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In battle over ban on union-friendly pacts, both sides have $1M to spend on campaigns

Campaigns for and against San Diego’s Measure D, a controversial proposal to lift the city’s ban on union-friendly project labor agreements, have each raised more than $1 million to pay for ads and mailers.

A committee supporting two other San Diego initiatives — Measure B, which would repeal the law that guarantees free trash pickup for single-family homes, and Measure C, which would lift the 30-foot building height limit near the sports arena — has raised $110,000.

Opponents of Measures B and C have not reported raising any money, according to campaign contribution documents posted on the city’s website for the period covering July 1 through Sept. 24.

Neither supporters nor opponents of Measure H, which would allow childcare centers to operate in city parks, have reported raising any money.

In the hottest City Council runoff, the Democrat-versus-Democrat battle to replace termed-out Republican Chris Cate in north central District 6, Kent Lee continues to dominate fundraising over his opponent Tommy Hough.

Lee raised more than four times as much money as Hough during the period, $72,000 to $17,000, and Lee’s campaign war chest five weeks before the election on Nov. 8 is more than double Hough’s, $120,000 versus $47,000.

In addition, the political fundraising arm of the city’s Municipal Employees Association labor union recently contributed another $50,000 to a committee supporting Lee’s candidacy.

Contributions to committees are not subject to the city’s $650 maximum contribution from individuals who contribute directly to candidates. The MEA represents roughly 4,000 white-collar city workers.

The battle over Measure D seems likely to flood local mailboxes with literature making the case for and against repealing the city’s ban on project labor agreements, often called PLAs.

Supporters, including dozens of labor unions, say the measure is crucial to helping San Diego avoid losing state construction funding, stressing that the city has received more than $800 million in such money in just the last two fiscal years.

Opponents, mostly contractors represented by American General Contractors, stress that San Diego’s ban on PLAs hasn’t cost the city even one state dollar since it took effect in 2012.

That’s because the 2012 city voter-approved ban has a specific exemption for projects where state funding would be at risk.

A first wave of mailers sent out by supporters this week features photos of Mayor Todd Gloria, who has endorsed the measure, and says it is about fairness and infrastructure money.

Opponents say the measure would basically legislate a legal monopoly for organizations like the San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council by making PLAs the city’s go-to approach for projects.

Both sides say they have raised more than $1 million each — an unusually large sum for campaigns for and against city ballot measures. They are expecting the mostly under-the-radar battle to explode in the days leading up to the election.

“It’s a big fight,” said consultant Dan Rottenstreich, who’s leading the campaign in support of Measure D. “Corporations and developers are opposed to Measure D because they want to keep wages down, and we’re fighting back.”

Opponents say there is so much money flooding into campaign coffers because there is so much money at stake if the measure passes. Many local contractors could be shut out from bidding on many city projects.

Contributors to the opposition campaign include many of those contractors, such as KTA Construction in Alpine, Cameron Brothers in Santee and SC Valley Engineering in El Cajon.

Contributors to the campaign supporting Measure D include the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, the state Pipe Trades Council, the District Council of Ironworkers and the District Council of Plasterers and Cement Workers.

Supporters recently accused opponents of funneling a $330,000 state grant for apprenticeships into their campaign coffers. Opponents deny that charge.

“Our campaign is funded entirely by local contractors, workers and associations who just want the right to compete for construction projects in our own neighborhood,” said Dustin Steiner of the AGC.

Regarding Measures B and C, City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera has launched a fundraising committee to simultaneously support both measures.

The $110,000 that the committee has raised so far for those two measures includes $22,000 from the Municipal Employees Association, $15,000 from the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, $10,000 from Manpower San Diego, $5,000 from the San Diego Downtown Partnership and $5,000 from the Building Industry Association.

In addition, a labor union representing city workers whose trash collection jobs would become more secure under Measure B donated $13,000. That union is local 127 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

In the council races, incumbent Democratic Councilmember Jennifer Campbell out-raised Republican Linda Lukacs in District 2 $59,000 to $21,000, incumbent Democrat Vivian Moreno out-raised Democratic opponent Antonio Martinez in District 8 $6,000 to nothing, and incumbent Democratic Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe out-raised Republican Gloria Evangelista in District 4 $14,000 to nothing.

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