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.