Campaigning against Measures V&W last November, police union leader George Beattie issued numerous thinly-veiled warnings: If San Jose voters allowed the city to renegotiate contracts with cops and firefighters, he said, people might die. That strategy failed—V&W passed with an almost 80 percent majority—but Beattie is sticking to his guns.
In an Op Ed for the Merc last week, the somewhat reclusive lieutenant kept up the grim tone: “All I can say to the mayor, council majority and city manager is this: You were warned. Whatever ill befalls San Jose next is your doing.” The screed blamed the city’s top brass for the layoff of 70 officers, and while Beattie admitted that the action “will not result in immediate life-ending consequences,” he stopped just short of predicting mayhem.
He reserved his sharpest criticism for City Manager Deb Figone, who, he said, “botched” the opportunity to save the jobs by applying for a federal grant. Figone responded by blasting off a memo, on the last day of the fiscal year, to Mayor Chuck Reed and the City Council, assuring everyone that they certainly weren’t at fault. (She writes that she “communicated [her] concerns separately to Mr. Beattie.”)
Taking offense in particular to the POA president’s failure to state all the facts, Figone points out that the city didn’t go after the grant money from the feds because San Jose would have been on the hook for $16 million worth of salries when the grant ran out. With a $78 million projected deficit for next year—the 11th straight year San Jose has been in the red—the city manager says the city had to know when to fold ’em. More than 2,000 public employee positions have been eliminated during the last decade of budget shortfalls, and this time 66 officers couldn’t avoid a similar fate.
But not everyone on the council has the city manager’s back. At least three members—Pete Constant, Ash Kalra and Donald Rocha—had their own proposals on how to save police jobs, which were all shot down. In fact, the city manager’s office didn’t even bother to tell the council it was passing on the COPS grant because it felt some councilmembers couldn’t be trusted to walk away from money—even if it had strings attached after their terms’ end.
Most city officials will be taking their vacations this month, with negotiations regarding ongoing police pay cuts, pension reform and ballot measures to resume in August. Figone admits that no “decisions or conversations will be easy,” which it’s safe to assume is a point that she and Beattie can agree upon.