City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

February 8, 2012
Unions push back against Sacramento's charter commission

Labor unions - those influential groups that have powered many a City Council campaign - aren't thrilled with the council's decision Tuesday night to place a charter review commission on the November ballot.

Hours after the council voted 7-2 to move forward with the ballot measure Tuesday, the president of the city police union told City Manager John Shirey he was suspending negotiations between his union and city officials. Other unions are worried about allowing an outside commission to dive into - and potentially rewrite - the way the city is governed.

The police union's argument is about dollars and cents. Mark Tyndale, president of the Sacramento Police Officers Association, said he was concerned about the cost of a commission and that he refuses "to consider further concessions that will only be used to fund the commission."

City budget officials are trying to convince the police union to agree to pension concessions before the union's contract expires next year.

"The City and SPOA are engaged in off the record meetings," Shirey said. "I hope SPOA will reconsider their position so that productive discussions can continue."

It is unclear what a commission would cost the city. If approved by voters, the 15-member body would spend two years examining the City Charter. It would propose any changes on the ballot in 2014.

The cops aren't alone in their feelings. The firefighters union also blasted the commission idea. And Matt Kelly, head of the Sacramento-Sierra Building and Construction Trades Council, told the council that giving an elected commission the authority to propose full-scale changes to the City Charter creates "too many unknowns and variables."

Councilman Kevin McCarty - normally a solid ally to labor - proposed the commission.

It's an interesting dynamic likely to continue into the fall, as those viewing the commission as a springboard to higher office and special interest groups vie for spots on the body.

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at


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