The city claims the Rail Authority is not following the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to offer specific information about how the rail project will impact downtown Bakersfield, if and when it is built. City Attorney Ginny Gennaro wants to make sure the city stays on track to protect itself and its residents.
"I'm looking for direction tonight to retain outside counsel and initiate litigation at the direction of the city attorney when its appropriate," said Gennaro.
Gennaro received her directive. The vote to sue was unanimous.
The hottest topic of the night was a resolution to do away with prevailing wage requirements on construction of locally-funded public works projects. The council approved that resolution on a 4-to-2 vote.
This means contractors don't have to pay workers as much, lowering labor costs for the city and its taxpayers but construction workers like Michael Layman say the council's decision will hit him in the pocketbook.
"If nobody is looking at what they are paying, I'll guarantee you they are going to drop their wages. Wouldn't you? 'If I don't have to pay 18 dollars an hour, gee whiz, will you work for 16? I'll let you work for 16. I'm going to put the two dollars in my pocket,'" said Layman.
Those in favor of the council's resolution say they will continue to pay a fair wage.
"If a company plans to stay in business for very long, they will, by default, need to pay competitive wages and benefits in order to attract and maintain a skilled workforce that is needed to do the job," said Tami Chapman with Johasee Rebar.
The city still has to pay the higher, prevailing wage if a project receives state or federal funding but critics say projects funded with local money, can now be built by workers who may only make California's minimum wage.
"I can't. I can't afford to leave the house for that much."
The city says the decision will only affect a small number of projects because of public works projects receive some state or federal funding.