Drama and Trauma

The two city council meetings held last week regarding the budget and labor negotiations demonstrated the need to make all labor negotiations public. If you are interested, you can click on this link and see for yourself the drama and trauma that took place that still does not have closure. This week’s meeting, June 22, will hopefully close this chapter.
 
I am and have been a proponent of conducting labor negotiations as a public meeting. Unfortunately, when the vote was taken last year to open up labor talks, the vote was a 9-2 against changing the process with only Councilmember Constant and I voting in favor. The process that exists is broken or to say the least, it is severely flawed. The current process of labor negotiations as private meetings hurts those it is meant to help: the employees and taxpayers.

Employees have no choice but to join their respective labor union and are dependent upon having someone else represent them at the bargaining table. It is up to those labor union representatives to inform their membership about the status and timely updates can be a challenge to a large unions. At the same time, Councilmembers are informed by the Office of Employee Relations (OER). However, councilmembers cannot really update residents of what is happening with labor negotiations and their tax dollars since these meetings are private instead of public. In addition the Council only gets one side of the story.

At both Council meetings last week, we saw the drama unfold of broken promises, innuendo, conspiracy theory, stories of personal financial hardship, co-opting of religious clergy and the reading of prepared statements. Behind the smokescreen of this drama were the real people feeling the pain and getting hurt, the employees and residents of San Jose. Both of these groups had to undergo the trauma of being tossed around in public with no one being able to share the full story.  As I said at the meeting, 99 percent of city employees do a great job and are real people not faceless bureaucrats.

These city employees protect our safety, our property, our water, our young people, etc.  However when you interject labor unions and secret meetings then it can lead to demonizing city employees when this is not fair. The blame should be on the current process which is maintained by both the labor unions and the city of San Jose management.

The taxpayer ultimately has the most at stake since they are the single largest group in San Jose yet they are the least powerful. The taxpayer has a right to know early on how much we have and what we can afford. Only through this dialogue can there be the opportunity for everyone to be on the same page and understand that if we as a city want more services or the same services we might have to pay more for it. On the other hand, if everyone is on the same page then structural change can be demanded so services are delivered more efficiently.

I am hopeful that the June 22 meeting is peaceful and we accomplish our duties civilly.

On a happier note, I am hosting the raising of the Rainbow flag at City Hall at 1PM, Tuesday, June 22 in celebration of the accomplishments and contributions of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LBGT) community in San Jose.

50 Comments

  1. > The taxpayer ultimately has the most at stake since they are the single largest group in San Jose yet they are the least powerful.

    Exactly.

    > On a happier note, I am hosting the raising of the Rainbow flag at City Hall at 1PM, Tuesday, June 22 in celebration of the accomplishments and contributions of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LBGT) community in San Jose.

    Oh, baloney.  A classic case of stepping on your message.

    After lucidly explaining the problems and difficulties that arise for local government when a powerful, intransigent special interest intrudes itself into the process, you turn right around and pander to ANOTHER powerful, intransigent special interest.

    One step forward, two steps backward.

    • I am happy that you pointed out the hypocrisy in Mr Oliverio’s post.  He argues that the public—the largest and yet least powerful factor in the city budget—get left out of the process.  I agree with him on that point but then he takes great pleasure in informing us that he will be raising the rainbow flag over city hall.  Our city hall—he tells us this AFTER its a decision already made.  Where’s the involvement of the public here?  Where’s the temperture gauge for our community?  If timeliness and practicality are issues about determining if a majority of San Jose residents support the rainbow flag flying over city hall in support of Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered lifestyle then why not look to how the majority of San Jose residents and Santa Clara County residents voted on Prop 8.  There will give you the overwhelming sentiment held by the people Mr Oliverio represents.

      Seems even he panders to special interests.  Is it only acceptable when its your own special interest group or you’re benefitting from that?

      • There is a big difference in celebrating Gay Pride versus the billions of dollars the city has committed to the unions for pensions and healthcare for life. 
        A ceremony at City Hall will not bankrupt our city.

        • > There is a big difference in celebrating Gay Pride versus the billions of dollars the city has committed to the unions for pensions and healthcare for life. 

          No there isn’t.  They’re both special interests.

          And don’t kid yourself: the gay special interest sucks their share of money out of the taxpayer’s hide, too.

  2. Council’s 9-2 vote tell us both pro labor Council members supported by city labor unions and pro business Sam Liccardo, Vice Mayor Chirco and Mayor Reed voted to NOT have open public labor negotiations meetings.

    Is it political hypocrisy for many labor speakers to say they want labor negotiation public meetings because they are not in political majority but will change rules when labor is majority ?

    What is it?  Do labor and business politicians only want open public meetings when to their political advantage ?

    We can be absolutely SURE that San Jose City Hall Management will NEVER want open accountable city government because they like to make secret deals without public oversight

  3. Pierluigi,
    Not only do I agree with you on open negotiations so do Union Leaders, as evidenced by their remarks to you in Thursday’s Council Meeting.

    As to the drama, your fellows Council Members started it and have continued to keep it going. You might want to speak to Pete Constant for his unwarranted, and unprofessional attack on Council Member Plye in the press. You also might want to denounce others on the Council who used the media and their campaign ads to demonize City employees. The way the media and some Council Members have distorted Police and Fire pay and benefits is at best disgusting.

    I am deeply disappointed in how this Mayor and Council, the City Manager’s Office, and some Union Members have behaved during this whole situation. Public negotiations would put a stop to the lies and deception, and keep negotiations honest and above board.

  4. For those of you who didn’t see this:
    June 15 Readers’ letters
    From Mercury News readers
    Posted: 06/14/2010 04:21:35 PM PDT
    Updated: 06/14/2010 07:23:01 PM PDT

    Pyle seems to forget who she works for
    San Jose is in a fiscal crisis. The Santa Clara County grand jury recently confirmed what we have known for a long time: We must lower the cost of city employee compensation.
    Mayor Chuck Reed proposes sharing the pain between employees, who will receive pay cuts, and residents, who will bear the burden of reductions in services. The city has balanced the budget on the backs of residents for many years. However, this is the first time in history that employee pay is being reduced to balance the budget.
    Council member Nancy Pyle refers to our calls for a modest 10 percent reduction in pay a “burden” and “inequitable” to employees. After months of negotiations, Pyle says it is a “hostile act” to impose pay reductions in accordance with the labor negotiation procedures that are codified in state law.
    Nowhere does Pyle mention the incredible pain felt by San Jose residents as they have lost their jobs or suffered severe reductions in pay. I fear Pyle has forgotten she works for the residents of San Jose. Maybe it’s time to remind her.
    Pete Constant
    San Jose City Councilman, District 1
    Herrera sets good example for council

    http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_15296149

    Readers’ letters
    From Mercury News readers
    Posted: 06/17/2010 03:48:04 PM PDT
    Updated: 06/17/2010 05:59:19 PM PDT

    Councilwoman says attack unprofessional
    San Jose City Councilman Pete Constant (Letters, June 15) alleges that I need to be reminded who I work for. I think it is Constant who needs to be reminded that the freedom to present and discuss different solutions to complex problems is the basis of our democracy. His unprofessional attack on me is one of the worst cases of bullying I’ve witnessed in more than 23 years representing the community as a nonprofit board member, trustee and city councilwoman. Bullies continue to behave this way only if they are successful with their intimidation and their actions are ignored by others. I will not be bullied by Pete Constant.
    My colleagues and I have been barraged with hundreds of unsolicited and unwarranted negative e-mails from Constant’s constituents forwarded from his office. It would seem to me that Constant needs to spend more time worrying about equity, dialogue and resolution rather than harassment of his colleagues.
    On another note, I truly appreciate the outpouring of support that I have received from my friends, colleagues and constituents.
    Nancy Pyle
    San Jose City Councilwoman District 10

    http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_15320137

    • And the Mayor’s silence in all of this is most disappointing. His tacit approval of Constant’s tactics shows no class and a lack of leadership.

    • I’ve read Constant’s letter and it’s actually rather mild.
      It’s gotten to where ANY personal criticism is classified as “An Attack”. Have we become so PC that we are ostracized for speaking our minds? Should Pete Constant be banished to the Farallones and forced to drink hemlock?

      Or should Nancy Pyle get a backbone?

      • John Galt said, “Should Pete Constant be banished to the Farallones and forced to drink hemlock?”

        If only. He needs to stop running to the press to get his name in the paper and do his job. He also needs to learn something called professionalism, and respecting differing opinions. If he truly cared about doing what is best for everyone he’d open his ears and close his mouth~

    • Kalra, Campos and Pyle have not proposed a viable budget.  If they are against Mr. Reed’s budget, they should be required to present a detailed alternative. The unions and city management had months to “discuss different solutions to complex problems.”  The time is up.  We need a budget solution now.

    • No. It’s for his “Constant Comment.” wink

      BTW I see nothing “unwarranted” or “unprofessional” about one public official disagreeing with another on issues of public importance. In fact, I prefer that such disagreement be aired in public so that us voters know where we stand with our elected officials. I suspect that public sentiment is strongly with Constant on the issue of union benefits.

      Besides, If Pyle wants to get upset over “bullies” “unprofessional” attacks she should talk to Rich De LaRosa, who she slimmed big-time when she ran against him for city council! Some of us still remember that disgraceful campaign. What gall she has!

  5. Voters in Orange County and City of San Diego in recent years have stripped benefit-granting authority from their irresponsible politically compromised elected officials, reserving that power for voters

    Governments can stem the tide of ever-rising pension costs by enacting charter amendments requiring voter approval of all government employee benefits.

    San Francisco has required voter approval of pension benefit hikes since its founding charter over a century ago.

    • We’ve followed a similar but opposite example, where benefit levels (pension contributions, etc) are written into the charter, which makes it a hassle to change.  When times are good, smart unions get protections locked in so that during bad times its almost impossible to get concessions and reductions in pay or benefits.

  6. Looks like time has run out for compromise and layoffs and cuts will be mandated.

    Unions provide tremendous benefits to members, but in this scenario, they are drawing the line at protecting the senior (vested members) and leaving newer employees (who are also union members) to pay the price for keeping full benefits and wages.

    The pensions and other non-wage benefits are most important to older employees looking forward to retirement and seeking stability.  Younger employees, perhaps unwisely, are more motivated by base pay than by pension benefits.

    The baby boomers are showing their true colors and taking it all with them and leaving the following generation to muddle through the mess left behind.

    Charter Amendment Time:
    1. 50-50 split on pension contributions
    2. Average 3 highest years pay for retirement
    3. Cap pay spiking and leave cash outs
    4. Limit Pension increases to no higher than Inflation figures.
    5. Eliminate binding arbitration system
    6. Disallow multiple paychecks (disability, retirement, consultant, etc.) Someone could leave on disability and then retire, but the retirement would merely top up the disability pay, not double it.

    And since disability is so frequently abused and is now viewed as an extra entitlement, we need to clean that system up and remove the fraud and misuse.  How about annual “psychological and stress evaluations” so that someone can’t suddenly discover a stress disability on the eve of retirement.

  7. How to Respond to a Smear Campaign

    “If you’ve been following Bay Area news lately, you may be aware that the city of San Jose is facing a major budget deficit. Mayor Chuck Reed and the San Jose City Council has asked all city employees to take a 10 percent cut in wages and benefits. If the unions representing these employees refuse to accept these cuts, layoffs will occur in all departments.”

    http://lmgprlounge.com/2010/06/21/how-to-respond-to-a-smear-campaign/

  8. I think the public should be well informed, therefore do understand that both Fire and Police unions were not the ones that wanted to go to binding arbritation for the last two contracts.  Both times the City declared impasse and asked to go go directly to arbritration.  The City is the side playing a political game with the employees and therefore the services the public receives.  The sick leave pay out was negotiated into the contracts at the City’s request as a cost saving measure, so don’t blame the officers/firefighters. The last 2 fire academies were hired by administration even though they knew possible lay offs were impending. Each academy cost in excess of 1 million dollars, so don’t blame the firefighters.  The proposed site of the A’s stadium is at the current location of the Fire Department Training grounds, so who do you think will foot the bill for that…Not the A’s!  BTW, the Commisioner of baseball has repeatedly said that he will not allow the A’s to move to San Jose!  So why is the Mayor wasting tax payer dollars on studies and land purchase for a pipe dream?  Both Fire and Police unions are willing to negotiate, the City is not…The City has reaped the benefits of a workforce that is less than half the size of any comparable sized city in the U.S.A.  Not just fire and police but across the board.  Mis management is the problem, not the employees.

    • There’s plenty of blame to go around if we want to spend our energy on fixing blame and assigning responsibility without actually doing anything positive for the future.

      Let’s do our best together to make it right for the future.  Some fixes won’t even help in the immediate fiscal mess, but will lay the groundwork for long term financial stability.  Let’s have a task force work on these issues and bring something to the council and ballot for long term fixes.

      There’s an immediate fiscal melt-down situation, and then there’s long term structural problems that are a contributing factor to the immediate mess.  Let’s tackle the hard stuff for long term fiscal health and not look at this like a one-shot battle for jobs or benefits.

      • Blair said,” Let’s tackle the hard stuff for long term fiscal health and not look at this like a one-shot battle for jobs or benefits.”

        Exactly. By demanding 10% pay cuts across the board, and not looking at waste, overspending, and other ways of handling the problem we get what we have right now.

        I don’t agree that there is enough blame to go around though. I think people need to remember that every bit of financial difficulty we face right now was brought upon us by bad decisions made by the Mayor and Council. No one would be getting the pay or benefits they have if our Council didn’t rubber-stamp it. Libraries and community centers wouldn’t be built and slated for closure if they had planned wisely. Letting electeds off the hook doesn’t change the fact that they caused this mess, and now they are finger pointing to get out of it.

        We need more public interaction and follow through. I honestly believe we citizens could run a better budget and think out of the box than electeds who depend on City staff to do their thinking for them.

        • “I think people need to remember that every bit of financial difficulty we face right now was brought upon us by bad decisions made by the Mayor and Council.”

          Do you think the council independently decided to grant unsustainable benefits to unions?  That’s ridiculous.  Unions have exerted their political might either to place pawns such as Campos in power or to bully other members into going along.  Only now does the council finally have the spine to stand up to them.

        • Who really pulls the strings?
          “Do you think the council independently decided to grant unsustainable benefits to unions?”

          Yes I believe that. If you paid attention to last weeks Council Meetings you would have heard Council Members repeat that over and over again.

        • I’m confused.  Either the council is pointing fingers at others or they’re pointing fingers at themselves.  Your complaint was the former.  Now you’re saying they’re admitting fault.

          Which is it?

        • Who really pulls the strings?

          Go to the City’s website and watch the Council Meetings for last Tuesday and Thursday. See for yourself. Stop relying on the press to tell you the facts.

  9. So Mr. Oliverio you would approve of keeping the negotiations open.  Amazing since the City was the side to declare impasse on negotiations with the Unions, and while the Mayor kept indicating that all he wanted was a 10% pay and benefit concession what was given to the employees from OER was well above a 20% reduction in pay and benefits. Has Pete Constant taken a freeze in his disability retirement pay while he is accepting pay as a Coucil person?  He villifies public employees for the pay and retirement benefits we enjoy while greedily taking more for himself!  Shame on you both!

  10. Irrespective of whether you agree with Pete Constant (and I rather do), it should be clear to any reasonably minded person that his criticism of Nancy Pyle’s position on a key issue before the Council is an entirely legitimate exercise in political discourse.

    Ever since the mid-1990s, I’ve noticed a tendency, in all levels of government, for politicians to try to characterize any and all disagreement with their ideas as some sort of unfair smear attack. Criticizing Nancy Pyle on substantive issue is not equivalent to some form of dirty politics, and its certainly not “bullying.”

    • Kevin,
      I couldn’t disagree with you more. Pitting people against one another is counterproductive. This isn’t an isolated incident. Pete has a habit of going after anyone he disagrees with in the press. Nancy Pyle has been his latest subject. All she was trying to do was keep our City safe through a list of suggestions. She was acting in the best interest of all citizens concerned, not out of some sense of politics. 

      I think professionalism on the Council is vital. The way they behave on the dais speaks volumes. When Pete went to the press and said Nancy Pyle should be reminded whom she works for, and proceeded to send out emails encouraging his constituents to write her, he was indeed bullying her.

      I don’t know if you went to or viewed the six hour Council Meeting on Thursday, but he even made a pot shot remark at Council Member Campos. He needs to be reminded that he isn’t in high school any more. He represents his district and should do so with professionalism and integrity.

        • “.Um… professionalism from politicians?  On what planet?”

          If we don’t demand professional behavior from our electeds, we get what we have…..

        • Kevin,
          I don’t think that is the case. He is too busy positioning himself for the next office he’s going to run for to care what she said in the first place.

        • Oh baloney!

          Constant has an absolute right, if not an obligation, to speak out against another councilmember if he disagrees with her on a major issue of public policy. Doing so in the press is a great way to shed light on Pyle’s budget-busting pro-union positions on the city budget. His letter was a factually accurate critique of another public official. I much prefer our councilmembers to air their disagreements in public rather than going back to the “secret meeting/deal” days of the pro-union Gonzales/Chavez Administration!

          To label Constant’s criticism of Pyle as “unprofessional” is a red herring. Constant is clearly representing the people of his District, and I suspect the great majority of San Joseans, who want to see employee benefits reigned in before the city goes bankrupt!

          Pyle, on the other hand, needs to get a spine and stop crying alligator tears over people, quite rightly, pointing out that her cuddling up with the unions is not in the best interest of the citizens of San Jose!

          That said, I am FURIOUS that Constant has announced he’s going fishing in July while the city budget is still unresolved. I hope Pyle, or whoever, sends in a letter to the editor about THAT bit of non-leadership!

        • Reader,
          I think you are misunderstanding my point. Let me clarify myself. I don’t have a problem with anyone on the Council disagreeing publicly on issues. Healthy debates are vital to finding new ways of doing things! But that is not what he does. He attacks people with misinformation when he doesn’t agree with them. He has a dog pile mentality!

          Why is it that you and I, or say others on this blog can debate an issue with respect for one another and Constant can’t? He runs to the media about EVERYTHING from his weight loss, to whatever he thinks will get him press! Our own Mayor hasn’t been in the press as much as Constant has!

          Constant has attacked SEVERAL fellow Council Member at one time or another in the press. His attacks on the dais and in the press are mean spirited. As for this fishing trip, this is just one of MANY ways he disrespects his responsibilities to the taxpayer, and his duty to that office.

  11. Blair I agree with you on the disability…Gosh, thats sounds familiar though…Hmmm…Let’s see…Oh yeah!  Pete Constant…Took a disability retirement from Police Department…I am not saying he does not have any medical issues, but he could not work a desk job but somehow being a Counsel Person (desk job) and double dipping on salary and now retirement benefits from the Counsel Position….

  12. Hosting a rainbow flag raising?
    meh.  That’s so 1990’s pandering.

    If you’re going to pander, how about at least taking it up a notch and hosting a BP corporate flag burning in front of CH?  Now that’s pandering that’ll guarantee moonbat endearment and tons of ink and appearances on MSNBC.

    Or how about hitting the pandering bases loaded double by co-hosting with Madison/Ash/Sam a Mexican flag raising *and* a burning of the Arizona flag?
    Can’t you just feel the pandering endorphins?

    Pier, the plethora of pandering possibilities are palpable.  I’ll have my people contact your people.

    • > Pier, the plethora of pandering possibilities are palpable.  I’ll have my people contact your people.

      You’re knowledge of this subject area is suspiciously detailed.

      You’ve pandered before, haven’t you.

  13. “I think people need to remember that every bit of financial difficulty we face right now was brought upon us by bad decisions made by the Mayor and Council.”  – Wrong

    Who really pulls the strings? – City Manager and Department Staff not this Mayor and Council maybe a few Past Mayors and a very few Council members

    Stop and really look at most of current and past Council members that had a hard time understanding complex issues that they are voting on most of the time and many did not read all of the documents they were voting on before approving staff recommendations  

    By the time the few Council members who really understood what is going on in city government it is time for them to leave   Most of Council members have hard time understanding what they are voting on

    You really need open up your eyes and read San Jose city Charter to understand how Council – City Manager form of city government works in San Jose

    Yes, Council approves City Manager and staff written budget, zoning and spending recommendations and makes minor changes to staff recommendations based on personal opinions and approve small political giveaways to Council campaign supporters ( Mini Mayor’s )

    City Manager and Department staff run city government not part time Mayor and Council

    • Who runs City Government?
      Okay you got me! The City Manager does have a lot of power. And yes, I agree, the Council votes on issues recommended by city staff even when they don’t have all the facts or understand what they are voting for. But….the Council is responsible for the mess because only THEY can vote to approve projects, the budget, forgiving million dollar loans, approving retirement, granting million dollar loans, continuing to fund huge loses by the Mexican American Heritage Center, golf courses, and paying for an over priced City Hall etc…

      • Kathleen, we are responsible for electing the council, so we are responsible for their actions. It is our fault as voters that we are in the situation we are in today. We are the only ones who can rectify the situation.

        • Pat Waite,
          You have a good point Pat. And once they are in office, we don’t hold them accountable either.

          Hey, I wanted to tell you I thought your comments in the Merc were very well stated. It is important to work in collaboration. Pitting people against one another is a no win for all concerned.

        • Thanks, Kathleen.

          Now if we could elect people who know how to collaborate, rather than stand at opposite ends of the spectrum hurling invectives at one another, we might create a city we can all be proud of.

        • District 8 sure got it wrong when they didn’t elect you Mr Waite.  I can only hope and pray that you are planning to run for council in our district again. 

          Believe me I will be doing more than simply voting for you myself.  I will work tirelessly for you!  This city is in trouble and we need some levelheaded business minds with a social conscience.

  14. This just reported by the Mercury regarding the council vote on the budget: “Though next week’s council meeting will be a budgeting formality, at least one council member won’t be around for it. Councilman Pete Constant planned his annual fishing trip to Mexico with his buddies for next week”.

    So let’s see, he is on leave from the city to lose weight yet he can go fishing. He is on disability from the police department yet he is well enough to take a fishing trip. This guy is ridiculous.

    • Piccolo Pete I whole heartedly agree with you, if this budget is as earth shattering as the Mayor and Pete Constant say, why is he leaving the country to Mexico to fish…As far as his disability goes, I am starting to wonder.  In today’s Mercury news there is an artical about him wrestling with a visiting group of wrestlers from Mongolia!!!  Really?  Wrestling when he is pulling a disability retirement!!!  Talk about taking advantage of the system!!!

  15. Up in Budget Smoke

    ( Cheech & Chong – Up In Smoke –
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCZap4o777g )

    ( Pierluigi )
    Up in smoke
    That’s where budget money goes
    in city pensions
    and sometimes up my nose
    When troubled budget times
    Begin to bother me
    I take a big toke
    and all my budget cares
    Go up in smoke

    ( Chuck )
    Up in smoke
    Donde todos es mi rey
    There are no signs
    Que dice no fumer
    So I roll un “bomber” budget
    Y me doy, un buen toke-ay
    Y despues I choke
    Y todos mis cares
    Go up in smoke
    Come on Council let’s get high

    ( Council – All together )
    Up in smoke
    That’s where budget gonna be
    ‘Cause when I’m high
    The budget deficit
    Don’t bother me
    When life begins
    To be one long
    and confusing budget
    I take a big toke
    and all our budget cares
    Go up in smoke

  16. Pier,so if the negotiations were open it would not bother you to let the residents of San Jose truly see how the City is treating their employees.  In this case you are now trying to pit the Police Officers against the Firefighters.  They would be able to see that the 10% will never be enough, that actually when an offer to accept the Police offer was matched by the Fire dept, Alex Gurza advised not to accept either…He now wants more!  This is not a game the Citizens deserve! By the way, did all of the neighboorhoods affected by the relocations of fire apparatus have a community meeting, or were only the affluent areas of Rosegarden and Willow Glen worth considering?