More than a few eyebrows lifted last week when Councilmember Sam Liccardo proposed raising the city’s sales tax to help fund police and firefighter jobs. With 73 officers expected to lose their jobs on July 1, according to police union VP Jim Unland, Liccardo showed the kind of political savvy that was conspicuously absent this spring, when he voted against approving union concessions because he said they didn’t go far enough.
Even though sales taxes generally affect less-affluent citizens disproportionately, it will be hard for union yodelers like Yolanda Cruz to crucify Liccardo for focusing on “imaginary” issues when her union sisters and brothers are being fired—and the city’s murder rate is running more than double what it was last year. Similarly, pro-police folks and anti-tax types often attend the same tea parties, minimizing the possibility of opposition from the right.
But this last-second maneuver might be a case of too little, too late, despite having the support of Mayor Chuck Reed and others on the council. Liccardo was hoping to piggyback the vote on a statewide ballot scheduled for November, but Gov. Jerry Brown couldn’t gain enough Republican support to stage a special election. The city could call its own special election if polling suggests strong support of the taxes, but it seems more likely the soonest San Jose will have a chance to decide if SJPD Chief Chris Moore can get boots back on the ground will be March 2012.