June 28, 2010
THE Novato City Council choked Tuesday night when it decided to do nothing about putting a citizen initiative on the November 2010 ballot. Doing nothing is not one of its options, according to the state elections code, but the council chose that course because its members don’t have the courage to follow the law.
Following the law is the point of the Citizens for Legal Employment and Contracting initiative. CLEC collected thousands of signatures and qualified a referendum for the November ballot that would require contractors with Novato to use E-Verify to ensure that only American workers are hired.
The point is, quite simply, to use a federal program called E-Verify to assist employers in complying with employment laws.
Employers are currently required to determine employment eligibility using the I-9 form and documents provided by prospective employees. But, since there is no document verification required and any kid with a computer can produce convincing counterfeits, there are huge loopholes in this process. The fact is that entering a name and social security number into E-Verify will produce verification of employment eligibility faster than one can photocopy paper documents and put them into a file.
The City Council got the recommendation it was seeking from City Attorney Jeff Walter; that it is illegal to require city contractors to use a federal program to assist them in following the employment laws.
Contradicting Walter’s opinion, CLEC spokesman Jerome Ghigliotti gave the council the text of the federal court decision that authorizes this type of city ordinance.
Using tortured logic, councilmembers contradicted the city’s original decision to put the initiative on the ballot in November this year and opined that it should be delayed until 2011, thereby inviting expensive litigation by the proponents who must sue to get it on the November ballot.
Mayor Jeanne MacLeamy said that it should be on the ballot in November of 2011, 16 months from now, but only because it would have looked really bad to have the council unanimously stopping the process.
Many spoke at the meeting. There was the usual claims of racial victimhood. The chamber of commerce opposed the measure, of course, as did members of the clergy.
Many citizens and longstanding residents of Novato supported it.
One recent online poll found 90 percent in favor of the proposed ordinance.
But, the most troubling outcome is that the City Council has, in dictatorial fashion, thwarted the democratic process and denied the voters of Novato the chance to decide.
The council is not only saying "no" to the procedure of following the law, it is saying "no" to the process of allowing Novato citizens to decide if they want those paid with their tax dollars to follow the law.
The City Council knows this would pass and so it blocked it from the voters.
The glaring omission at the end of the meeting, where council members voiced their reasons against putting the ordinance on the ballot, was even the lip service one would have expected about following the law, protecting American workers, etc.
Curiously, this last bit of posturing was absent, giving the impression that the Novato City Council doesn’t care about the law or protecting American workers in a time when unemployment exceeds 12 percent.
Democracy in Novato has taken a hit on this one.
Rick Oltman of Novato is national media director for Californians for Population Stabilization.