group FAST. This is also known as following since the main goal of our City Council Members and Mayor is to be re-elected at all costs – not to issue good policy based on solid principles and moral action. The ordinance would refuse to hire a contractor for a city contract on any construction project costing more than $2 million. This number was arrived at Arbitrarily by FAST – whose true motivations on this matter will be revealed in a later piece here. At a “Supplier Roundtable” hosted by the city on this, numerous contractors have expressed their objections to this ordinance that would force them to conduct business in ways that would harm their company. More importantly, the ordinance is likely to harm taxpayers and the actual construction projects in the city and lead to numerous other unintended consequences.
The ordinance (draft available for download here) would use force to tell private contractors working for the city that they must do the following:
- Ensure that 50% of workers on the project of more than $2 million live in the County (an earlier version said city only and is likely to change to that).
- Require that 20% of those workers are “disadvantaged” meaning they must have a criminal record, be homeless, be on public assistance or the be a custodial single parent.
- Require the private company to hire people to comply with the program to prove that the workers are local and constantly track their home addresses.
- Face a withheld payment or termination of the contract if somebody complains that less than 50% are local residents.
Here are the likely and obvious unintended consequences of this “Social Justice” ordinance:
- Costs of construction projects would go up as competition would disappear from the labor market. Those who were included as part of the “quota” could charge anything they wanted for their labor- the contractor MUST hire them! In addition, the company would have to spend more money to comply with the onerous reporting requirements , driving up costs. Contractors would be asked to ensure that the dozen of subcontractors they evaluate would be compliant too, a gargantuan and costly task.
- The quality of construction would go down. The local labor force may not be qualified enough to do the job and have no incentive to be qualified. They will be given a hiring preference – so why bother training or even turning in a quality work day?
- Jobs would be delayed. If the city is constantly demanding a 50% quota of locals and 20% quota of disadvantage workers, then all it takes is one computer glitch on a worker address to stop the project until it is cleared up. This would occur during the bidding process and during construction.
- Administrative costs for the city would go up. The city would need more workers to keep track of the compliance of contractors. Can the city afford more bureaucrats with their high cost pensions and Cadillac health insurance plans?
- The city is opening itself up for lawsuits. What happens when a low bid contract is rejected. How about if a local activist group like the NAACP (A key FAST supporter) decides the 50% ort 20% rule has not been met and sues the city? What happens when a contractor just sues the city over the entire ordinance? Costly lawsuits.
- The Taxpayers pay more taxes and get lower quality work done more slowly. The contractors pass their costs on to the government and the government passes their costs on to taxpayers. The projects (think Pier, New Police Station, road repaving etc) would get done by lower quality workers and take longer. The cost of lawsuits would cost taxpayers and distract the city from its core functions.
- The program will grow. As the program fails (as it will) as major projects are done and more projects are needed, FAST and others will call for ALL city work to be done by local residents, all city workers to be city residents. After that fails, they will demand that all large private companies hire local residents. The entire “Keep St. Pete Local” effort will result in a failed St. Pete economy.
- Other Cities will adopt the same program, hurting our residents. What happens when Tampa, Clearwater, Pinellas Park and others adopt the same proposal? That will hurt local residents who want jobs outside of the city, further hurting them and the economy.
- The growth of the PATRONAGE JOB industry. What is occuring is the trading of jobs for votes. This is none as “political patronage” and was used by FDR to keep him in office for four terms. It is always associated with corruption as politicians treat some with more respect and favor than others.
This proposal was described as “insanity” by a local contractor at yesterday’s supplier roundtable. It is hard to disagree. That contractor also stated they would simply not even apply for contracts in ST. Pete, even though his business is located in this town! That will lead to even higher cost pressures as the number of bidders go down. The so called “Social Justice” agenda of FAST and their supporters should focus on helping people on an individual level, not using the coercive power of government to enact an extreme political agenda. It will take pressure from local residents to stop this nonsensical ordinance since the FAST people are well organized and, unnecessarily, feared by local Politicians who continue to follow rather than lead.