In June the residents of San Jose will be asked to weigh in on Measure B. The Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee is recommending a NO vote on Measure B, and we would like you to know why.
First, no one is arguing that pension changes are not necessary; rather it is the way these changes are being proposed that is the problem. In 2010 voters passed Measures V and W, had the city in good faith negotiated with labor over pensions San Jose would have seen almost two years of savings to date.
The city claimed that labor was not giving up enough to fix the pension problem, however we now know that Mayor Reed was citing a $650 million dollar shortfall, a number which has been discredited. Labor had offered up hundreds of millions of dollars in concessions, which, had they been accepted, would have put us on the road to fixing the pension system in San Jose.
Additionally there are changes to disability, health insurance and more. These changes include the possibility that a public safety person who is hurt on the job could be denied disability payments by the city, even if the person is determined to be disabled enough that they could not perform their job. For instance, a public safety employee is hurt on the job and can no longer do their job. The city than determines that the person can do another city job and move them to that job. The problem is the next part: if there are no job openings the person will not receive disability and will be without employment. Imagine that a public safety employee, risking their life, is hurt and there is no open position for them to move into, they will be without a job and any disability payments. Is this really how we want to treat those who protect us?
Had the city and labor come to an agreement shortly after V and W were passed the pension system in San Jose would have seen an infusion of needed funds. What we have now though is Measure B, which if passed, will be brought to court immediately. Not only will it be brought to court, but the measure itself could be put on hold until the court decides if it is illegal or not. All told we are looking at a year, or longer, without any additional funding to our problematic pension system. In addition the city will need to pay legal fees to defend their position in court, on top of the two court cases they have already lost (one of which also involved the city paying for the petitioner's legal fees).
If Measure B is ruled illegal, after the court battle, San Jose will have wasted millions of dollars without any fixes to the problem.
Voting NO on Measure B will force the city council and labor to sit down and come to an agreement on fixing the pension problem. Voting NO will save our city from a costly legal battle we could well lose. Voting NO on Measure B can actually start to fix the pension system sooner than if Measure B passes.
Secondly, our informed opinion is that Measure B goes about fixing our pension issue the wrong way. Measure B scapegoats city employees too heavily for the economic crisis cities and counties all over the country are facing, Measure B permanently codifies many changes that go beyond simple reform of pensions. We also believe that the better approach is to work with the city's labor unions to collaboratively find solutions to the problem.
We are all in this boat together; residents, employees, business, and we need to make sure the way forward will create solid economic footing for the foreseeable future. Measure B does not achieve that goal, if passed Measure B will cost the residents of San Jose millions of dollars and if the courts throw out Measure B (as many legal scholars think will happen), we are that much further behind. Vote NO on Measure B and demand that Labor and the City of San Jose do their jobs and reach an agreement that is viable for everyone.