Monday, December 12, 2011

Unions Seek Corner Lot PLA

Governing Board President Tim Nader’s recent statement that there is little chance he would sign a union-favoring Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for the first phase of Proposition R construction has pro-labor activists crying foul. But pro-business advocates said they are also feeling unsatisfied with the process.

With Phase I construction on the $389 million Prop R project planned for early next year and no signed labor contracts in place, union representatives and workers tried recently to convince Nader and the rest of the board that there is still time to sign a PLA that would go into effect immediately. Union members said the agreement would benefit the college, community and construction workers of the district.

But none of that may matter. Governing board members insist that construction management contracts already in place would make agreeing to a new PLA difficult, at least for Phase I of the five-phase project.

Management contracts oversee money, while construction contracts oversee the hiring of subcontractors and workers. Former Vice President of Fiscal Services Nicholas Alioto signed management contracts with Seville Construction Services for project management. The former governing board approved. Echo Pacific Construction was hired by Alioto to handle construction contracts, but the current board terminated Echo Pacific’s contract this fall. Balfour Beatty has been approached by the college about assuming Echo Pacific’s terminated contract and assuming responsibility for construction and labor. No contract has been approved.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Board Fires Corner Lot Construction Firm

One year ago this week, donning pressed suits and ill-fitting construction hard hats, the previous Southwestern College Governing Board broke ground to celebrate the start of construction on the $389 million Proposition R project on the infamous “corner lot.” A seven-acre dirt and gravel field on Chula Vista’s busiest intersection, the lot has remained empty for five decades. In the 12 months since then, the only meaningful activity on the property was seasonal vendors selling pumpkins in October and Christmas trees in December.

Pumpkin Patch: the only work being done / Photo: Serina Duarte
With the pumpkin patch up and running again this year, the current governing board unknowing marked the anniversary of the groundbreaking by firing Escondido-based Echo Pacific Construction, the firm contracted to provide construction management for most of the Prop R project. Echo Pacific, however, continued on as if it was business as usual.

SWC Director of Facilities John Brown confirmed the board action to fire Echo Pacific. The firm would continue to be part of the Proposition AA project, he said, but the board was already seeking its replacement for Prop R work.

“A recommendation was made at the October 12, 2011 governing board meeting by staff to open negotiations with the number two ranked firm, Balfour Beatty [formerly known as Barnhart Balfour Beatty],” Brown said.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Builder Decries Lack of Oversight Members

David Adams / Photo: Furr
Some conservative building contractors and taxpayer advocates are complaining that two experienced members of the college’s Proposition R Oversight Committee were replaced with pro-union representatives. Members of the governing board said one representative was not reappointed because she had not applied for another term.

In 2008, voters of the Southwestern Community College District overwhelmingly approved a $389 million construction and modernization bond meant to improve the college, including the “corner lot” project, a parcel of empty former farmland located at the corner of H Street and Otay Lakes Road in Chula Vista.

Following California law, the Prop R Citizens Oversight Committee was formed to monitor expenditures and provide representation, not to the college or construction companies, but to the voters of the district.
Three new members joined the committee this summer. Nicholas Segura, Thomas Davis and Matt Kriz filled one vacant seat and replaced members David Krogh and Rebecca Kelley. The board’s refusal to reappoint Kelley to her seat proved to be a controversial decision.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"Kizuna: Fiction for Japan" is Out!

It is with great pleasure that I announce that Kizuna: Fiction for Japan is out! This charity anthology is unlike any other. Featuring a mix of authors - the known and the unknown, created and developed to be released and read online, but designed to also go into print, Kizuna: Fiction for Japan is a labor of love of 76 different writers from 11 different countries - all of whom are taking part in helping the victims of the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan this spring.

I'm not exaggerating when I say this was the brainchild of American-born, Japan-based writer Brent Millis - who alone developed the idea of a charity anthology and then started seeking the opinions of people he knew online.

Brent and I have known each other on Twitter for a couple of years, and on Facebook for nearly as long. We've never met, but we have a clear respect for each other's work and ability. And following this, Brent has my highest level of respect as a man able to do what few others have ever even attempted.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Chief Chartier is the Wrong Man to Lead Campus Police

Winds of change have buffeted Southwestern College and show no signs of abating. With the governing board elections of 2010 tipping the power balance to a pro-education stance, and the resignations of Superintendent Dr. Raj K. Chopra and Nick Alioto, fiscal services vice president, it is clear that no position is exempt from change and any college leader might need to justify the job they do to those who matter most: the public.

Given the inconsistent, secretive and often questionable actions the campus police have taken recently, one must ask whether campus Chief of Police Brent Chartier should continue.

In March, a campus police officer stopped a female adjunct instructor to cite her for driving while talking on a cell phone. He handcuffed and arrested her for allegedly resisting arrest. It is still not clear what crime she had committed to be handcuffed in the first place.

Rob Unger, the SCEA grievance chair who was involved in the early stages of the incident, said the woman’s story is that she was handcuffed and had her head slammed into the hood of her car. When the officer pinned her to the car he became sexually aggressive, she reported, pressing his crotch to her rear. She asked him to change positions and he pushed harder against her. She then yelled for him to stop.

“He may have taken that to be resistance,” Unger said.

Delays, Controversy Again Stagger Corner Lot Project

For 50 years, the 2.6 acre patch at the northeast of Southwestern College has laid fallow, a vestige from the lima bean and horse ranch it once was. For the past decade it has become a killing field for SWC administrators and board members who get too wrapped in the often murky worlds of construction, politics and money.

And still the land sits empty as a new set of players settles in to try to make sense of the stalled project that led to so much upheaval at SWC last year.

Pasadena-based Seville Construction Services, chosen by a previous SWC administration and board to manage an ambitious new incarnation of the highly-visible “corner lot,” has pushed back the start date several times. Seville has become entangled in governing board politics, SWC contract troubles, love affairs, investigations, and was caught playing a personnel shell game as detailed in a Los Angeles Times investigative series.

In October 2009, Seville was awarded a $2.7 million contract – or 2.7 percent of the initial $100 million Phase I project costs – to provide program management and as-needed construction management services for the college’s Proposition R construction, projects funded by a voter-approved $389 million construction and modernization bond in 2008. Projected to be spread out over 23 years and five phases, the Prop. R work would be largest college building project in about 35 years. Of the $100 million slated for Phase I, the corner lot project was budgeted at $74 million.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monday, February 21, 2011