How Cam Hamilton and Brian Ward have tied the hands of Economic Development Staff, and cost Porterville jobs and tax revenues for 4 years, and a simple solution at the end

How is it that Porterville’s economic development is hurt by its Council’s flip-flop between 2003 and 2008 on the advisability of the protection of Rights of citizens from government intervention?

Part 1:

Here is the article that describes the 2003 public hearing now-Mayor Roh Irish was absent from and the Council’s holding up the vote so he could be present. I don’t have any beef with him not being present, life happens. And I don’t have any beef with Council wanting to give him a chance to weigh in.

The article that describes the vote and containse the text of the resolution is no longer searchable on the Recorder’s web site. It used to be, but is gone now, I can only speculate as to why, maybe because I have raised this issue in the past. Rick Elkins has avoided answering my question as to why, and I have no idea why that is. (Not that it would be the first content to disappear while he was the editor, but that is a different matter)

No matter, the text or the Resolution is available elsewhere: (also contains a report of the meeting including some of Irish’s actions)

Text of the Resolution only:

By contrast, here is the report of the meeting on the Prop 8 Resolution and the text of the Resolution(when Mayor Irish was not on Council 5 years almost to the day later!):

Please read those Resolutions over, and you will see that Council voted for both unanimously, Cam Hamilton was on both Councils, Irish was on the first, and that one clearly affirms the rights of all citizens should not be limited by government, and the second calls for government (the people of California being the 4th branch) to do just that.

Independent of you the reader’s opinion on Prop 8 or gay rights or any of that, can we agree so far that this was the opposite intents of the two Resolutions?

In Part 2, I will find the Court ruling and a few contemporaneous news reports from 2008 that explain that in California, prior to Prop 8 passing, marriage to people of the same gender was in fact a Right afforded citizens under the State Constitution, OK?

Part 2:

On this page, you can find the opinion and other legal documents from the California Supreme Court for In Re: Marriage Cases, the 2008 case that affirmed to right of all Californians to marry someone of the same gender.

(Incidentally, there was no test to prove you are gay before you were allowed to marry someone of the same gender, no one was going to ask at the time of application for a license. So this was a right available to all, even you and even me, whether or not we ever intended to exercise it, we most certain did have that right)

The opinion is long, and while I recommend everyone read it, I don’t expect them to. So I will find you a couple of contemporaneous news articles that explain that the effect of the opinion is to indicate that Californians did have the right to marry anyone of any gender.

Here are a couple of news articles from the time that describe the Court ruling’s resulta as a right being affirmed:

I am sure you can find many more. I don’t think there is any dispute that the result of the ruling was to affirm the right to marry, as it is well known that approximately 18,000 couples promptly took advantage of this right, including many in Porterville.

Part 3:

OK, so let’s conenct the dots so far:

1 – In 2003, Council, including Mayor Irish, voted a Resolution desgnged to affirm that rights (and civil liberties too!) of citizens should be safe from attempts by government to remove them.

The Patriot Act prompted this Resolution to occur, and similar Resolutions were passed all over California and indeed across the US around that time. Standing up against those who would strip rights is a right and proper thing to do, anyone would agree.

2 – In May 2008, California’s Supreme Court decided a case, the effect of which was to affirm that all people had a RIGHT to marry people of any gender they wanted to marry.

3 – Later in 2008, Council, (but Mayor Irish was not on Council by then), in its capacity as a governing body urged another governing body – the People of California, to strip the rights then held by all Californians from themselves.

This was 100% opposite to the letter and the spirit of the 2003 Resolution, which aimed to protect the rights of Californians (and all Americans) from government attempts to remove or restrict existing rights.

2008 Council DID exactly what 2003 Council feared government bodies would try to do and which they voiced opposition to in advance.

No other Council in all of California saw fit to adopt a position in favor of removing rights from Californians during the period between the Court ruling in May and the Prop 8 election in November 2008. Only Porterville did that.

Part 4:

Cam Hamilton was the only person who voted for both Resolutions, the other 4 members of Council had changed in the intervening 5 years.

To me this shows that Hamilton is not a man of deep principles, as he can’t have it both ways. I won’t speculate here as to which principle he holds more dear, the principle that rights are sacrosanct and not to be removed by government bodies, or that the rights of minorities are subject to the whims and passions of a vote of the majority at any time.

Based on his recent comments on the Recorder facebook page, I have my strong suspicions though that he prefers the latter explanation.

Nonetheless, these are the two Resolutions that Council has passed and lent Portervilles good and valuable and valued name to.

Mayor Irish voted for the first one, which was good and proper in my view.

He then returned to Council after the second (and after the failure of a third, introduced by Hamilton, in 7/2009).

Part of Irish’s role as Mayor, which he has been nearly the entire time since he returned to Council to complete Pedro Martinez’ term, is to provide leadership and policy guidance to Staff regarding economic development (ED) efforts.

While readers might phrase the role of Mayor a little bit differently, I am pretty sure we are close to being on the same page on this, yes?

Part 5:

Part of providing leadership and guidance is to assure that Staff has the best possible tools to accomplish its Economic Development (ED) tasks.

Because, especially when staff works to bring companies (and jobs) here, it is a very competitive activity. Any opportunity it is pursuing, so are other cities or locations. And the companies, having choices but not being able or willing to put offices, stores, or other facilities with their jobs in all of the competing locations, must somehow distinguish between them.

And so it is the role of Porterville of ED staff to sell the attributes Porterville as more desirable to the company than the attributes that other Cities have their ED staff selling to the same company.

Among those attributes are appropriate workforce availability, appropriate infrastructure, desirable locations, etc.

In a perfect world, these would be the only matters that our ED staff would need worry about.

But there is at least one more, and that is the reputation of the location as “business friendly”.

People talk about California as a whole as being “not business friendly” and driving business away to other states or causing them to not locate here in the first place. Usually, the context given for this is taxes and regulations. I am pretty sure you the reader agree with this, yes?

Part 6:

OK, so then, having decided to locate in California, or being California based in the first place, a company then has the chance to distinguish of the competing locations within CA are equally business friendly on the local level.

For example, maybe some location has streamlined infrastructure approvals at City Hall. Or maybe some other place has a better trained workforce. Those represents efforts by locals to *improve* their reputation and standing among those who are being sold the location (such as Porterville) as a good and desirable place to business.

It is of course, possible for locals to take steps, on purpose or not, that make them *less* desirable. Maybe there is too much red tape. Maybe the work force is not well enough trained or trainable. Maybe the schools underperform compared to the competing locations.

This last one is important because it addresses the situation that businesses look at quality of life issues when deciding on locations. This is true, because at least some new people will be coming to town as a result of any economic development deal of the sort we are discussing, and so that is fair game for the companies to consider: they want their employees and their families to come with them to the new location, be happy, stay, and be productive. They also will want to recruit more people to come to the new location afterwards, and so quality of life issues are important there.

I would be astounded if our own Staff, who it appears to me does as good a job as they can under the circumstances and guidance they have been given, does not try to highlight positive quality of life issues when working to recruit companies to come here.

I would be equally surprised if they don’t downplay negative quality of life issues here as well, because it is plain that when selling, bringing up negative attributes is rarely a winning strategy in a competitive situation.

I don’t think they will deny them if asked, but I don’t think they celebrate them either. That’s just basic Consultative Sales 101, which is what we are talking about.

Part 7:

OK, so we have established so far that quality of life issues, both positive and negative, are a factor in the decision making process for companies looking to locate in Porterville and/or elsewhere in a competitive situation.

So just because staff doesn’t highlight negative quality of life issues here does not mean that the companies don’t know about them or care about them. They do, because employees being happy here is key to the success of the company’s efforts here. If they can’t get or keep key employees, then that is a big factor.

Why might employees not want to come to a place, and either by vocalizing it to a company, or potentially just acting on not coming here or not staying here long, influencing the company’s decision where to locate either way?

Well, I mentioned schools earlier. If the families care about the education of their kids, they will surely look at the quality of the schools in deciding if they would follow the company or not.

And the company knows this, so they think quality of schools is important, even though it is not directly located to the task that the company does.

And any ED staff knows that companies care about schools for this reason – that a negative perception of schools will lead to a negative decision and a loss of the sale to someplace else, all other things being equal as they often are.

And Councils know this in setting guidance, it is a rare Council indeed that would set a policy that the quality of schools is not important, or that it is not important to ED efforts anyway.

It s quite clear, if you trhe reader think about it, that Council acts in the context of schools and ED to provide the most positive story possible for staff, for candidate companies, and for those company’s present and future employees. Otherwise, the whole thing is nearly impossible to bring together.

I realize that Council is not the same as the School Board, but Council does have some influence on the overall perception of education by its work with the School Board(s), and by related issues (Library, Literacy, etc.). So a positive perception of education is both in the interests of , and at least somewhat under the control of Council and staff.

It is simply a given that ED staff will present this (and by extension other quality of life issues) in as positive a matter as possible, but that the company will do its own research beyond the presentation of staff in making its decisions.

And, in a competitive situation, you have done enough sales I am sure to realize, that competitors will indicate to the companies, either directly or indirectly, that some places have particular negatives that they should look at.

So whether they do their own due diligence and find negative quality of life issues themselves, or if they are informed by other interested parties, it must be assumed that the companies are aware of negative as well as positive quality of life issues.

And because negative policy of life issues are as important as positive quality of life issues in the retention and recruiting of employees, who make decisions based on what is best for them and/or their families, companies will act on the negative as well as the positive.

Part 8:

How will companies considering Porterville act? Depends on how far along the sales process is.

If for example, some retail company has decided to place a store in either Tulare or here, and all else is equal in terms of red tape, cost, workforce, access, infrastructure, market size and demographics, etc., learning that there are negative quality of life issues in either place could tip the balance at the latest stages of decision making.

Or, perhaps the company own staff does preliminary assessments of possible locations, and then search out quality of life information to present to their own offices before contacting the leading candidates.

In such a case negative quality of life issues could cause locations such as Porterville to be eliminated from consideration *before they even knew the company was interested in locating here*.

For example, maybe Porterville or some other place has a school achievement record of sending kids to colleges that is not in line with the expectations of the company’s employees, and so the company can reasonably assume that locating here would negatively impact the likelihood or keeping or recruiting the kinds of employees and their families that they need to do business.

I am sure in the Economic Development (ED) industry, cities don’t make even the first cut all the time for negative quality of life reasons such as this, and I am sure you agree if you think about it honestly and openly.

Part 9:

OK, so now we know that companies will eliminate Porterville on first cuts before we even know we are in the running, based on quality of life issues.

Then, clearly, it is up to Council, in its role as providing leadership and guidance to ED efforts by staff, to identify and minimize the quality of life issues that can prevent staff from even learning about opportunities that are available, let alone competing for and winning them.

Remember, quality of life issues can be a factor at any stage of the decision making process, and a company is under no obligation to give an honest reason to what extent the negative quality of life factors played a part in the decision.

In fact, it is probably in the company’s best interests to be vague as to the reasons for rejecting one place or another so as to leave the door open for the future, and instead focus on lauding the favorable elements of the winner.

So, when negative quality of life issues affect ED’s success, whether ED ever knew they were in the running or if they put lots of effort into it with the full support and involvement of Council, they may never know what quality of life issues tipped the scales.

Part 10:

So the only thing Council can do is to, as honestly as possible with staff and the public, assess what the true decision making factors are by putting themselves in the shoes of the companies they are recruiting and work these scenarios that way.

Again, this is basic Consultative Sales 101.

This should be a continuous and ongoing process of evaluation, but if it hasn’t happened before, it is never too late to start now.

If Council were to honestly and with an open mind and heart as to their (fiduciary?) goals and obligations to the Citizens work to identify the negative quality of life issues, they would see that the Prop 8 Resolution is one such matter, just as poor schools would be.

– It is unique in CA.
– It puts the government in a position as saying it does not value the rights of all of its citizens in general.
– It puts the government in a position of saying that gays in particular are disfavored here
– It is unlikely in the extreme that companies that would come here do not have gay employees, or for even non-gay employees, that their families do not contain gay members
– It is plain that employees will act in the best interests of their families in almost all cases when considering relocating for a job, and that few will want to put their family in a situation where they are not welcome and even the government sanctions their loss of rights and other bigotry may ensue (see the SB54 7/2009 attempt by Hamilton and Ward).
– Thus it is more difficult for a company to recruit and/or keep the best qualified employees to Porterville, should they decide to locate here.
– Because it does not serve a company’s best interest to reduce the likelihood of keeping or recruiting the best employees, they will give serious consideration to this negative quality of life issues unless it is true among all of the possible candidates and is hence
– In the case of Porterville’s pro-Prop 8 Resolution, it will never be the case that the competition cities that ED Staff squares off against will ever be burdened by the same negative quality of life issue, because *only Porterville has this issue in all of California*.

Thus, Council, by allowing the Prop 8 Resolution to continue to stand, handicaps ED staff *every single time*.

Part 11:

I am not saying that there are no companies that would ever come here despite this issue, clearly there are some because some have come.

But I am saying the pool of companies is extremely reduced, and for companies with higher staff requirements than ordinary retail, the effect is going to be even more pronounced, because there is that much more flexibility on the part of present and future staff to decide to follow the job or not based on their (the employee’s) view of the quality of life at the new location.

And as I described, they will do what is in the best interests of their family, and some families will reject Porterville on the basis of its Resolution and what it means, and that affects what the company will do.

The next Part will contain recommendations on what can be done about this, now that you the reader understand how the Prop 8 Resolution is hurting our ED efforts even if no one at City Hall or on Council will come right out and say it is the reason they decided that Porterville was not the right place for their company to locate.

Part 12:

I could build a similar case regarding the risk to the brand value in choosing between locations as I just did for negative quality of life issues. In short, a company often has little but its brand value in its own competitive market place, and in choosing where to do business, it will consider how customers will consider the brand being reflected negatively by location decisions.

One large example currently in the news is how Apple is working carefully to protect its image by making sure its factory partners in China treat its workers in a way that is consistent with Apple’s own American values.

There have been numerous cases in the news over the years with similar overtones. Shoes and clothing companies, which are essentially brands, such as Nike, choose their locations and partners very carefully now precisely because of the negative value of being associated with improper working conditions or rights of workers, etc.

This doesn’t have to be just overseas though. Just as a company will rule out a location at any stage for negative quality of life issues for employees and families, they will also rule it out if they sense that the negative issues associates with the location would affect the way their customers perceive them.

And customers might very well perceive that a company that does business in a location where the local government itself is on record as disfavoring the rights of minorities is not a company whose products they want to buy.

The company will evaluate that risk and simply strike that location from consideration, again without needing to disclose why or even that the location was ever under consideration, and ED Staff has their hands tied again by Council’s actions through no fault of their own.

Similarly again for shareholders, whose continued confidence in the ability to retain and recruit employees and to sell a product without negative publicity is key to keeping the companies you are trying to bring here financed in the first place.

I think you the reader get the picture now, yes?

Part 13:

OK so what can be done about it?

This has been a really long explanation, and I am glad to provide it, but fortunately the decision about how to solve the issue is much easier.

One possibility, which I don’t recommend, but which is fair to consider, is this “Modest Solution”:

Treat the negative a a point worth selling, and to actually go out and publicize that Porterville does not value the rights of its gay citizens or other minorities, that the local government is on record as saying so, and that they really mean it.

Go look for companies for whom that is a positive. I am sure if you look under enough rocks, you can find some and bring them here. Make Porterville the “go-to” location for companies and individuals who want to work for companies who do not value rights or diversity. Pass MORE Resolutions affirming that rights are not valued for minorities that happen to be here.

Don’t explicitly chase minorities out of town, but create the conditions where the private sector can do what they can to make minorities uncomfortable when here, and to let them know they shouldn’t come here at all if they want to be treated equally.

That is one way it can go.

I know that sounds outrageous, and I made it deliberately so. But Council *could* do that if it wants.

In fact, Council has already passed one Resolution in September 2008 that is very much along those lines, and Hanilton introduced buut failed to pass another in July 2009, despite a very dramatic public hearing with more than an hour of pleas and prayers from the public to pass it.

Only due to the persistent and long term efforts of a minority to educate Council members after their 9/2008 vote that the 7/2009 vote would be a mistake in that it would further cement the City’s reputation as undesirable as described above.

Except for Cam Hamilton and Brian Ward, the others (Pete McCracken and Pedro Martinez and Felipe Martinez) saw the light during the period between the two votes and did not want to push Porterville further down the road of damage to its reputation and harm to its Economic Development efforts (and hence its ability to provide jobs and tax revenue).

Part 14:

So now what?

We see the harm, we see that the Prop 8 Resolution does, we see that Council in 7/2009 decided to NOT continue down that road of the “Modest Proposal” above, but did not go back to the fork in the road they followed in 9/2008.

And so now the City and ED Staff are stuck partway down a road they can’t fully commit to, and it is harming the City, it’s residents, its job creation and tax generating abilities, as I have explained in what I hope is sufficient detail.

What I ask Mayor Irish to do, in his last few weeks as Mayor, is to build a consensus around the argument I have presented here, and to pass a Resolution similar to the one from September 2003 that affirms the rights of all as being secure from the limits placed by governments based on passions of the day (or similar language TBD, I am speaking roughly here), and which explicitly disavows the 9/2008 Resolution (written by Brian Ward voted on by Cam Hamitlon) and because of the damage it has done silently to ED efforts and to the City and its residents.

Of course, while I can be persistent and pushy, I can compromise too. Note that the language I proposed just above does not require anyone to vote to renounce any animus they may or may not have towards gays, only to acknowledge that the 9/2008 Resolution did and continues to damage the ability of the City to accomplish its tasks.

If Mayor Irish can sell to Council to have a new Resolution that disavows the 9/2008 Resolution for ED damage reasons, and affirms the rights of all as sacrosanct from meddling by Government at all levels, if he can do that between now and the end of his term, (2 more meetings? not sure) I give my word that those who have objected to the 9/2008 Resolution since it was passed will find it an acceptable compromise and prepare to move forward.

And what a final hurrah that will be for Mayor Irish! To fix the greatest political divide in town that has been an issue for nearly 4 years now, while simultaneously jump-starting the City’s Economic Development efforts by untying staff’s hands in competitive situations.

If that is the legacy he prefers for himself, instead of leaving us one step down the road to the “Modest Proposal” and subject at any time for Council to take more steps in the future when he could have worked to prevent it, then I am ready and willing to work with you on it.

If asked, I will work promptly to prepare a draft Resolution.

Just that Mayor Irish would get it on the agenda, even if there is not time to pass it would be great for his legacy and everyone in Porterville, and would signal that the new Council ought consider it as well or continue to suffer the consequences.

Part 15:

So, as I said, the actual solution is very simple, and there is a compromise available so that folks can save face if that is important to them.

Mr. Mayor, the ball is in your court, what say you? Leave City Hall’s Economic Development Staff hands tied and hurt the City and its citizens forever into the future, or move boldly to rectify the problem now that you understand it?

One or the other will happen, the choice is yours and yours alone as to whether you step up and lead through a quick compromise or wipe your hands of it.

I know which path is easier for you, but I also know which one is the right thing to do, and I am sure you do too.

Posted in Porterville City Council, Porterville News, Same Sex Marriage Rights.