Mayor Reed Answers Readers’ Questions

This is the first installment of a new San Jose Inside feature that allows readers to pose questions to public officials. This week, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has answered 10 questions selected out of hundreds that were submitted by San Jose Inside commenters. The topics range from pensions and public safety to a proposed ballpark. The next public official to be interviewed by readers will be announced on Friday.—Editor

1. Why is the Mayor saying we have a fiscal emergency when the CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) says that in 2010 we (the City) are financially secure and billions in the black? Figures from 2010 CAFR (12-7-10): total 6.6 bil in liabilities and total net assets 9.9 bil.
— Gil Zamora

We have a fiscal emergency because we are laying off cops and fire fighters and closing libraries and community centers and next fiscal year will be worse.  We are draining money from services to pay for runaway retirement costs.

San Jose’s problem is with our General Fund, which pays for police officers, firefighters, libraries, community centers, parks, and road repairs, among other things.

In fiscal year 2011-2012, the General Fund budget totals about $820 million. The General Fund gets its funds from sales, property, and other taxes. Public safety accounts three-fourths of our discretionary general fund spending.

Nearly half of the General Fund is non-discretionary, meaning the City is mandated to make these payments. The biggest of these costs is our annual contribution to the retirement funds to pay for the pension and healthcare benefits that employees and retirees have earned.

San José will spend about $245 million in 2011-2012 to pay for lifetime pension and retiree healthcare benefits for employees. That is about three times what it paid a decade ago – and about 25% of the general fund. These costs are projected by the Retirement Boards’ independent actuary to reach $432 million by FY 2015-2016.  They could jump to $650 million if actuarial assumptions are adjusted to reflect modern conditions. According to a recent City Auditor’s report, rising pension costs “threaten the City’s ability to maintain service levels.”

To pay for these increased retirement costs, San Jose has three options:
1. Layoff workers and cut services.
2. Restructure the retirement program to reduce the cost of benefits.
3. Make the employees pay more for benefits.

After a decade of General Fund deficits and service cuts, we have the lowest number of employees providing services since 1986-1987 when our City had a quarter less residents.

This is NOT sustainable. We can’t afford to cut services anymore. That’s why I’ve made fiscal reform my top priority.

A few words about the CAFR:

The City’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) includes all funds, not just the General Fund. It includes the Redevelopment Agency of the City of San José, Parking Authority of the City of San José, San José-Santa Clara Clean Water Financing Authority, and the City of San José Financing Authority. Many of the City’s assets are in capital investments or proceeds from bonds that must be spent on the projects for which they were issued.

Many of these component funds are fiscally healthy and/or have secure funding sources. For example, the sewer service and use charges you pay on your property tax bill are restricted to funding day-to-day sewer services and improvements to the sewer system and water pollution control plant.

By law, the City cannot use restricted funds for uses other than the uses for which they are intended. So sewer funds can’t be used to pay for police officers or libraries, and library parcel taxes can’t be used to pay for anti-gang programs.

The CAFR is also a snapshot in time, much like your monthly bank statement. Your bank statement tells us what we have in the bank today, but it doesn’t tell you whether you’ll be able to pay your bills tomorrow. Similarly, the CAFR doesn’t project into future, even though we know that retirement costs are projected to increase to $432 million annually by 2016.

Starting in 2013, our CAFR will change. Billions of dollars of pension liabilities will be added to the balance sheet as new Government Accounting Standards are implemented.

You can learn more about the City’s Pension Problems and visit the Understanding the Budget page on my website to learn more about how San Jose’s budget and the various funds work.

2. How does the mayor and city council monitor the impact of the police layoffs?  Does SJPD provide the council with weekly/monthly response time data along with a breakdown of the number of calls for assistance—especially those calls that were not handled due to lack of officers?
— SteveO

The Chief and I have regular conversations about this topic.

The Police Department provides a quarterly report to the Council’s Public Safety, Finance, and Strategic Support Committee. Additionally, the Committee will be discussing:
• Options for changing the span-of-control (ratio of officers to sergeants/lieutenants/captains) to get more officers on patrol and working the streets.
• Cutting Workers Compensation costs in the police department. Dollars saved in this area can go to putting more officers in the field.
• Civilianizing certain positions. A City Auditor’s report looked at options for saving funds by returning some positions, such as records positions and entry lobby staff, from sworn officers to civilians.

After review by the Committee in an open meeting, these reports come to the full City Council.

3. Are there any plans to hold pot clubs to the same code of conduct as other, similar narcotics dispensing business?  (e.g. Bars, pharmacies, etc.)
— Robert Cortese

Yes, and the costs for enforcement will be paid from the taxes and licensing fees paid by the facilities. The proposed Medical Marijuana Zoning Ordinance is scheduled to be heard by the Council on Sept. 13, 2011. The draft ordinance (as reviewed by the Planning Commission) is online here and includes restrictions such as hours of operation and security requirements. Additionally, the Council will be enacting detailed operational regulations for the facilities that it permits.

4. Sunshine reforms and transparency were major campaign themes from your first mayoral campaign.  Have the changes made a difference in how city business is conducted, and what more could be done?
— Blair Whitney

Since I took office in 2007, San Jose has implemented significant changes in sunshine reforms and open government, including:
• The Council no longer votes on millions of dollars in expenditures without information and staff reports being available to the public online in advance. Memos are released 10 days in advance (and sometimes longer).
• The Mayor and Council must disclose their contacts with lobbyists and special interest groups before they vote on an item. They also must disclose any communications (such as an email or text message) received from an interested party during a Council meeting.
• Calendars of the Mayor, Council, Chiefs of Staff, and other City officials are posted online each week, allowing the public to see who we’ve met with.
• San Jose has improved disclosures related to campaign contributions and expenditures.
• Salaries and benefits paid to all City and Redevelopment Agency employees, including the Mayor and Council and their staffs, are now public and posted online.
• San Jose has moved to a community-based budget process that includes an annual priority-setting session with neighborhoods and the youth commission, an annual survey, and community budget meetings in every Council district.
• If denied, public records requests can be appealed to the City’s Public Records Manager or the Rules and Open Government Committee.
• The Mayor and Council must disclose in writing any fundraising activity on behalf of candidates or nonprofit organizations that they or their staff engage in.
• Officeholder accounts have been eliminated. In the past, Councilmembers and the Mayor raised funds year-round from special interests and lobbyists to pay for tickets to political events and charitable activities.

5. If it is true, how can any councilmember justify medical for life?  From what I understand, when a councilmember serves two consecutive terms, they are entitled to medical for life.  That’s only eight years worth of work.  Yet you say that police officer’s ride the “gravy train.”  We may get medical for life, but that is after 20 years of service; 20 years of fighting, running, injuries, dealing with deaths, seeing people die right in front of you; interviewing child and adult rape victims, sexual assault victims, child abuse, elderly abuse and domestic violence victims; divorce, depression, suicide and alcoholism.  Unfortunately, the list could go on. So my question is, what entitles any city councilmember medical for life?
— Officer B

This is NOT true. The Mayor and City Council DO NOT receive medical for life from their service on the City Council.  Employees need 15 years of service to qualify for this benefit, although I have proposed we increase that number to 20 years as part of a fiscal reforms ballot measure.

The rare circumstance in which a former Mayor or Councilmember would receive retiree medical care from the City would be if a retired public employee (such as the late Councilmember John DiQuisto, who was a retired firefighter) ran for office and won a seat on the Council. In that case, this is a benefit provided from prior service. Or if a former Councilmember came back to work for the City and earned the 15 years of service that are currently required to vest in the retiree healthcare benefit.

6. It seems like the “underfunding of the pension system” is partly due to the City failing to make its contribution. Has the City contributed its share? If so, why has the City’s contribution not earned any interest? and if the City has not made the contributions it budgeted for Why did it not deposit the money in the system and where did that money go?
— Peter Grande

The City Council DOES NOT set the contribution rates for what the City owes the system. The independent Boards of the two retirement funds do. Based on their actuaries’ advice, the retirement boards send the City a bill and the City pays it.

The City of San Jose has consistently made the Annual Required Contribution required by the retirement boards. Here’s a statement from the City Auditor’s report on pension sustainability: “Unlike some jurisdictions, the City has generally been fully funding its annual required contributions for pension benefits. The plans have had actuarial valuations completed on a regular biennial schedule and, with the exception of two years in the 1990s, has consistently made its annual required contribution (ARC). The plans recently changed to having annual valuations. Furthermore, the City is moving towards fully funding the ARC for retiree healthcare.”

The Auditor notes: “In those two years, the City made 92 percent and 96 percent of the total ARC for the Federated Plan. The reasons were that (1) the City opted to phase in a recommended contribution rate increase and (2) the City elected to defer funding for the reciprocity benefit provided in 1994 as the actuaries were unable to adequately value the liability because a lack of reliable data.”

When the City makes its contribution, it goes into the corpus of the funds. It earns interest and experiences losses along with the rest of the funds. Increases in the unfunded liabilities are due to benefit increases granted in prior years, investment losses, optimistic assumptions about Rate-of-Return, out-of-date actuarial assumptions, and higher than expected pay increases.

Since taking office, I’ve worked to reform the boards, turning them from boards dominated by members with inherent conflicts-of-interest into boards with a majority of members who are independent and bring expertise in fiscal and investment matters.

For more information, the City Auditor has issued a report Pension Sustainability: Rising Pension Costs Threaten The City’s Ability To Maintain Service Levels - Alternatives For A Sustainable Future that is available online.

You can also learn more about the City’s Pension Problems on my website.

7. Why don’t you try “Discover Downtown Weekends” by turning off the parking meters on Saturdays and Sundays?  It would give the hard-working Parking Control Officers their weekends off.  And it just might encourage people to visit downtown restaurants, parks, and museums at their leisure — without the cost and worry of getting parking citations!
— Mona Lisa

Thank you for sharing an interesting idea. Downtown parking meters are turned off on Sundays, except in the Little Italy/Arena area. I will review the costs/benefits of a potential Saturday program with transportation staff.

In July, the City Council changed a number of aspects of the Downtown Parking program. A few key facts:
• Merchants who use the Downtown Parking Validation Program can provide unlimited parking validation in City-owned garages between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., Monday through Friday and all day on Saturday, Sunday and major holidays, with a two-hour validation coupon.
• For those not visiting a validating merchant, City-owned garages charge a $4 flat daily rate for Saturdays, Sundays and major holidays (which increases to $5 effective January 1, 2012).

Information is available at San Jose Downtown Parking’s website.

8. Do you think that it is morally right to take political contributions from real estate companies, construction companies and other companies when these same companies are receiving money from the San Jose Redevelopment Agency?
— Just anon 4 now

I believe it is moral to follow the law.  Since I’ve been Mayor, we have eliminated Officeholder Accounts and increased fundraising disclosure requirements.

Officeholder Accounts allowed Councilmembers to fundraise from special interests year-round, not just while running for office. Campaign fundraising is limited to the six months before the election in San Jose.

Quarterly fundraising disclosures allow you, the public, to see who your elected officials are raising money for and who they are raising money from.

9. The Cato Institute report has additional negative information about the alleged benefits of a ballpark.  Thus, in these tough times, why are you investing so many resources into an investment that will likely produce no or, at best, nominal returns?
— Ballparks drain the economy

The ballpark project would be privately funded, privately constructed and privately operated.  The $400 – 500 million dollars of private investment would generate about $3 million in revenues for the City/RDA.

The Redevelopment Agency’s economic impact analysis, conducted by an outside entity, found that this privately built and operated major league ballpark will create nearly 1,000 jobs and generate more than $5 million dollars a year of revenue for local governments. San José would receive over $3 million each year in new tax revenue. In addition, Santa Clara County, schools, and other local agencies would receive over $2 million a year in new revenue. That’s good news for local governments in these tough budget times.

10. Why isn’t RDA debt counted as “debt to the City,” if the City has to sell (or give away assets) to pay for RDA debt?
— Helen Chapman

In general, the Redevelopment Agency’s debt is secured by tax increment only, and is not the responsibility of the City or its General Fund.  That’s the basis on which most of the RDA bonds are issued.

There are two projects, however, that were financed by the City’s General Fund, with the Agency obligated to reimburse the City for payment of that debt: the Convention Center and the 4th Street Garage. If there is not enough tax increment revenue to the RDA to pay for all of the Agency debt, the City’s General Fund will not get reimbursed by the RDA for debt service payments for these two projects.

The City also loaned the RDA funds to pay the State of California $75 million in the last two years.  As of today, the state legislation being litigated would not allow the RDA to repay all of the debts from the RDA to the City.

The City hasn’t sold assets to pay Redevelopment debts. There may be some confusion about the disposition of the Old City Hall. The City transferred the Old City Hall to the Redevelopment Agency, which then transferred the property to Santa Clara County in lieu of paying the County cash for the funds that it owed.  In return, the Agency transferred other property of similar value to the City.

55 Comments

  1. Long winded but ofcourse, vague answers. I’m disappointed the best question was not asked. How in the world CSJ ran a deficit during the Tech Boom years when revenue streams set records. If you guys couldn’t balance the budget then it’s apparent you either aren’t smart enough to at all or you purposely run a deficit. If it’s on purpose, stop lying to us saying we are in emergency. You can’t by definition plan an Emergency.

  2. “we have a fiscal emergency because we are laying off…” No. The layoffs didn’t cause it. They are a negative result of it. Seriously, did you drink before you wrote that?

    • Not exactly.  The layoffs are not a result of a fiscal emergency; they are the result of chronic poor budgeting, poor policy making, and taxpayers getting stuck for BS feel good programs proposed by one trick pony constituencies.  An emergency is a sudden event.  Our fiscal crisis is hardly sudden.

      “…when our City had a quarter less residents….”  Despite three emails to you, Chuck, I see that you still don’t know when to use “less” and when to use “fewer”.

      • Thanks Josh, read it entirely.  Not happy.  This is my “they barely wrote anything and filled it with a lot of public letters” face.

        _____
        – –
          ^

        Chuck, I see just a few provisions for “felony” but nothing of violent crime(moral turpitude). You are not taking anything from the ABC.

        I AM DISAPPOINT.

        In this age of copy and paste, how hard would it be?  In this age of search and replace, replace the word “alcohol” with “marijuana” in some of the ABC handbooks.

        Sorry to be so critical, I’ll just smack my forehead with my palm for a while and see if it mellows me out.

  3. Cato Institute report was largely about Nationals Park in Washington DC, which was heavy on public financing (taxpayer monies going directly towards construction costs).  As Mr. Reed correctly stated, Cisco Field would be entirely privately financed to the tune of nearly $500 million.  In other words, Cato Institute report and our Cisco Field completely apples and oranges.

    • The Cato report did say ballparks do more to deaden the area than liven it up. The jobs it brings would be minimum wage, seasonal work only. The construction would be done by union carpenters hired by a major general contractor. No $500 million job is going to some mom n pop shop hiring the out of work. It will be big name with journeyman skill. As was told to the city by their own consultants, the park will cause stagnation n financial strain but a business park with high end condos on the same land parcels would generate tens of millions of $$ over the same time period.

      • Uhh…AT&T Park in San Francisco?  Yeah!  That South Beach neighborhood sure is a cesspool.  And are you going to tell me our very own HP Pavilion (with its minimum wage jobs and all) has been bad for downtown?  Its dishonest to take one stadium and make a blanket assessment about all of them.  That is all.

        • AT&T park didn’t revive the area. That area was already revitalizing which was a big reason they pursued the location. The arena is fine, when something is actually going on. The majority of the time it is dead space. Read the report, when youhave two facilities in close proximity they compete for the same dollars and a host of problems can ensue. The point is, the upside is possible but nowhere near guaranteed. The downsides are likely and many. Tony you are in love with an idea. The reality is rarely what people dream it will be.

      • I’m thinking an experienced real estate developer would love to replicate the SF and Santana Row kinda vibe around a new downtown ballpark and would love to surround it with dense mixed use (housing above retail, along with commercial office space.)  I wonder if there’s a developer somewhere who’d love to master plan not only the ballpark but about a square mile around it?

    • You declare that half of the Mayors answers are lies.  Please just list four flat out lies. 

      Your vague statements that have no truth behind them and are worthless, except they do carry the union mantra forward.  Keep saying things like Coucnilmembers get medcial for life and maybe people will beleive it, but it doesn’t make it true.

  4. My question wasn’t answer, and this is his acknowledgement of downtown failure on his part.  I guess we need a new mayor that cares for downtown and the success of it.  We just can’t live in a city that’s not exciting and progressive.  My question to you all: Do you want a hole in the donut city?

  5. Mr Mayor,
    A lot of the fiscal problems have been caused by your choice to bring in “affordable housing” rather than jobs. They cost more money than they bring in to the city. Yet you and and the other city council members continue to rubberstamp these projects, further diluting city services and driving down the market prices for homeowners and the property taxes they pay. I am sorry to see you use this as a forum to further rip on the police and fire department as the cause of all the fiscal problems.

  6. he says: “The City hasn’t sold assets to pay Redevelopment debts. There may be some confusion about the disposition of the Old City Hall. The City transferred the Old City Hall to the Redevelopment Agency, which then transferred the property to Santa Clara County in lieu of paying the County cash for the funds that it owed.  In return, the Agency transferred other property of similar value to the City.” 
    Why then did the RDA not simply transfer the assets it had to the County.  Why the bait and switch.  What assets were transferred to the City in exchange for City Hall and what arm of the City were they transferred to.

    Why would the City in these times loan 75M to the RDA from the general fund?

  7. How can he say it is entirely a private enterprise?  Will the private investors be paying fair market value for all of the parcels of land that the RDA has purchased on which the ball park will be built.  Maybe if the private investors actually bought the land in the first place, which if this was a private enterprise should have happened, the City would not have had to loan the RDA 75M to pay off a debt to the State and those funds would be in the general fund today to keep libraries and community centers open.

    • I past “deals” like this ball park scheme ( adobe / fairmont….) the city (or RDA)  owns the land, they allow someone ( fairmont/adobe teh A’s) to build/develop and utilize the land and pay some pitance as “rent” for the land. SInce the City owns the land the City pays the property taxes on the land (they transfer from one fund to another and sometimes the just don’t pay – as in not paying the county hence the transfers of City Hall and other property to cover the debt.) 

      THe developer/user pays sales taxes , business taxes…. to the City people who visit the Farimont spend in surrounding busineses, folks who visit the Shark tank spend around town , and those going to the ball park would probably do the same…

      It is very troubling that for all the money the RDA spent on the land to date ( and they have quite a bit mor to spend if they are to acquire the remaining 2 necessary parcels) is that the best estimates from City Hall indicate the City MIGHT pull in $3mil/year. 

      ——-I know , I know, I know so save the sentiments that “$3mil form a ball park is better than the zero the City would get if they don’t build….”——it would take 20? 30? 40? years to recoup what has already been spent.

      • Also, the 3M/year is gross—it does not cover the costs you have identified.  What is the net to the City each year and how long will it take to recoup the investment.  Couldn’t the City have done much better to not have all of the millions of dollars tied up for a possible return in decades.  There have to be better investments.

    • What an excellent comment. The more you study what goes on with all the different funds (RDA, Capitol, General, etc.), the more you realize what a shell game is being played.

      • Don’t forget about the special fund. Reed and Figone won’t give you a clear answer on what the special fund pays to.

        • The Special Funds are fully accounted for in the City Budget documents, you can find it online.  the special funds are fees for airport, sewage etc.  It is not some special account that gets used by the Mayor or Manager as some would like you to believe.

  8. perhaps this city should join with / or transfer its retirement system/obligations to… the PERS system and additionally, partner up with Santa Clara County to negotiate better (benefits, services and economics) health care plans from service providers such as Kaiser. No need to provide options from other service providers such as Blue Shield…offer one service provider that provides adequate service and for those employees that want different, offset their compensation comparable to what it costs for Kaiser and enable those that participate to seek their own independent health plans. Santa Clara County employees pay less in copays for office visits and less in pay deductions and still receive comparable services.as mentioned in one of the answers, at one point in time, and maybe today still, San Jose offered reciprocity….time to collaborate some more!!

    • The city already only pays for bottom of the barrel services.  If you want better coverage you pay for it.  I understand you pay the full cost.  Thus, the City has already taken that approach. This is for current employees and retirees. 

      The problem as it relates to health care coverage is that the City NEVER funded it. It never paid a dime for those benefits it promised. Now, it is saying well we must fully fund in the next few years.  Thus, inflating the City’s unfunded liabilities.  Same thing it is doing with retirement benefits.  It wants all unfunded liabilities funded NOW.  But even CalPERS allows a 40 year amortization for unfunded liabilities so why is the City pushing for something so much more drastic?  In order to make the problem seem worse than it is and so Reed can stake his political career and alleged accomplishments on something.

  9. Interesting mix of questions chosen by Metro staff and answers from Reed/Staff.

    A technical suggestion, maybe publish it as 10 q/a blocks instead of one long post so folks could respond and discuss under each topic.

    Still digesting the responses, but overall impressed with some of it and disappointed in other parts.  All in all, a good discussion and information exchange and worth digging into a little deeper now.

    • Good idea, but not practical.  The problem is the way threads are displayed on this site.  Only a few make it to the main page, and few people look beyond the main page for threads.

      What needs to be done is have a main page with one line titles for each thread, and clicking on that line takes you to that thread.  Then we can post there.  This way there can be hundreds of threads listed on the main page, versus four or five.

      Also, the main page threads need to be sorted by last reply.  That is, the last thread that has a reply is at the top, and so forth.  That way the popular threads are always easily accessible.

  10. The real reason the city is broke.  That ball park is a 500 million dollar debt. He needs to free up a huge amount to fund it.  Hey Mr greed why did you pass on the question about city bonus pay? Or is it still called cost recovery? Another shell game with names.  Wait when the law suits start all of this will come to light. You can play word games here but in court it’s no going to be so easy.

  11. True to form Reed the Terrible was long on words, short on substance. It’s like someone pulls a string in the center of his back and parrots all of his old, tired, and boring BS. I suppose it is naive to expect a snake to get up and walk so we should not be disappointed too much…

    Counting the days until Mayor Laccardo (barf) takes office.

  12. First and foremost, Reed said a lot of nothing, made excuses and when all else fails he brings out the graph charts to confuse us even more.  Simple questions, simple answers… but he couldn’t do that he had to play his stupid games again.  He was treating us like he treats the city employees.  He would lay us off citizens too if he could.  Again I ask Reed what happened to the Team San Jose FIASCO!?  $20,0000 wasted Folks that money was from the general fund Reed is talking about, That’s our money that was pissed down a hole. 

    Officer X, Excellent point! 

    Reed and other Administrators on this site…. What a waste of time, don’t bother doing this useless experiment again. 

    Old Frank

  13. Mayor Reed,

    I don’t expect an answer, but as I previously asked, why does the San Jose City Council and mayor make a huge salary, when in the surrounding cities the city council and mayor serve for only a stipend at best? Are we getting a mayor and city council members in San Jose that are that much better at running our city than those other cities in the valley?

  14. Hey Mayor you think the Fire Dept. makes too much money! How about putting them all on a 40 hour work week! Wait that won’t work because you would have to add over 700 more firefighters since the minimum hours a firefighter works weekly is 56 and most work over 60 hours a week. Even if you dropped the already illegal staffing to 3 on a company, you would have to add 600 more firefighters! So when you say firefighters make too much money, I say you are getting more for your $$ than any fire dept. in the nation! Now go and bartend with your other out of touch council!

    • Fire Fighters working 9 days a month and getting paid while sleeping is a joke. Fire Fighters should have the same shifts as police officers.

      • What an outstanding idea!!! Have fire work the same schedule as the police department. By that measure, you will need to TRIPLE the amount of personnel currently in the Fire Department.  Sorry to hear another disgruntled individual that hates their profession, but it is CHEAPER to have a fire department work force do a 24 hour shift, than a standard 8 or 10 hour shift.  So, I imagine your idea of efficiency for these firefighters is for them to be awake all 24 hours they are on? I would rather they have some rest and be ready for the emergency at 3 a.m.  Have a nice day.

        • There are other schedules, like the east coast 10 hour / 14 hour schedule. Could be implemented with same number of personnel and possibly get more work productivity. As long as they are paid hourly a reduction in work week would result in a reduction in salary and you could actually hire more people. 
          I would also like to know what the initial poster means by “already illgal staffing”. If it is illegal, why has the union filed a law suit?

        • Nice try. With more personnel comes more benefits (i.e., vacation, sick time, health care, etc.) that the city is on the hook for, including the all mighty bad word, “Pensions”, for which the city would have to pay for. Sorry, but the city really benefits from a 24 hour work cycle, even at the guise of allowing the firefighters to have a few hours of “rest”.  I don’t know what your idea of efficiency would be? Maybe you can elaborate? What would you have the night or swing shift do? After hour fire inspections? Night time training drills? Not much to do during non-business hours. I guess you would want them to multi-task and paint, sweep streets after hours. Oh, yeah, and then handle emergencies.

      • Have you been overnight at a busy house? If not, why don’t you have a FF call you everytime they get a call after 10pm. You can then get up, put on your clothes and go to the store and come back and wait for the next call.

        do you also believe that the city pays for their food while shopping—probably as you are obviously oblivious to the realities.

  15. Chuck:

    Thank you for answering my question about the morality of taking political contributions from people and companies that directly benefit from the SJRDA.  The SJRDA that you sit on the board. 

    Chuck just because it legal doesn’t make it morally right.  You know what you are doing is wrong.  It might be politics as usual for San Jose but it is why we are in this mess and it seems to me you are driving the ship. 

    Your true colors are bright in my eyes.

  16. Figone and Reed don’t care – they will get their big bucks ( pay, pensions and legal/consulting fees ) by doing over city employees –

    Follow the money – to see who befefits from their unethical behavior

    It is legal but unethical behavior and not right – get it – their actions prove they don’t care except about emplotyees or San Jose only themselves and their political and moneyed friends who pay them

    Sorry excuses for human beings

  17. True to form. Reed lies, I have said over and over telling only half the truth is still a lie.  Reed states, “To pay for these increased retirement costs, San Jose has three options:
    1. Layoff workers and cut services.
    2. Restructure the retirement program to reduce the cost of benefits.
    3. Make the employees pay more for benefits.”  If these are the only options we need new mayor and city manager. This is just a lie and closed minded thinking.  These area your closed minded options, but there is a lot more we could do.  C’mon Mr. Mayor tell everyone how San Jose pays less into the general fund then any other city in state.  IF the city paid into the general fund like everyone else there be no crisis. Convince me why San Francisco can afford twice as many cops and fire. 

    Folks do not believe this guy.  He will be gone in few years and leave San Jose in a bad state that others will have to repair.

    William Smoke
    33 years in City Government

  18. In question #6, it states, that the auditor found, that the city “generally” makes it’s payment to the retirement broad. So what does “generally” mean? Sometimes, most of the time, only when times are bad and has too.

    When times were good the city never saved for a rainy day, they just spent, spent, spent and found themselves in 11 years of budget deficits.

    1) 1.2 billion on a airport.
    2) 500 million on city hall
    3) 100 million on FMC, the city will give it Away for 70 million
    4) 75 million on Happy Hollow ( a petting zoo) crazy!
    5) 30 to 40 million on land for the ballpark. It will take 10 to 15 years to recoup. Don’t hold your breath, they will give to the A’s.
    6) how about the hundreds of millions of RDA money given to Scott Kneis and the downtown business association.
    7) 92 million for a police building we will never use.

    I’ve forgotten a lot of the other stuff thank god, but that is the tip if the iceberg. But Chuck only voted “no” on city hall. Thanks!

    association

  19. The Idea that Mayor Reed would answer honestly is a joke. This city is going down the drain.This Mayor & City Manager are the root cause of Making the city’s problems exponentially worse.He speaks in circles & never answers a question.when he’s confused himself enough, he tries to use graphs and charts to try and prove his view.problem is from the 6th grade & up everyone knows you can make numbers say anything you want,its all in how you word your question or answer. this mayor is a joke, the city manager is a joke,council is a joke…………….problem is JOKES ON US.

  20. Doesn’t matter, lies, half truths, propaganda, what ever the mayor says is irrelevant .
    Here is the truth: city employees are Leaving in droves, because of pay cuts and the threat of pension reductions and retirement age extensions.
    Correct me if I’m wrong but the crime rate is sky rocketing, police that were not laid off are going to work for other cities. Sewage treatment plant is so understaffed that they don’t have enough operators to fill post positions because they are leaving to other cities.
    The cities answer to the problem? They hired 5-6 retirees back to work again, so, seems the only way they can get qualified people to work here is if they are double dipping, fabulous plan, I wonder who’s brain child that was…who ever it was, good luck with that, and cross your fingers that there’s no big storms this winter,
    Because there might not be enough people at the plant to g
    Keep it from flooding and violating permit.

  21. Seems like Mayor Reed is in the minority here….. People are starting to wonder why the city they loved is being taken down the toilet.

    Reed needs to go.

    William R Smoke
    33 years in City government

  22. What I don’t understand is: if there is not enough being contributed to the employee’s retirement fund, why lay off workers?  All that seems to do is create a bigger burden on the rest of us that are still working to have to contribute more make up the difference (along with our pay cuts and increased cost for medical benefits/co-pays). 

    Is it only me, or is this a no-win issue?  The more that get laid off means less being contributed into the fund.  Also, the employees eligible for retirement are cutting and running before their benefits get cut any more than they already have so that they can get what they have contributed themselves. 

    I wonder if there will be any funds available for me when I am ready to retire?  But then, who knows when that will be if the Mayor has his way and keeps extending the retirement age.  I may have to be 85 before I can retire!

  23. one more question

    AS FOR REED:  It is clear that in paying for political and charitable dinners with
    his own check and then reimbusing himself with taxpayer money, Chuck Reed
    has put self above service. It will come as a major shock to these
    community groups that the donation they recieved from “Chuck Reed” is
    actually a donation from the taxpayers of San Jose.

    Second,
    is giving taxpayer money to political organizations
    considered stealing?
    Chuck is a lawyer, so I will assume he can parse a
    legal answer to that
    question. But it will be tortured logic and it
    certainly won’t pass the
    smell test. If it is not illegal, it ought
    to be.

    If Chuck Reed wrote any of these donations off on his tax forms and then sought reimbursement by the city, than he has not just been unethical – he has committed a crime.

    * Some suggested the grand jury should investigate Reed’s reimbursements. Those alone might rise to the level of illegal conduct. Donations to political campaigns are illegal when reimbursed by the city.

    You can’t steal something, give it back, and expect to be forgiven.

    REED… can you explain this?

  24. Reflections/Reaction –

    The answers are interesting but have some troubling gaps.  I got a questions asked/answered about sunshine reform but I asked what else we need to do as part of it and that wasn’t answered.

    I still have the feeling that private interests are more influencial in public policy than they should be still and wonder if all the reforms are just window dressing to hide business as usual.

    In terms of the pension stuff and the statistics provided, I noticed the graph showes total employee head count from 2000 onwards and starts with 4800 employees in that year to show a dramatic downward trend.

    How about going 5 or 10 years earlier and showing the baseline employement numbers from 1990 or 1995 for comparison?  I suspect you’d see a bell curve created as I think we went on a pretty big hiring spree in the years leading up to 2000.  I also would like to dig into those numbers and seperate p/t and casual employees from FTE, vesting full-time employees and make sure we are comparing apples to apples in terms of the pension problem.

    Finally, I think there’s a lot of geniune interest in public policy in this city and folks want to see things done right, even in hard times.  I wonder if there’s more that can be done to involve folks in setting policy than just “push polling” and referendums.

    • Blair, I copied a reply from the original question post on the pension answer in number 6 (it was a late post and was most likely missed).  My questions on why sick time, vacation time, comp time, and retiree health costs, were never funded and funds were never put into the retirement fund when new benefits were given to employees instead of raises to make the fund healthy were never answered.  Also left unanswered was how long Reed has known about these deficits (he has been there 10 years) and why he did nothing about them.

      The City had a huge number of hires in the early 80’s and of course those people have been retiring over the last 5 – 10 years.  Look at the cost involved of these buyouts, Chief Davis getting $500K (earned) along with all the other employees money and the effect of never having put aside any money for those known costs.  These were known costs and the City never saved for them… 

      It is business as usual, all of the Mayors “reforms” do nothing to address the simple concept of saving for a rainy day or actually having a balanced budget by placing money into a fund for every sick hour, vacation hour, etc. that is owed.  In 20 years even with a new “cheaper” system the City will still be broke because it is spending more money than it has…. 
        This is the prior post in reference to the City not funding the pension fund. 

      You may get an answer but it will most likely not be the complete truth.  When the Fund was set up it was designed that the City had the ultimate responsibility for the health of the Fund.  What this meant was that the employee would always contribute their portion each and every paycheck.  The City, since it was their fund, could use any interest made by deposits in the Fund as part of their “normal” obligation.  So the City can be said to have contributed their portion if the sum of the interest and their actual deposit equaled their portion.  Again the City was responsible for the fund if it went down due to poor investments or bad returns (with the added employees contributions, you can see how well that promise was kept).  So during some years in the 1980’s, as an example, the City was only putting in about 1/2 and the other 1/2 was coming from the interest.  But if the question is “did they contribute their portion that year?”, since they used the interest, the answer is “yes they did”.

      Now the City did not save this money elsewhere, sick time buy outs etc. and I believe they began to actually budget for this reduced contribution rates and spend that other 1/2 on permanent budget items.  Again any responsible government entity should have known that bad times always follow good times and would have planned for this.  But as “Silly” has explained that will never happen.  So when it came time for the City to pay the Piper there was no money left and none coming in.  Again I believe the City is broke (in the General Fund – there is other money – “that cannot be spent”) but it is the City’s fault and now the employees and more importantly the citizens problem….

      I think I pegged his answer in number 6 pretty well, he has told no lies, but has avoided the complete truth.  Again, the lack of funding for retirees benefits is not addressed and is no where to be found in his “pension reforms”. So get ready for business as usual and no end in sight to the money woes…

  25. IN SPANISH THERE IS A TERM “CARA DE ESTUPIDO” AFTER LOOKING AT THE PICTURE OF THE DISHONORABLE MAYOR REED, I UNDERSTAND THE TERM!

  26. chukie,

    you got pete all fired up with people bashing him, so whats he do complain to city mgr and police chief… wish I could get that kind of attention as a city employee.

    pete if you dont like your job QUIT. just like you, chuck and city mgr have been doing to employees.

    double dipper with double standards as long as it does not apply to him

  27. The Mayor the City Manager and some city council people are taking the easy way out.  They are picking at the low hanging fruit because it is easy to do so.  They have directed staff to spend numerous hours on pension reforms.  Look at all of the information all over the city’s web site.  Don’t really see anything on creative ways to enhance the city’s revenues.  Currently unions have been in negotiations with the city.  However the city team has rejected all proposals because they don’t come to the city’s bottom line.  This is not good faith bargining.  That’s why prior negotiations went to an arbitrator.  In most cases they ruled in favor of the labor group because the city was so far off base from everyone else.  If they spent half the time on how to rasie additional revenues without tax hikes we would not be talking about this.  These elected officals have demonized the public service employee.  So the citizens only know that the pension system is breaking the city’s back because that’s what they tell them.  They don’t tell them about the poor planning that has gone on for years.  The number of business/companies that the CSJ has driven out of the area because of poor outreach.  Now the proposed ballot language for next year is probably the most mean spirited measure I’ve ever seen.  Remember the city council has 6 corporate pilars, one of them is to be an employer of choice.  This is not the way you go about fullfilling that pilar.

  28. Mayor Reed writes: “By law, the City cannot use restricted funds for uses other than the uses for which they are intended. So sewer funds can’t be used to pay for police officers or libraries, and library parcel taxes can’t be used to pay for anti-gang programs.”

    This is only partially true: there are some restricted funds but also some funds that the city chooses to restrict.  If there is a ballot measure worth having, it is to let citizens decide to reallocate some of those funds.

    Would citizens vote to cut lifesaving services and the jobs of those who provide them, while still building new playgrounds? Not likely.

  29. Interesting that the famous “skyrocketing retirement costs” chart the council/mayor are using from all their experts ends at the year 2016.  This is the year that the nation’s financial institutions, lenders and banks expect the housing market to rebound to its pre-recession levels, and all the rest of the economy to follow.

    Actuarial hysteria over current investment returns aside, we are really just looking at a window of difficulty for retirement costs, which will close in 2016, if not sooner.  This is mountain out of molehill territory. Or I believe it sometimes goes by another name: politics.