Business Journal Wrong on Binding Arbitration History

You really wonder how many times the San Jose Business Journal (SJBJ) will blunder into a story, cite a few facts, and then make sweeping comments that stand history, if not common sense, on its head.  The paper did it again with its recent editorial on the binding arbitration award to the Firefighters Union. Whether it’s the citizens’ General Plan or the recent political turmoil at City Hall, the SJBJ displays a Bushian knowledge of local history that is frightening.

In case you missed it, an outside arbitrator, consistent with the ordinance in place, gave the union a large and, given the city’s budgetary woes, unconscionable increase in pension benefits. A firefighter with twenty years of service and a $100,000 salary, can retire with $60,000 per year. Not bad for government work.

The police union will now ask for the same. This is on top of an astronomical increase in salary and pension benefits for San Jose’s public safety employees in the last seven years. That’s something to fear, if you value parks, libraries, AND more cops and fire fighters.

Now here’s where the SJBJ editorial goes cockeyed. It states that binding arbitration was put in place in 1980 in our city because we were fearful of strikes by public safety workers. This is blatant nonsense and a rewriting of history. It was put on the ballot in that year as a simple act of political cowardice to pander to the police and fire unions. I was there and it was endorsed by the majority of the San Jose City Council. It was also endorsed by nearly every office holder in the state legislature, Democrat and Republican. Only Janet Gray Hayes, the sitting mayor, and I opposed it as an outright surrender of our responsibility to set the budget ourselves. No one values the job of public safety employees more than I do, and I fought then and as mayor for higher pay to them, but it was my job to set it.

San Jose is now reaping a savage harvest. The stench of political cowardice has never been stronger than in the previous few years of giveaways. It all began in 1980 and that campaign was so bad that we could not get a single officeholder to even attend debates. Only Pete Wilson, the mayor of San Diego and future governor, would come and speak against this abject surrender of the responsibility of an independently elected public official. A profile in courage it was not.

It would greatly aid the discussion of this most pressing issue if the SJBJ could get its history straight, understand that the world did not begin with Vintage Foster or Ron Gonazles, and then make its recommendations. Someone might take them seriously then—for a while.


  1. Hey Tom—Go a bit further: the union mantra has become “More money for less work”—the end of that being to stay in bed or layabout while getting ever bigger checks. It may be hard, in timorous times, for politicos, to attack the trend of “service” employees doing zero while “retiring” on more dough than most people make—or else, retiring young, they’re collecting for a second job. Way back when I was a kid in SF, Labor Day (coming up) was HUGE, with a wonderful monster parade down Market St., all the union members, and their families, proudly marching, filling the street from curb to curb, showing off the fruits of their labor, proud of their work. (The glaziers union was terrific, with hundreds of cut glass batons blazing in the sun.) The parade is long gone—and the work ethic. Part of the problem, only recently, is the global economy, but another part, since the late 40’s, is that these hard working guys discovered that their bosses were playing golf, had new cars, and didn’t rent. My Dad, a risk-taking union leader who LIKED working hard, would be appalled at the service workers unions, the only ones left because of easy access to tax money, out of reach of competition, with politicos for bosses, whose hands are soft as a baby’s, laying about, lollying about, getting fat. With the SJ Council dominated by the unions, the push against union thievery will be weak. Not like Sunnyvale where the police and fire folks are one and the same, saving the taxpayers a big pile. George Green

  2. Too bad, Napper#!, but the mayor and council have already confessed to being too inept to make the tough decisions necessary to get SJ’s fisal house in order. So, they hired yet another consultant for another quarter mil$ to tell them what they should do.

    My hope has been to move from Willow Glen to one of the new downtown condos to be within walking distance of work and leisure.  But now I am seriously considering a move to Santa Clara or Campbell where the threat of municipal bankruptcy is not so strong.

  3. Thoughtful post Tom, but I’ll make the same criticism that I made to Jack last week: loose the gratuitous Bush-bashing. We get that the California political establishment hates Bush, but it’s simply not relevant to this issue. Thanks.

  4. Hugh – thanks for the comments.  Perhaps my references about Bush don’t fit so well, but his arrogance, incompetence, and hubris has never seen its like in American presidents.  When Bush compares himself to Harry Truman, a friend of my Dad’s and a great president, it makes me sick.  Hope it was not too gratuitious – I will try to save my comments on Bush for separate article, but he has so injured our ability to protect ourselves and our reputation as the land of the free, home of the brave.  I despise “chicken hawks,” too, who had their chance to defend our country and had ‘other priorities’.    TMcE

  5. Tom:

    “San Jose is now reaping a savage harvest.”  Great line, sorry it’s true.  The Merc recently reported that some of the benefits and salaries jumped exponentially over the past 6-8 years.  Why aren’t these increases pegged to inflation?
    A quick aside:  They’re talking about spending $700,000 in RDA dough for the Cirque de Sole to benefit the downtown restaurants.  Let’s assume the city recoups 50% of the sales tax (it’s much less than that). That means that $17.5 million in restauarant sales would have to be generated for the city to gain its $700,000 back!

    Pete Campbell

  6. Tom: I don’t agree with you and off of the leftists who argue that Bush is the second coming of Hitler, but I don’t think SJI is the place for that argument since this blog is about San Jose. I’d like to request that the pro/anti Bush arguments be left to the national political blogs, of which there are already too many.

  7. Tom,
    I’m very confused on this issue and would like some assistance to understand it. Many of us out here don’t understand how this works because we have no rights in the private sector of employment. Let me explain, we all know and appreciate the fact that our Police and Fire Fighters put their lives on the line everyday for us. We also know they make large contributions, out of their own pocket during employment, and the unions are good at investing their money. During the course of their employment, they don’t see their wives or family very much. With the increased costs of medical expenses, cost of living rising, gas, food, and clothing seemingly doubling each year, what’s so wrong with them asking for benefits that would allow them a decent retirement? 60K a year isn’t very much money to live on, especially if you’re supporting a family on it! And no one’s medical insurance covers all drugs and medical needs.

    I do understand the part about straining the budget by granting them this increase. I truthfully don’t understand how such a financial decision could be made given our huge budget short fall. I do understand that this will affect parks, streets, hiring new Police Officers etc., but what I don’t understand is:

    Why the City isn’t negotiating with the Police and Fire Unions themselves?

    Why would these unions demand such increases, when they know it could bankrupt the city?

    What kind of contract does the city have with these unions, and what piece of legislation was passed to allow such a disastrous increase to pass?

    And finally, when they voted YES on binding arbitration didn’t the leaders of our city take into account the possibility of this happening; or were they too ignorant to see this one coming?

  8. Tom,

    Could you please post the following and let other bloggers at San Jose Inside know this event has been scheduled?

    There will be a formal Memorial Service for Jim Arbuckle who passed away on July 7th of this year (this story already covered so beautifully by local newspapers).  The service is scheduled for Thursday October 4th beginning at 5:00 PM at San Jose History Park on Senter Road.  The Memorial of his Life is being co-sponsored by History San Jose, The California Pioneers of Santa Clara County, The Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus Mountain Charlie Chapter No. 1850, Preservation Action Council of San Jose and his many lifelong friends and associates who knew and loved Jim so well.

  9. 6 – You don’t think this scheme could have anything to do with demolishing the Stephen’s Meat building and the Westinghouse site, do you? Nah, that would be too cynical, wouldn’t it?
    Oh, just for kicks, take a look at the RDA memo on this topic. You’ll be shocked to see reference to demolishing Stephen’s and Westinghouse as part of the project to make the city more acceptable to Cirque.
    …pave paradise and put up a parking lot…

  10. Kathleen-

    You vastly overstate the degree of sacrifice of public safety officers.

    They see their families quite a bit: Probably more than you or me.  Firefighters work 24 hour shifts, but only have to do so about 100 days per year.  The other 265 days a year they can spend as they choose.

    They no longer spend much out of pocket.  Modern contracts include extra money for uniforms and so on.

    Nor do they spend much for medical expenses.  Taxpayers pay for full medical costs, excluding a modest co-pay.  (When I was with a city, my co-pay was usually zero.)

    That 60K a year is a low estimate.  It’s for someone who only worked 20 years.  Normally, an officer or firefighter will work 30 years and “retire” with a 90K pension. 

    And retirement isn’t really retirement.  They “retire” at 50.  After that, many go on to a whole second career, collecting both their pension and the new paycheck.  So it’s more like 140 or 160K per year, with medical bills already paid for.  Not bad.

    The catch is that, in order to pay these big pensions, cities cut services to families makeing 50K or 70K per year.  It’s taking from the poor and giving to the rich.

  11. #7 says

    I don’t agree with you and off of the leftists who argue that Bush is the second coming of Hitler

    Could you please post some references where anyone on this blog said that?  Or is this just another example of how out of touch will reality that you are.

  12. #4 Hugh

    Tom is right on the mark in #5. If I were you, I wouldn’t worry too much about George W. suffering from the cheap-shot blows from lowly SJI bloggers. Dick Cheney’s marionette’s skull is as thick as a brick. That nut will never crack.

    Besides, he will never hear of it. Check it out:

    #7 Hugh part 2

    Oh, I don’t believe that Naked King George is the second coming of anything, and certainly not Hitler. Both are unique in history. The Germans bounced back in three or four decades. Our country will go on to spend the next century paying for W’s mistakes and digging out of the hole he put us in while he will continue to be rightly considered the worst president this country has ever had and probably (hopefully) ever will have.

    If you are not ashamed of him yet, you will be. He still has 17 months to convince you.

  13. Tom:  Perhaps you or others could fill in a few blanks for me about this arbitration—not the concept, but what actually happened in this arbitration.

    An arbitrator ruled in favor of the firefighters, right?  So, I presume both the firefighters union and the City of San Jose had legal representatives who presented evidence to this arbitrator, upon which the arbitrator made his/her decision.

    So, were these representatives lawyers?  What were their names?  Did the City send Rick Doyle or one of his subordinates? 

    Were expert witnesses called?  Who were they and what did they say?  Is the testimony available on line somewhere?

    As I recall, Mr. Doyle’s office has lost just about every high profile case in which the city was involved, and the city (read the taxpayers) have had to pay the attorneys’ fees of the winners. Each loss by the Doylistas has cost us a swimming pool or a new library. And he keeps his job… WHY?

    I have no idea what the merits of the firefighters case may be, since all I know is the result.  I grasp your view that allowing this issue to go to arbitration was due to a lack of backbone by a prior administration.

    But aren’t we continuing down that same slippery slope?  Past city councils hired consultants to make decisions for them Current ones are doing the same.  A total buck-passing.  Pools are closed…hire a consultant and pay it big bucks to come up with some ridiculous plan to make SJ the water theme park capital of the civilized world, when all we needed was $$ to fix the pools. 

    Can’t balance the budget…hire a consultant and pay it big bucks to take the monkey of your back…someone you can blame if you actually ever get the cojones to make a decision to cut some feel good program that diverts money from police, fire, and infrastructure maintenance.

    That tells me 2 things—the mayor and council are too spineless to make a decision,  AND, they don’t trust the adminstration (City Manager and her employees) to do so either.  So, do we have a completely inept/incompetent city staff that no-one trusts to make a recommendation, and a spineless mayor and council who haven’t the guts to make a hard choice?

    Jeez, if we voters get smart, we’ll just fire the mayor, the entire council, and the city manager and her entire staff, and hire consultants to run the city. 

    P.S.—I recognize Ms. Figone had no part to play in this mess, so my reference to her is merely because she is the current city manager and she has the unenviable duty of trying to get us out of this mess.  Perhaps, instead of spending a ton of dough on consultants, the mayor and council ought to give her a chance to help get us out of this fiscal mess.

    And pundits wonder why so few people vote any more…..

  14. The Bushies are somehow truely blessed.  Just look at the candidates that the Democrats trot out to run against them!

    My prediction? 

    Jeb Bush will eventually run for president – and his opponent will be Dennis Kucinich.

  15. It seems the fire and police pensions should be seperated and dealt with seperately since they perform different functions. I think the fire pensions are extremely generous, especially since a great majority of their calls are for medical aid and not fires. They also have lots of down time to work-out and many other perks. They will also not go into a situation to provide medical aid if it is anything other than a static situation unless the police go in first to secure the situation for them. They also deal with people who generally like them and are glad to see them.

    It seems police officers are subjected to many more inherent dangers than firefighters. They are for the most part dealing with those who do not like them and often assault them verbally or physically. They constantly go into unknown situation which raises the adrelanine and heart rates, and have been shown to cause high blood pressure, heart problems and cancer. They work 10 hours a day with 30 pounds of gear strapped onto their body, getting in and out of their patrol cars hundreds of thousands of times, often to arrest a combative subject high on drugs, and then get ostracized if their body breaks down from the wear and tear, although they have absolutely no fitness or wellness program.

    Having said that, I do not feel the police deserve a better pension, as it is also quite generous, but the firemen definitely won this lottery.

    A bigger question, with many more “unconscionable” implications, is rather than looking at a relative few firemen who got a pension increase, how have our local, state, and nationally elected leaders as well as large profitable corporations, many with roots here in Silican Valley, tacitally stolen pensions and benefits from long time workers and retirees of these corporations with nary an outcry from our elected leaders? Our elected leaders, with some exceptions, have turned a blind eye to this while being bought off by the corporate lobbyists. These same elected leaders have also turned a blind eye to our best jobs being sent to the other countries under the guise of free trade with countries who import virtually nothing from the United States.

    I do not think the firefighters or police officers deserve a bigger pension. In fairness they have very generous pensions, although by getting a public safety pension they are not ever eligible to collect social security payments. I think however their pensions are a drop in the bucket compared to the billions in pensions taken away from retirees due to inaction by elected officials and unscrupulous corporations. I also think the pension increase pales in comparison to the huge waste in certain elected officials pet projects, ie spending $700,000 to move the circus downtown, Grand Prix, city owned golf courses, etc.

  16. Bloggers, at least Hitler was competent. And he had good help. He got Porsche to design the VW. And it only took a decade or so to undo his damage. W may bring the whole thing down. George Green

  17. Tom,

    As I understand the concept of Binding Arbitration, a neutral arbirtrator will settle any disputes between the City and the Public Safety Unions.  I was under the impression that each side had to prove it’s case.  If the City does not have the money, then how can the Arbitrator award a pay/benefit increase to the Firefighters?

  18. A very important discussion about San Jose’s pension problems has been ruined here by a reckless decent into a discussion on national politics.

    While I think that a long-ago, former mayor who seems to have escaped the normal number of years in a paid employment and a bartender can have interesting opinions about life and issues in San Jose, I’m less inclined to hear their views on foreign and defense policy. As for Jack’s views on economic policy, the less said the better. I do recommend that he pick up an economics textbook and start on page 1. One written for a high school audience would seem best suited.

  19. Good subject today Tom.  But we should go further and address the San Jose city budget.  We must eliminate the deficit or the city will go into bankruptcy.  It is not unheard of for a city to go bankrupt.  Remember New York city a few years back.  The problem must be addressed by the mayor and council no matter how unpopular politically it may be.  This should be priority number one for them.

  20. Per #14, “Mr. Doyle’s office has lost just about every high profile case in which the city was involved, and the city (read the taxpayers) have had to pay the attorneys’ fees of the winners. Each loss by the Doylistas has cost us a swimming pool or a new library.”

    Mr. Doyle has a poor reputation among attorneys who work for or against the City. If you read two or three of his opinions, you will rapidly note that the only things he understands worse than the law he is explaining, are the facts underlying the situation he is describing. He doesn’t really write opinions, he writes essays and threats.

    Doyle should go.

  21. 29 – Very good points. Mowing the streets is a great idea. Our street has weeds growing in the cracks due to the crappy job the cable company’s have been allowed to get away with—they cut up the street, do a sloppy patch job and now we have weeds in the street.
    It does get embarrassing at times to tell folks you are from SJ. Will it ever improve?

  22. Binding arbitration did not materialize out of the ether, nor was it dreamed up by greedy cops and firefighters when they weren’t otherwise laughing on the way to the bank to cash their paychecks. Binding arbitration, a mechanism that Mr. McEnery correctly pegs as a usurpation of the authority of elected officials, is the bastard offspring of the elected and appointed officials who once ran our cities and counties as if they were fiefdoms.

    What Mr. McEnery didn’t mention in his post was the stall ‘em and starve ‘em tactics that city managers and county executives routinely employed (locally, prior to the election in 1981); tactics aimed at keeping wages low, weakening nascent unions, and gaining reputations for individual managers as cost-cutting, kick-ass executives. The tactics worked, effectively depriving unions of annual bargaining sessions (thus reducing actual pay increases as well as the compounding of higher wages), forcing employees to work without contracts, and introducing true desperation to the breadwinners of struggling young families.

    How stupid does someone have to be to not realize that using political clout to deny union members good faith bargaining and fair wages is the surest way to send them looking for some political clout of their own? Had public employee unions been treated fairly it is almost a certainty that they would not have the political clout they now wield with such precision. Had our appointed managers (and the elected officials who supported them) bargained in good faith instead of digging-in as double-digit inflation ravaged stagnant wages, the rabble-rousers within the public employee’s unions would’ve most likely continued to fail in their attempts to turn their memberships militant.

    My recollection is that San Jose cops and firefighters went three years without a contract in the years leading-up to their quest for binding arbitration. Three “Carter” years, which probably reduced the buying power of the members of those very young departments by a third—at a time when the cost of housing had just taken its first big leap. Gee, I wonder why they staged job actions? I wonder why set their sights on binding arbitration?

    If you think binding arbitration is a monster out of control, just remember that it was created in the laboratory of our city management; and the political clout of those employee groups that has everyone crying foul has been obtained from open-for-business politicians.

    I remember the issue back in ‘81, and the vote (mine was for it). It was apparent then, as it is now, that the “responsible” elected officials Mr. McEnery writes about have some very queer ideas about what it is to be responsible. They didn’t take care of our employees or our downtown back then, just as they aren’t taking care or our parks, streets, or tax dollars today.

    Maybe what we need is Binding Responsibility?

  23. Dear #18/Jean – the concept of “last best offer” lets the arbitrator pick either the city side or the union.  That person – painfully – does not have to worry about kids, libraries, parks, or more cops.  They just decide and let others worry about the city budget.  Perhaps, in the this case, this faulty system has finally reached the breaking point. I think the arbitrator’s picture should be posted in all public facilities, like libraries and parks – if they are not closed.  TMcE

  24. John Michael
        I not know who represented the city, and we should know that – I would like the name and picture of the “arbitrator” too.  You are right, we seem to be losing a lot.  There must be more competence, but Chuck Reed has only been there a half a yr., and the sins of a decade are not easily overcome.  See if you can make a citizens’s request to get the info on this binding arb. case – you lawyers have your ways to do so.  TMcE

  25. Well, Finfan, you’ve done it again. Shown that there can be two responsible sides to many issues.  You make some excellent pts., and as a past, and often current critic of the “city manager” system, your criticism of certain people who tried to starve and bluster the cops and fire fighters is correct.  Damn, two sides to an issue!  Think of it?  And I like the phrase, “binding responsibillity.”  TMcE

  26. Will the oh so twitchy mouse of the ‘Che’ t-shirt wearing SJI censors strike this post?  The suspense is palpable.

    #5 Bush’s Truman reference makes you sick?

    Let’s go to the tape..
    “Today, at the start of a new century, we are again engaged in a war unlike any our nation has fought before—and like Americans in Truman’s day, we are laying the foundations for victory.”

    What about this do you find so nauseating?

    The US is now getting it right in Iraq and there can be no doubt, none, that success in standing up a successful Iraqi state will deprive extremists of oxygen and change the dynamic in the middle east. 

    Does the idea that the US will succeed in Iraq trouble and concern you as it does our newsmedia and the left?

    “The worst president in history.”  “He might bring the whole thing down.”  “It’ll take an entire century for the country to recover.” “The worst president in my 50 years on the planet.” “He’s worse than Hitler, at least Hitler was competent.”

    Such regurgitated, overheated, moonbat-speak from otherwise intelligent people is in no small way attributable to the 6 year drumbeat from our “Bush is Hitler” leftist newsmedia.

    Viva Fidel y Hugo!

  27. TMcE –

    So the Arbitrator simply decides between the case the City has presented, and the case the Union has presented, regardless of circumstances?  There still seems to be something missing for me.  If the City is Broke, then I would expect the City to say that as part of their argument.  The Arbitrator should see that there is no money to give. The Public Safety Unions currently receive a good wage and benefit packages. Yet, as you point out, that has not been the case for some time.  How can the City change it’s tactics to better ensure success when it meets the Arbitrator?

  28. Novice, you and General Westmoreland see the “light at the end of the tunnel – good luck!  Unfortunately, an effort to save the world – with some merit to it in the Afganistan portion –  was managed by an inept and incompetent President,  and a bevy of fools and pols, whose knowledge of world history is akin to a child’s – sad for many; tragic for the US.  TMcE

  29. Great topic. Why are these LUXURIES like the Circus and the $2 million golf nets etc. even on the budget list when our libraries aren’t at full hours, we are at the point of not even having any streets left to repave? Does anyone have a pen to say- nope, take it off the list?

    Pretty soon the street dept.  will just mow the streets since all the paving is going fast.

    We can’t afford these public “servants” packages.  If we don’t get out from under them now and let the City continue to decay we will lose our ability to attract any new non-subsidized businesses or non-subsidized residents.

    And has anyone done a study to see if these business subsidies pay off? Like the UA theaters, the Pavilion, the Fairmont gift shop…

    Who is sitting in the City’s comped Arena seats?  Do we sell them on EBAY for money?

    I’m beginning to feel stupid for living in San Jose.  I want to live in a city that is well-run.  Civic pride and all that. I feel dumb and ashamed when I see these out-of-whack contracts and the silly luxury subsidies.

  30. Thought I’d repost this in the hope of getting an answer!

    I’m very confused on this issue and would like some assistance to understand it. Many of us out here don’t understand how this works because we have no rights in the private sector of employment. Let me explain, we all know and appreciate the fact that our Police and Fire Fighters put their lives on the line everyday for us. We also know they make large contributions, out of their own pocket during employment, and the unions are good at investing their money. During the course of their employment, they don’t see their wives or family very much. With the increased costs of medical expenses, cost of living rising, gas, food, and clothing seemingly doubling each year, what’s so wrong with them asking for benefits that would allow them a decent retirement? 60K a year isn’t very much money to live on, especially if you’re supporting a family on it! And no one’s medical insurance covers all drugs and medical needs.

    I do understand the part about straining the budget by granting them this increase. I truthfully don’t understand how such a financial decision could be made given our huge budget short fall. I do understand that this will affect parks, streets, hiring new Police Officers etc., but what I don’t understand is:

    Why the City isn’t negotiating with the Police and Fire Unions themselves?

    Why would these unions demand such increases, when they know it could bankrupt the city?

    What kind of contract does the city have with these unions, and what piece of legislation was passed to allow such a disastrous increase to pass?

    And finally, when they voted YES on binding arbitration didn’t the leaders of our city take into account the possibility of this happening; or were they too ignorant to see this one coming?

  31. Kathleen – sorry, like most ‘normal’ folks, the workings of Gov. are inscrutable.  The city negotiates and when the unions and city can do no more, impasse and a resort to “binding arb.” is triggered.  How the award can happen w. little or no consideration of the city’s budget woes is a terrible pill to swallow and impossible to explain.  TMcE

  32. Thanks Tom.
    I guess it’s confusing to me because I am a mediator and have had the hat of an arbitrator on as well. In doing cases, as JMO has stated, I’ve had to take all things into consideration before passing a decision in arbitration. As a mediator, I must test, or do a “reality check” with both parties on the plausibility and the veracity of the contract and resolution they’ve come to. Any award or solution is only as successful as the method of it being applied allows!

    For example, I would never have awarded this increase unless I was shown proof of available funds, without bankrupting the organization etc. I’m wondering if indeed the Fire Fighters Union found some money in the City’s coffers, we know nothing about. If not, the arbitrator used in this case, should not be allowed to oversee the Police Officers negotiations. 

    This is a very curious situation. I get the feeling all the facts aren’t on the table for us to view~

  33. Greg,
    With all due respect, I disagree with you. I feel very strongly that public safety officers DO put their lives on the line for us everyday. I for one would never apply for a job, no matter what the pay, that would require me to run into a burning building, or take a bullet in a domestic disturbance. These Police Officers, and Fire Fighters see things in one week, we private citizens, hopefully, never will see in a lifetime. And for that dedication and commitment to their duty, they deserve to be well paid, respected, and receive decent reasonable retirement benefits.

    As to Bush, he’s the poorest excuse for a President I’ve seen in my 50 years of life on this planet. I swear, I’ll celebrate big time on his last day in office, and thank God for term limits!

  34. “Naked King George”???
    Bush Derangement Syndrome exhibit A.

    You know the Bushies are truely a blessed bunch.  For proof look no further than the list of candidates the democrat’s have trotted out to run against them.

    My prediction?

    The trend will hold, Jeb Bush will run for president, and his opponent will be Dennis Kucinich.  smile

    Viva Fidel y Hugo!

  35. #14 the arbitrator is not require to determine if the City has the ability to pay. The City can always tax the residents to be able to pay the award.
    #8 The City does negotiate with the Police and Fire Fighters. Arbitration comes in when there is an impass.
    Why would the Unions demand such an increase? How about Greed.
    As per your last question, the City Council didn’t vote on arbitration, it was the citizens who bought into the Unions argument and voted this lousy system in. Be carefull how you vote for, you might not like the end result as in this case.
    The big question is, will this City Council have
    the b_ _ _ _ to stand up to labor and take on the issue of retirement benefits for City employees. If they fail to do so, we should all remember who they were when we go to the ballot at the next election and vote the bums out.

  36. Tom,
    I called the city office and found San Jose Police Officers pay about $1,000 a month out of their own gross pay towards their retirement fund. Assuming this money is invested in the stock market, and makes about the average of 10% per year, this would come to over $2 million dollars from just the officer’s self funded portion after 30 years. If the officer worked 30 years and retired at age 55, and then received a pension of about 85% of his salary, that would be enough to last for over 20 years based on just on what their own contribution had been while they were working. This would bring them to over 70 years old, and statistically most retired cops would probably have died by then. The point is that the police and fire pensions are a very easy target when city leaders want to deflect attention away from poor spending decisions in other areas. If you have some numerical facts to base your accusation of what is “unconscionable” in what is largely a self funded public safety pension plan, please let us know rather than just throw out inflammatory rhetoric. Exactly how much money, if any, does the city have to contribute to make up for any deficit in the pension plan, or does the officer’s own contributions more than cover their pension?

  37. Agree with you – here is Q/A

    And has anyone done a study to see if these business subsidies pay off? Like the UA theaters, the Pavilion, the Fairmont gift shop…

    Yes, San Jose has spent millions in last 20 years on many economic impact studies which promised great paybacks of jobs and tax revenues   Which if they can true we would have budget surpluses which we do not

    Do studies justify taking taxes from basic services or are political tax giveaways / gift of public funds ?  No

    Have we gotten thousands jobs and millions in tax revenues studies promised for spending our millions in public taxes ? No

    Does public believe numbers?  Do other economic experts believe numbers?  No

    Does city still give out millions based on these studies?  Yes

    Who benefits since public is not ? Good question – businesses getting millions

    Who is sitting in the City’s comped Arena seats? 
    Council members, campaign contributers, insiders, political cronies and a few regular people   Don’t forget about Grand Prix seats , theater seats and other public events seats free to Council for political paybacks   –  Mercury should ask for list of who political insiders are

    Do we sell them on EBAY for money?  No it is it Council freebee and political giveaway

  38. #43 Steve.
    If the officers make $6,000 a month and $1,000 is deducted for contribution to their pension that computes to 17%.  I don’t think so.  Their union would never agree to that.
    Phone someone else and get more accurate amount please, and let this post know the true amount.

  39. Kathleen#36:

    I am a big fan of public safety folks—cops and firefighters.  I am not as big a fan of their unions. 

    I do understand, however, why the arbitrator made his/her award, even in light of CSJ’s financial crisis. The arbitrator is not allowed to take that into account, just as a jury in a civil lawsuit for money damages never hears about the wealth or poverty of the defendant, nor whether the defendant has liability insurance or not.

  40. Your Police salary numbers are very too low with average police officer making at least $90,000 with many higher

    What is the city contribution to health and retirement plan per year in $ and per officer will give us a real idea if fair or not

    San Jose owes $ 1 1/2 billion for future employee health plans which is not funded and until recently hidden from public

    Using 10% yearly return on investment is too high

    There was a $ amount for total cost per officer in $135-145,000 range published a few months ago

    Lowest paid recruit makes $64,636 base pay
    Lowest paid officer makes $67,938 base pay

    plus overtime, premium pay, incentive pay and allowances

    Pay table Page 6   –

    City Paid Benefits

    Police Officers Agreement

  41. #40 Looks like The Daily Show lifted it’s brilliance from Victor Davis Hanson.  See

    “The jihadists are now fighting a desperate war against the new stick of American military power and carrot of American-inspired political reform. They want us, in defeat, to go back to turning a blind eye to both terrorism and corrupt dictatorships.”

  42. The Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury (Grand Jury) has examined the financial impact of
    defined-benefit retirement plans on County of Santa Clara (County) and City of San Jose (San
    Jose) budgets.

    San Jose is not part of CalPERS; rather, it operates and finances its own retirement plans. San Jose non-public-safety employees covered by the Federated City Employees Retirement System are eligible for a pension at age 55 with 5 years of service or 30 years service at any age. The pension accrues at 2.5% times the number of years of service (up to a 75% maximum) multiplied by the highest average monthly salary, including overtime pay, during the highest 12 consecutive months.

    San Jose police officers and firefighters are covered by a separate plan, the Police and Fire
    Retirement System. They are eligible to retire with an 85% pension after 30 years of service,
    ranging from $77,202 to $125,013 for life. Currently, there are 2170 active police and fire
    employees in the pension system and 1300 drawing retirement benefits. To compensate for poor investment returns as well as an increased payroll, retirement costs for police officers and firefighters will increase from $28 million annually to $76 million over the next three years, contributing to projected city budget deficits.

    The San Jose safety officers are now seeking a pension increase from 85% to 90% of salary,
    comparable to the County CalPERS plans, which would mean an increased pension of $5,000 to
    $7,000 annually. Mercer Human Resource Consulting prepared an actuarial valuation for San Jose should they choose to enhance the public safety personnel pensions to mirror the CalPERS 3%-per-year-at-age-50 model. Enhancing the pension benefit from an 85% maximum to 90% would cost $235 million for vested liabilities. Amortized over the next 14 years, this would add $24 million to a current budget line of $50 million. The yearly adder can be reduced to $16 million if it is spread over the next 30 years instead.

  43. #45- Thank you JMO. I now understand. The Fire Fighters must have provided some pretty strong proof of their need to get this award.

    I just don’t understand why the City, if what I understand from Tom is correct, didn’t negotiate more wisely so that it didn’t have to go to an arbitrator. I guess playing hardball can be costly. Unfortunately, we tax payers are the lucky winners of the loss. I think our City’s leaders need a good swift kick, or a real lesson in good faith bargaining~

  44. Tom-
    I see a lot of theories here about what arbitration is, how it is used, and what the arbitrator must take into consideration.  With full disclosure here, I was Union President for San Jose Firefighters (not a very popular position with most of the people here) and declared an impasse with the City of San Jose and entered into arbitration in 1990 (Tom, I believe you were the Mayor then-perhaps not when the arbitration hearings started, but certainly when impasse was declared.  This was the first time that City Charter section 1111 (binding arbitration) was used. 

    Arbitration should be an extension of the bargaining process, and that is certainly how those of us affiliated with the Fire Fighters Union view it.  One of the crieteria that the arbitrator must take into consideration (as dictated within the City Charter) is the financial condition of the City. Sometimes referred to as the “ability or inability to pay argument”  In 1990, the City put forth such an argument to the arbitrator.  At the end of several days of testimony, the arbitrator concluded that the City could afford the Union’s proposal (which was 0.8% more than the City’s proposal)-The hearings went on for several months and an award was crafted by the arbitrator and a comprehensive opinion was submitted with the decision. 

    So, the first point is that the City’s financial condition is a vital point that must be made.  In this last arbitration, the City of San Jose never made an “inability to pay” argument. 

    Of course, the point can be made that taxes can always be raised to generate more revenue, but there is no validity in that point, nor is it a common practice-the arbitrator’s decision is based on the City’s audited financial statements.

    Greed.  That’s what I read the most, that Unions are greedy-we feed at the public trough-and we provide little if any service-and the danger is overblown.  I probably can’t change any of those opinions-In fact, I probably can’t change anybodies opinion on any of these issues. 

    In my view, and again I am certainly in the minority in this forum, arbitration offers an independent dispute resolution process that affords both parties an opportunity to “make their case”-but we don’t ever have to go there.  In fact, we didn’t ever go there for over ten years. 

    When management elects to say no, draw hard lines, and stops negotiations, then the failure is within the system-not with arbitration.  I can hear you now, its never enough for the *&*&*&* unions-nothing could be further from the truth.  The fact is that management bases their wage proposals on some mysterious methodology-This year however, the City won their wage proposals, they won their proposals on sharing health care costs, increasing co-payments, as well as some “language” issues-yet all that gets publicized is what was “lost”-

    OK so I have gone on way to long-I want to make that one last point-The arbitrator is obligated to consider the financial condition of the City-and that was directed by the voters when Measure M (binding arbitration) was passed by the voters-

  45. #50- Thank you Ken. I appreciate your taking the time to explain what happens in arbitration, and what really happened in this situation. As a mediator/arbitrator I know that all the facts must be taken into consideration before any decisions, awards, or agreements can be made. I was thrown off when JMO said the arbitrator couldn’t take the City’s ability to pay into account.
    You are correct when you say that what was won by the City wasn’t reported, only what was lost. That is a big part of the problem with the media. One sided reporting, or slanting a story a certain way, and omitting important facts. It’s no wonder people vote the way they do, or hold the one sided opinions they do on issues. But you are wrong about a few things.

    Not everyone thinks it’s too much to ask to have a decent retirement package, and very few people I know, think public safety officers feed off the trough, or feel your jobs aren’t dangerous. I personally, am very grateful to all of you for your dedicated service to our community. The Fire Fighters, and the Police have my full support and appreciation. You couldn’t pay me enough to run into a burning building, or stop a gang fight.
    Having said that, I think the real issues here are the bad financial choices our leaders make, and the wasteful spending they do. I think it’s time that people start holding our leaders accountable for their bad choices, attend Council Meetings, or at least writing in to voice our opinions, and start exercising careful judgment at the voting booth~

  46. Ken Heredia #50 tells us:“In this last arbitration, the City of San Jose never made an “inability to pay” argument. “

    If that is a true statement, that alone seems enough to give Rick Doyle a pink slip.  The argument may not have held sway; but there is no doubt in my mind that it absolutely should have been made.

    Mr. Heredia also states:“With full disclosure here, I was Union President for San Jose Firefighters (not a very popular position with most of the people here) and declared an impasse with the City of San Jose and entered into arbitration in 1990.” 

    No, Mr. Heredia, although I disagree with the result, I have nothing but the utmost respect for a person who does his/her job well…and the fact that you disclosed this fact garners you even more respect from me (which, with $3.00 will get you a latte @ Starbucks).

    I have read what I believe to be a very reasoned analysis by Mr. Heredia; but I do not know if his asserted facts to back up his assertions are true.  I tend to believe what he has posted, because it just makes sense, it flows, it’s logical…if some of the underlying assumptions are true.

    Is there anybody out there who can comment upon the factual underpinnings of Mr. Heredia’s statements?

    If half of what he says is factual, some heads need to roll in city government, because it would seem that this disastrous arbitration award (from a CSJ fiscal point of view) could well have been avoided had we had some rational people doing the negotiating on behalf of the taxpayers who fund all this.

  47. Ken –

    Thank you for clarifying the process for us.  Many of us knew, as you probably read in some of the comments, that there was more information on Binding Arbitration that we were not getting. 

    If both sides won several of their proposals, then what is the problem, especially since the City did not make an “inability to pay” argument?  The City must have forseen that in Binding Arbitration (since they have gone to binding arbitration before) there was a chance they would loose, and have to pay increases, and one would assume that they would plan for that possibility.  If, however, the City was going to have to cut services to pay for any increase, then why wouldn’t they make that known in an “inability to pay” argument?

  48. There is something wrong with city government when Mayor Reed says San Jose has structural deficit – too many expenses not enough tax income , is facing bankruptcy, has billions in unpaid bills, cuts services and crime going up because not enough police and city goes to arbitration and can but does not tell arbitrator we are in financial difficulty with more debt than money

    Where is honesty, financial responsibility and accountability to public we were promised ?

  49. Sorry I threw you off Kathleen. 

    I was surprised to learn from Mr. Heredia that the arbitrator could take the fiscal position of the CSJ into account (has anyone Snoped that assertion?); since that position runs so contrary to what juries are allowed to take into account, except in punitive damage situations.

    Actually, Tom McE, do you know the answer?  Is the arbitrator allowed to take into account the demonstrated fiscal position of CSJ in making an award?

  50. No problem JMO. You are in a different arena of law than I am.
    After his post, with a quick call to the City Clerk’s Office, I did look into what Ken said re: the arbitrator’s ability to weigh all facts and finacial issues, he is correct. The arbirtrator can, and did.

    I like knowing that those of us on this blogg are educated, and open enough to learn the facts on something, and can work through misinformation, regardless of the fact that sometimes it comes from a usually credible source. :-(

  51. All this back and forth and blame game makes interesting reading I guess, but the fact remains that the City of San Jose has a large budget deficit.  So lets move forward and suggest some positive solutions.  I think a hiring freeze of new employees would be a place to start since employee payroll is one of the biggest expenses.  Another thing to consider would be a budget reduction of ALL
    city departments with no exceptions.  Maybe 10% or so, I don’t know the exact percent that they could live with.  Santa Clara county had to do this several years ago and they survived.  Would you other folks make some
    positive suggestions please and go forward not backward.

  52. Ken Heredia was then, and is now, a thoughful and reasoned person, and one who has served our city well and dutifully.  He is also correct – the arbitrator can – and must theoretically – take the financial condition of the city into consideration. But does he/she? What is the accountability?  I always like power in the hands of the Mayor and Council – if they screw up – ax ‘em!  That’s simple. With City Managers, legisators, arbitrators, they can be criminally callous and are still untouchable – ever seen one fired lately, even the horrible Borgdorf. The answer is ‘no’. 
    Anyway, I would love the Merc to do the bio of this arbitrator and for “sunshine’s sake” the names of the city team.  TMcE

  53. To John Michael O’Connor,
    For your extra dough, put it in a good no-load total stock market mutual fund. The historical return over the past 80 or so years is over 10%. Plenty of references on the internet but here is one for you.

    To Napper,
    I never stated the police officers contribute 17% towards their pensions. That was you making an inaccurate assertion on your part and then extrapolating as though that was the truth. That is the problem with almost all of this subject in the media…half truths which are conveniently twisted towards whoever is the easy scapegoat. In this case, the police and firemen of San Jose. The average pensionable salary of a San Jose patrol officer is about $95,000. They contribute about $1,100 a month OF THEIR OWN gross salary into THEIR OWN pension fund which is about 10% of their salary. I did call the San Jose POA and confirm this figure. In today’s money, this would amount to over $1,300,000 after 30 years using a conservative rate of return of 8%. This is based only on what the officer had PERSONALLY CONTRIBUTED and would be enough to fund his/her own pension for over 15 years of retirement. This is before the city spends a penney of their own money for the officer’s pension, and chances are good the officer isn’t going to live too far beyond 70 years old, if they don’t die sooner.

    The current city administration or former mayors can cry the sky is falling and point blame at the police and fire departments, but it is a smokescreen for the blunders of the current and former administrations squandering on misguided investments and projects, rather than provide good basic service to the citizens. That is what is truly “unconscionable”. If the former administrations had not invested in having downtown as one big nightclub sucking city resources, public golf courses used by few, The Grand Prix, spending a million dollars to move a circus, etc, etc, etc, and instead prudently used that money, we would not be in this current situation. That is not the fault of cops or firefighters pensions which they largely fund out of their own pockets.

  54. #59 Steve OK I’ll use your latest figures.
        $95,000 divided by 12 months equals $7,916 per month. Divide that into the stated
    monthly pension contribution of $1,100 is 14%.
    I really doubt that they contribute that much.
    If they did,  they could put it in your previously stated mutual fund and the city would not need to provide a city pension. And by the way I agree with your mutual fund point
    I usually do better than 10% myself.  So Steve
    why don’t you present this to the city council
    and persuade them to drop their overly generous retirement plan?

  55. #33 Westmoreland?  I got it now.

    One thing I know for sure – it’s all Vietnam all the time in the Bay Area.  Where there’s never a shortage of hope upon hope that Iraq turns out to be Vietnam.

    It’s one thing to remember and learn from the past, quite another to be stuck in it.

    The unbelievable irony is that the Bay Area, who wants US defeat at any cost would be the first group to get their collective throats cut by the bad guys our troops are dealing with.

    Darwin’s always at work, but in the Bay Area he’s puts in double-shifts.

    Finally, please have a talk with your University of Havana interns in charge of censoring posts. 

    I re-check your Comments policy each time a post of mine gets nuked – which is quite frequently – but I don’t see anything re comments to the right of Cindy Sheehan as being unacceptable at SJI.

  56. Must be interesting living in Novice’s world. He complains about his/her posts not getting through—then why do we keep reading his nonsense?
    Who ever said anything about wanting a US defeat? Another fabrication from Novice’s world. Getting our troops out as fast as possible is about as patriotic as one can get. Those who want them to stay and die for a failed policy seem to be the real anti-Americans. Keep our troops alive and bring them home. NOW!

  57. Steve – your pt. is off the mark.  At least the revitalization of the Downtown, museums, HP, parks, Chavez Park’s fountains, Christmas in the Park, was something that the citizens wanted; they enjoy it largely. Sure there have been mistakes, but the 1400 of tax base/industrial land, converted to housing, enriching a small,greedy band of lobbyists and developers, has been the ruinaton of the city – NO ONE authorized that!  It was a conspiracy of greed and hypocrisy unheard of in SJ history. Get upset about the right outrage, please.  TMcE

  58. #58- Tom, you wouldn’t be the first person to be unhappy with the findings of an arbitrator. But that doesn’t mean the arbitrator was wrong in his/her decision either. I think this info about the arbitrator’s ability to weigh the City’s budget in the decision he/she made, and the reasons and process leading to and ending in an award should have been addressed by you in your initial comments.

    A bio isn’t what’s needed here, a look at what the City did to create the impass making arbitration necessary is, and an explanation of what was presented by both parties present, so that we can comprehend why said award was given.

    I couldn’t disagree with you more about ALL the power being given to the Mayor and Council. (Especially NOT this Council!) An arbitrator isn’t influenced by lobbists, doesn’t have a vested interest in the decision’s outcome, nor do they have to worry about repaying favors to anyone, nor worry about whether they’ll win the next election.

    Neutrality is what makes this process so beautiful, and the win/win, or win/loose depends completely on the parties themselves. Hence the term, and the importance of “good faith bargaining.”

  59. Had a friend on the department provide me with the figures from his paycheck, and his contribution to the retirement system was 11.5% of his gross pay (which works out for a top-step cop to approximately $12,600/year, not counting additional dollars deducted from overtime wages). Quoting a recent actuarial study, he said his retirement system (cops and firefighters) was 98% funded (down from earlier years when investments were better). What this means is that the system has done a responsible job protecting and investing the annual contributions. Contrast that to what the City has done: year after year entering into contractual agreements to provide future benefits (health) without setting aside and responsibly investing the necessary funds.

    Given all the one-sided complaints posted here about “greedy” employees, one might conclude that the employees write their own labor contracts, and do so with a reckless disregard for how the City will pay its obligations when the bill comes due. But the truth of the matter is that, with the exception of the few arbitrated contracts, the employees have received only what the City agreed to give them, at the conclusion of give and take bargaining. And, subsequent to each and every one of those agreements, our employees made the necessary financial contributions to their retirement fund and provided this city with police and fire services, as promised.

    But now that the City, the incompetent, arrogant City, finds itself short of cash despite starving us of services, we are asked to turn our cops and firefighters upside down, shake loose some change, and pretend that it was them, and not the City, that failed to fund its contractual obligations.

    Sadly, most of you seem eager to fall for it. But I wonder if some of you will change your tune when this exact scenario plays itself out a few years down the road when that pyramid scheme we call the Social Security System collapses?

    Somehow, I think most of you will.

  60. Tell you what Napper,,,,call them yourself then and report back as I did. They DO contribute that much; that is the joke of this entire thing. If you were only to listen to the media or politicians, they would have you believe the city contibutes money to the police and fire plan to the point of being broke. The police and fire pension is largely self funded and has been extremely well managed and wisely invested over the years. The percentage that the police officers and
    firefighters contribute personally from their gross income into this fund has steadily increased over the years; ie they have saved and invested for their future. Just maybe the arbitrator sided with the fire department because of what is the truth and not to please those who blame the public safety pension with the ruin of the city finances. To answer your question “why don’t you present this to the city council and persuade them to drop their overly generous retirement plan?” in regards to investing, the answer is “they wouldn’t listen” and the “overly generous retirement plan” you refer to is only that way because of the investments made by the police and fire pension managers. The amount the city contributes is a grain of sand on the beach compared to the colossal waste spent in other areas. How much did that new city hall cost again? How much office space is still being rented for city employees that were suppose to be consolidated into the new city hall thus eliminating rental costs?

    I’m still waiting to reap the rewards promised 25 years ago of great neighborhood services to come if we were all patient a few more years when the downtown improvements would generate dividends. Here it is 25 years later and the pavement on our street is still crumbling, the weeds in the street median look like tumbleweeds from the wild west, graffiti doesn’t get taken care of, abandoned cars sit, and no one from the city will prune the city planted tree in my front yard that destroyed the city sidewalk which cost me $3,000 to replace, and the same mantra keeps being repeated; “In time this will all pay off”.  At least the few times over the years when I have called 911 the police and firemen show up and seemed like they cared about the community. Maybe that is why I am tired of seeing them constantly bashed in the media with half truths.

  61. Tom,
    It is presumptuous and rather elitist of you to ask me or anyone else to “Get upset about the right outrage, please”. Promises to neighborhoods that were made 25 years ago were not kept. That is a fact. Sorry if the truth hurts. Are the citizens of San Jose not suppose to be upset over this? No doubt there are some great things downtown, but what the citizens want are great neighborhoods to live in everyday, but the city services promised with a new downtown were never kept. To blame the public safety pensions or a “small, greedy band of lobbyists and developers” is very disingenuous. Those promises were made long before either the current or recent city administration. I know because as a citizen and homeowner I was attending meetings many years ago to try and stay educated.

  62. #16 Steve. In your last paragraph you state that by receiving a public safety pension they are not ever eligible to collect social security payments.  That is not true. If any city, state or county,  employee have paid into the SS system they may collect it but it is subjected to an offset, which is a reduction. This is applicable to all employees not just public safety employees.

  63. Napper,
    San Jose Police Officers pay into their own pension fund and not into social security. They are NOT eligible to collect social security pensions. ONLY if they had worked in private industry and paid into social security for enough quarters would they possibly be able to collect social security. AT THAT POINT they would have their social security offset and reduced by the fact they are receiving a pension plan. It is extremely unfair that although some San Jose Police Officers had worked in private industry long enough to collect social security, they are getting a reduced amount. Check it out Napper, call the San Jose Police Officers Association on Monday and let us all know if this is not the truth.

  64. #69 Steve give it up.  You said in # 16 that safety employees were “never” eligible for social security.  Never means never.  Re-read my #68 again.  The offset covers ALL employees.

  65. 2004 Grand Jury Report

    in 2004 – retirement costs for police officers and firefighters will increase from $28 million yearly to $76 million over the next three years, contributing to projected city budget deficits.

    What does City need to contribute each year to police and fire pensions and health plans to fully fund them per labor agreements?

    San Jose already is behind $ 1 1/2 billion unfunded for city health plans

    Do not know exact $ but pension and health costs has to be at least $125-200 million year for police and fire

  66. #71- Tom, I think you’re mistaken about Steve and I being misguided on the issue of pensions, and the arbitration. You have a right to your opinion of course, and I respect that you believe the way you do. Having said that, I think this is one issue we’ll have to agree to disagree on.

    As to downtown, something I haven’t commented on in this conversation as of yet, I think as a property owner you might consider doing a bit of lobbing yourself Tom, or running for Mayor again. I really would like to see some of what Campbell, Los Gatos, Half Moon Bay, and other small cities have. Things like family owned restaurants with outside seating, like Single Gal suggested, or roof top dinning. (The view of the mountains would be beautiful.) Some classic car shows, and other family oriented events would be really nice. I’d also like to see some quaint family owned shops to browse through, as that would also be very attractive to people like me. This is where the money is, not loud, dirty clubs with drunken people urinating in public!
    As to the affordable housing issue, I’ll comment on that issue, after I stop laughing about the definition of “affordable” given by the developers.

  67. Kathleen – instead of me running for Mayor, I’d suggest you take over the Redevelopment Agency – I like and support your ideas for the small businesses downtown: great ideas!  One day we will see it happen.  TMcE

  68. Napper #70,
    You misquoted me. What I wrote was “by getting a public safety pension they are not ever eligible to collect social security payments”. San Jose Police Officers do not pay into the social security system, they pay into their own pension plan and are therefore not eligible to collect social security. I only point this out in fairness to police and firemen, because so many begrudge them for getting an 85% pension after 30 years of service, but fail to realize they do not get social security. There are 2 sides to every story, and while I think they do have very generous pensions, it is not undeserved and important facts backing them seem to be left out. Another important fact you don’t hear much of is how much of their own gross income they put into their pensions every paycheck, how well the pensions moneys have been invested, and that it is almost totally self-funded. It seems that good objective investigative reporting is dying, and being replaced, at least in the Mercury, with predictable and biased articles, slamming public safety. Just as example, the Mercury has recently published well positioned articles with blaring headlines implying racism is rampant in the San Jose Police Dept, yet about a month ago the Mercury buried a small article about the San Jose Police Officer’s Association raising and donation $11,000 to the family of a Cambodian women who was brutally raped and murdered. Incidentally, the suspects were also arrested by SJ Police Detectives. Regarding the pensions, I found out these facts on my own by making phone calls and looking up information on the SJ City Website. I didn’t want to just jump on the bandwagon mantra of “those greedy cops and firemen” and what I found was information I never read in the Mercury, information supporting the cops and firemen. This is probably information the arbitrator took into account but the public never heard about.

    To change subject, I took my family today to the Happy Hollow Zoo and Japanese Friendship Garden. We had a great time and the entire park is beautiful and peaceful. Very mellow family crowd. This is one example of something San Jose is doing right and hats off to those running and maintaining the park.

  69. # 73- Thanks for the support Tom, but I don’t think I’d be a good fit for San Jose’s Redevelopment Department. They don’t seem in touch with the “real,” people of San Jose. Let’s not forget the disastrous Pavilion shops, and light rail. Just to name a few~

  70. Kathleen – they have done a number of things right – it’s just that their failures – and the last 10 yrs. of incompetence – are tough to forget.  TMcE

  71. Here is the point on Downtown – much has been accomplished, but the last 10 yrs. squandered the tax base of the Industrial land, and gave it away: 1400 acres. Downtown, HP Pavilon, etc. were sanctioned by many, many voters and elections.  Don’t throw the baby out w. the bath water.  The greed and hypocrisy, while the media slept, except for belatedly, the Mercury, was tantamount to the Teapot Dome Scandal combined w. Watergate – if you want the names, look at the lobbyists for the housing conversions – it is a shame that all of us, and thoughful people like Steve and Kathleen, should remember.  TMcE

  72. Kathleen,

    If you think you know so much about what the poeple of San Jose want.  Why don’t you open a store or two downtown.  Also, convince a few others to open stores as well.  If thier such great ideas you will make a killing!

    Sitting on the sidelines is no way to go through life!

  73. I hope that everyone, especially those who blame the police/fire pension for the city budgetary problems, read this news article which just came out today. The SJ police/fire pension fund made over a 19% gain on their investments this past year, and have averaged a 9.8% annual gain since 1971. Just illustrates that the police/firemen have set aside a good chunk of their own pay, chose individuals to manage their fund who were prudent and responsible with investments, and are now reaping the benefits. They are to be applauded, and the city administrators and elected officials would be wise to follow their example rather than condemn them and make them the scapegoats to deflect attention away from poor past financial decisions.

  74. #76- Tom, I certainly agree with the last half of your comment.

    #77- Mystery writers, my favorite! I have never claimed to know what the people of San Jose want. I think my posts reflect my suggestions are based on my own personal tastes.

    Making a killing off others isn’t what my life or my morals are about. I work in the social justice field, I’m a certified mediator and arbitrator. I am proud of my work, and more importantly, I’m veryy proud of the contributions I make in this community everyday.

    As to sitting on the side lines of life, you don’t know me or anything about me to make such a judgemental comment.

  75. Kathleen # 72 : ” I’d also like to see some quaint family owned shops to browse through.”

    Quaint is nice, but browsing doesn’t pay the shopkeepers’ bills, Kathleen.  We need shops filled with everyday banal stuff that people need, and thus will buy.

    A lot of folks browsed through the failed Pavilion you mentioned in #75; but few purchased.  That entire concept was such a complete boondoggle.  What idiot did the marketing study?  Must have been someone from RDA, in order to justify the subsidy. Everyone fled downtown @ 5:00 p.m back then; now only 95% flee.  That’s why housing needed to go in BEFORE the retail could succeed.

    Zanotto’s went bk the first time.  Why?  Too few residents was a part.  Bigger issue—they priced everything way out of reach of the few downtown poor, and the wealthier office workers shopped near home. Everything in there is priced way higher than Safeway. Another stupid subsidy gone wrong.

    We are getting some residential density soon.  Residential density (not hotels and convention centers)  is the critical mass needed to make shops profitable.  From McEnery/Taylor forward, they all got it backwards.  Housing first, business later.

    The CIM tower going up now on San Fernando was first proposed at or near that location by Kim Small in the ‘80s, and we’re just now getting it built.

    #77—R U a small business owner downtown?  Retail?  Kathleen, I’d hold onto my money at least a couple of more years.  The little hot dog place on First near Post just went under.  Perfect Finish spent a ton of $$ to open, and was hindered every inch of the way by the Planning & Building Depts, as was Capers Loft.  I walked into Perfect Finish last evening about 6:30 p.m.  Monday Night Football on the Hitachi flat panel was clear as a bell.  I had a glass of wine.  I was the only customer.  Hal was working his laptop.  I left in half an hour, and saw five people on the street between there and my car in the lot @ 160 W. Santa Clara.  Too early in the week for the gangstas & lowriders.  Hell, some probably hadn’t even bailed out yet from the weekend.  Both First from San Fernando to Santa Clara, and Santa Clara to Almaden were virtually devoid of human life.  Don’t invest, Kathleen, until the streets are teeming on weeknights until at least 9:00 p.m.

  76. So if the Police/Firefighter pensions are self-funded, why won’t they agree to convert to a guaranteed contribution system instead of a guaranteed benefit system like almost all private employees. Heck, if they like socializing the benefit among themselves by having a union-administered system, that’s just fine also.

    Regardless of all the numbers thrown around, the unions won’t agree to such a system so either they are getting a better benefit than they are paying for or they are representing their members poorly. What do you think?

    As far as Social Security goes, it is a bad deal for maximum contributers (which police salaries would make them). Anybody at their pay scale would opt out of social security if they could.  If they were allowed to, the system would collapse. This is a benefit to public employees. Now medicare has been a very good deal. That is why teachers opted to join. I dont know for sure but I’d be willing to bet that the public safety employees buy into medicare.

    The point is that the average person in San Jose who pays the taxes to provide these pensions, doesn’t have guaranteed benefits anything like those enjoyed by public employees and they are seeing their services destroyed by having to pay for these benefits. It is an exploding time bomb.

    Also, the idea that the average recipient and their survivors only live until 70 is nonsense. Please consult an actuarial table for better figures.

  77. #80-JMO- Some of your points are right on. In reading your post, I thought about the small towns I like to go to that are very successful like Campbell, Half Moon Bay and others. They have lots of housing mixed with business. Their quaint shops do quite well. They have clothing, art galleries, pubs, etc., things that people enjoy. But more importantly, they have plenty of…parking! Wow, what a concept.
    I personally don’t have an answer to increasing the desirability of downtown, but I know one thing, I stay a way from it on the weekends, and go elsewhere, that is unless I’m going to see a play, or something like that.

  78. To Willow Glen Dad
    The following is taken from the FBI journal in regards to mortality amongst police officers. You were right to suggest it was nonsense police officers lived until only 70. According to the FBI, the average age at death is only 66.

    “Officers take inordinate risks that ordinary citizens do not confront. In the end, their bodies pay the ultimate price. Human biology cannot be overcome; the emotional energy that officers hold in over a period of years on the job will take its toll.
    How much does an officer’s body deteriorate? The life expectancy in the United States is 74.4 years for men and 80.1 years for women.9 In a 40-year study, police officers with 10 to 19 years of service had an average age of death of 66 years.10 The research found a “significantly increased risk of digestive and hematopoietic cancers among police officers who have 10 to 19 years” on the job; these findings concurred with other studies that theorized a link between cancer and stress.11 This same period of employment linked stress with maladaptive behaviors, such as alcohol and tobacco use, and findings indicated that officers have a significantly high mortality risk of esophageal cancer and significantly elevated risk of cirrhosis of the liver.12 Cirrhosis of the liver was elevated in officers with only 9 years on the job. Officers with 30 years on the job increased their mortality rate more than three times.13 Exposure to radar may lead to increased risk of testicle, breast, and prostate cancer. Exposure to gun cleaning solvents, carbon monoxide, and other hazardous materials on the highway may promote heart and kidney diseases. Lead from firearms training and fingerprint powders is linked to cerebrovas-cular and other diseases.”

    Here is the link for you to reference if you wish

    The fact that the police and fire pension have done well because of how it was managed, and you making the connection that residents “seeing their services destroyed by having to pay for these benefits. It is an exploding time bomb”, is just rhetoric. If anything the opposite is true. If the police/fire pension fund was not so well managed, the city would be contributing much more than they do.

  79. Kathleen#82—I’m not sure that what works/draws people to places like HMB or Campbell will also work downtown in a city the size of SJ.

    Last weekend was the tapestry festival, or whatever it’s called now.  Lots of folks @ the festival, that translated to no people in the “downtown shopping/restaurant district”.  I was moving my office, and ate lunch both days @ Capers Loft.  Watched some golf and college football on TV while eating.  They didn’t have enough customers to make payroll.

    Across the street tres gringos & SJ bar & grill get it—they don’t open for lunch on weekends.  Indeed very few food places open during weekend days.  I miss OJ’s. Hope they reopen soon, as they are a good weekend lunch venue on the weekend days I must work. Still not enough critical mass—which is really people LIVING downtown, not all the stuff the RDA has spent billions on trying to create critical mass.

    But that’s not unusual.  I have been to many high profile citities and towns throughout the USA that are deserted weekend days.  Reason’s pretty much the same—no-one except skid row types live in a downtown.  We’re even losing skid rows—-they’re all just homeless now.

  80. #84, John Michael O’Connor
    No disrespect or dishonor
    Thought Blaine Fields moved out of 160 west
    I’m trying to digest
    Is it Gil or me you detest
    Is your move for the best
    Do you feel blessed
    Do you now need to rest
    It’s me you have impressed
    All along this was my quest
    I’ve achieved, you can attest
    I truly am a pest
    Didn’t care for the tapestry fest
    I hope you’re not depressed
    Nor am I distressed
    At this time, that is all that can be expressed

  81. Whoah!!! George #85.

    U may get me thinking…who is this masked rhymer George Berlin???

    Do I detest you or Gil?  Neither. I did disagree with some of your previous posts, just as I presume many posters here disagree with me on things.  Disagreement brings resolution and understanding if people are willing to let it.

    I disagree with Gil re his PSA posting on this blog, because I believe it should be free of advertising.  Gil apparanetly forgot that when he first asked me to attend the fundraiser, long before he posted here, that I told him I had a previous commitment that day.  He has now concluded that I am anti-hispanic because I cannot attend the function he is promoting.  Oh well.