San Jose Measure V
Reform Mandatory Arbitration
Measure V puts budget control back in the hands of the elected representatives of the people, which is where it should be. It’s our money, and we elect people that we think will spend it in the most productive way possible.
Not that that always happens. Elected officials don’t always run the public treasury as we manage our household budgets or businesses, which is to keep expenses in line with our ability to pay for them. And that’s when we as voters have to step in.
A process designed to settle labor disputes contributes to expense inflation. Outside arbitration, which once seemed like a good, fast way to bring disagreements over wages, hours or employment terms to a speedy conclusion, has impacted the city’s ability to manage its budget.
As salaries have risen, the city has had to cut back services. Police and fire staffing levels have been reduced. Park lawns turn brown, street trees grow massive and potholes gut our streets. Permits take longer to process and city facilities shorten hours. Measure V limits the arbitration wild card’s potential to disrupt the budgeting process.
It specifies that outside arbitrators can’t raise salaries beyond revenue growth. That’s such a common-sense principle that we’re not sure why there’s such a hue and cry against it.
Police and firefighters unions oppose the measure. We believe people who risk their lives to protect our safety should be compensated fairly. Staffing levels and pay scales also need to rise with the economy, not faster than revenues grow.
Ultimately, city employees benefit form working for an employer that is able to pay its bills.
San Jose Measure W
Proponents of San Jose’s Measure W point out that the city spends more on pensions than it does for the fire department. Annual pensions currently total $138 million and will rise to $350 million a year by 2015 if costs continue to grow at the current velocity.
Measure W would allow the city to create new retirement programs for new hires that are in line with today’s employment landscape. It protects current employees’ pensions— nobody who works for the city will be affected by this change.
The current plans are a legacy of the dotcom bubble, when the city had difficulty attracting qualified applicants. The generous pension plans will stay in place for those who signed on at that time, which is fair.
Extending boom-era retirement benefits to those hired during the Great Recession, however, might be an idealistic proposition and we’d get behind it if not for the simple fact that we’d all have to find a way to pay those pensions. Simple fact is, the money’s not there.