The wall: Ban on contractors is misguided

A portion of the dividing line between Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego, Calif. (Photo: Sherry V. Smith, Shutterstock)

Public discourse over the construction of the Trump Administration’s border wall is rife with disagreement. However, a few elected officials have taken the absurd step to attempt to punish any company that does not share their political values on the subject.

Recently, San Francisco County Supervisors joined local policy-makers from Berkeley and Oakland and introduced ordinances that would ban construction professionals from bidding on future city contracts if they compete for services on the construction of the proposed wall, regardless of whether their bid for work is approved.

Those who abuse their elected positions to impose political judgments against businesses who are trying to lawfully operate in California will only serve to further drive companies out of the state.

Not to be outdone, state lawmakers proposed legislation that would impose monetary penalties and/or future bans from working with state agencies and individual cities to California contractors who bid or work on the federally-funded border wall.

Government power must remain agnostic in terms of equal and competitive bidding practices and such proposals to ban are contrary to more than 140 years of California Supreme Court precedent – precedent that focuses on the bidding process and not on what is being built. The importance of competitive bidding is engrained in the California Constitution to “eliminate favoritism, fraud and corruption; avoid misuse of public funds; and stimulate advantageous market place competition.”

Those individuals who abuse their elected positions to impose political judgments against businesses who are trying to lawfully operate in California will only serve to further drive companies out of the state or out of business altogether. In a state whose transportation and water infrastructure is literally crumbling before our eyes, is it wise to drive out the experienced companies capable of restoring this failing infrastructure?

So, we logically ask, if this can pass, what is next? Will they ban any company that is providing services or bid on work at the former Bank of America Center, since it is partly owned by the Trump Organization? Perhaps it is in the best interest of San Francisco County to ban any of the high-profile tech companies – such as Microsoft — who choose to be a tenant at this location from doing any business in their county. Will these politicians go further and ban any company that wishes to bid on the construction or improvement of a synagogue, mosque or temple because in doing so they have clearly taken a side between Jerusalem or a Palestinian State?

For a state ranked in 50th place for business friendliness, you would think the last straw had already been drawn, but these elected representatives continue to defy reason and penalize employers.

Local policy makers need not be concerned about which licensed construction company bid on lawful federal projects proposed by this or any other administration and should instead refocus their attention to the critical infrastructure issues facing our state and local communities. They could aid more Californians by eliminating this form of ridiculous favoritism. They should focus instead on helping California construction companies succeed by not continuing to saddle them with overly litigious, regulatory and taxed policies – policies that only serve to hamstring our State’s construction economy.

Ed’s Note:  Tim Murphy is CEO of the Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange and chairman the 
the Federation of the California Builders Exchange, or CalBX. The latter represents more than 2,800 commercial construction and industrial companies and professional trades.

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