Unions File Lawsuit over Ballot Language

A judge ruled in favor of attorneys representing city workers Monday to hold an expedited hearing on April 3 about the language of Measure B, the pension and benefits reform ballot measure.

The ruling comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed Friday in California Superior Court that claims the ballot question violates the Election Code because it does not contain impartial and non-argumentative language, as the law requires.

“All of those hot button words are not supposed to be in a ballot question,” said Tom Saggau, a political consultant working with city labor unions. “It’s one of the reasons the judge today agreed to an expedited hearing before they print the ballots.”

In addition to the lawsuit, the Police Officers Association filed two complaints with the court claiming that the city violated the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act as well as requesting that the city enter into arbitration.

Some but not all of these issues are likely to come up in Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

City Attorney Rich Doyle requested in a memo Friday an impartial analysis of the pension and benefits reform measure. Because city attorneys would be impacted by any change, City Clerk Dennis Hawkins is listed as the person to draft the impartial analysis. But Hawkins told San Jose Inside today that the new langugae merely requires his signature because the analysis is done by outside counsel.

“I would be the author, but outside counsel has worked on it,” Hawkins said.

The expedited hearing regarding ballot language on April 3 could pose a number of problems due to the deadline for sending final ballot language to the county Registrar of Voters, both Saggau and Hawkins said.

“There’s a very short time frame on all of this,” Hawkins said. “The sample ballots and the vote-by-mail stuff goes out like May 2, or something like that. They need time to print it and do all the processing.”

Also on Tuesday’s council agenda:

Mayor Chuck Reed’s 2012-13 budget proposal will be subject to a public hearing.

— Councilmembers Xavier Campos, Kansen Chu and Ash Kalra requested that staff work with school district superintendents to identify the best use of resources for $2.4 million for gang prevention and safe school initiative programs.

— And a major decision could be made on the Almaden Ranch Retail Center. If the council agrees with the planning commission’s recommendation, permits would be allowed “for the construction of up to 400,000 square feet of commercial uses on the subject site. The conceptual site plan proposes a mix of commercial buildings including large box, medium box, small pads, and a drive-through use, as well as, a new public street that will connect and extend Cherry Avenue from Almaden Expressway to Sanchez Drive.”

Josh Koehn is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to josh@metronews.com or follow him on Twitter at @Josh_Koehn.

12 Comments

  1. Well another lawsuit will be on its way if they take sick leave payout. After working for 28 years and since I am not 55 yrs old, they decide to take away what I have been promised, I am willing to leave it to a court to decide if such action is reasonable and fair. There is a difference between moving forward and taking money from spmeone’s pocket. I have already lined up four employees willing to file a lawsuit.

  2. Josh,

    Thanks for keeping this very important issue in the public eye.  Seems the MN thought it was only important enough to put it on p. 3 of the local section.  And then there is Chuck on the news looking like a spoiled child who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and blaming everyone (unions) else.

  3. While all the lawsuits might seem like a bad thing, in this world, the more vetting of a ballot measure before it goes to the voters, the better as it makes its succesful implimentation more likely if the voters pass it.

    I’m wondering if something similar could be done to fix our broken state initiative and referendum system as we’ve clearly gotten some really dumb and deceiptively written crap onto the books as paid petition gathers qualify this stuff and citizens get confused by all the high priced spin advertisements (is yes a no vote or no a yes vote, is this an insurance company scam to dilute current law or a consumer driven measure to improve it?, etc).

  4. > The ruling comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed Friday in California Superior Court that claims the ballot question violates the Election Code because it does not contain impartial and non-argumentative language, as the law requires.

    What gives?

    Neither the Murkury nor the Metro nor the unions have yet explicitly described the presumably “partial” and “argumentative” language that is at issue.

    It seems to me that simply describing the union’s point of view is inherently partial and argumentative because the union IS partial and argumentative. It’s what unions do.

    What is the objection REALLY about?

    • What gives is the inexplicable war on Public Safety personnel.  Its my take that the City Government, and the misguided (intentionally) articles and favoritism in journalism shown to Chuckles and his gang, has grown so bold that they think they can say anything, do anything, and get away with anything they want to. 
        Voters think they have the “right” to say how much money and benefits City workers should get?  Then why not earmark your own Federal taxes to the charity of your choice?  You cant, because they are negotiated and placed into LAW by the Government.  Same here.  I wish we could regulate how much money we should pay Lawyers, Doctors, Business people, Realtors…the list goes on ad nauseum.
        The Unions point of view is the opposite of this Mayor and his band of gangsters.  What is wrong with that?  The objection, genius, is that if one side is constantly hammered into weak minds, it becomes truth to them eventually…..even if the facts bear a different conclusion.  They have the right to have their interests represented as a whole, so people like you dont take away their pay, vested rights, benefits and jobs with opinionated, angry, misled and antagonistic hyperbole..

      • > The objection, genius, is that if one side is constantly hammered into weak minds, it becomes truth to them eventually…..even if the facts bear a different conclusion.

        Dear Doggie:

        Even us weak minds want to know:  “What is the explicit ‘partial’ and ‘argumentative’ language that the unions are suing over?”

        Can you quote specific samples, or are you just going to insult and demean those of us who want to know the facts?

    • As the City confirmed in its plea to the State to not conduct an audit, the grand jury made the folowing recommendation:  To provide a meaningful, long-term solution, the cities should negotiate agreements to: 1. Institute a two-tier system for pension and retiree health care for new hires.
      2. Increase the retirement age from 50 or 55 to 60 or 65. 3. Calculate pensions on the last three to five years of salary. 4. Replace current post-employment health care plans with health savings plans.

      The union plans have offered better solutions with more savings than those identified by the grand jury.  Yet the Mayor has taken it even further with much more drastic and according to the grand jury unnecessary reforms.  In the ballot langauge he claims that more is needed and the preface language of the ballot uses all of the hot button issues rather than provide a neutral statement.

      Just read the complaint. It spells out the offending language of the election laws.

  5. Lou Scannon.
    Keywords: abuse, reform, essential services, diminished, etc etc. Reed may as well write the measure to include the plague and death to all 1st born citizens. As Cooper Stewart suggested, read the complaint.  It is available for engaged citizens.

    • > abuse, reform, essential services, diminished, . . .

      Oh.

      Can you propose impartial and non-argumentative terms that mean the same thing as “abuse”, “reform”, “essential services”, and “diminished”?

      Or, is the union just trying to purge the English language of all words that don’t mean “union good”?

      • “Measure B PENSION REFORM To protect essential services, including neighborhood police patrols, fire stations, libraries, community centers, streets and parks, shall the Charter be amended to…”

        Where have we seen purposely skewed ballot language like this before?

        Measures V and W?

        “Measure V: To provide fiscal stability, control costs and maintain City services to residents, shall the Charter be amended to…”

        “Measure W: To provide fiscal stability, control costs and maintain City Services to residents, shall the Charter be amended to…”

        Now ask yourself, since measures V (limits to binding arbitratrion) and W (Tier2 pension reform that is still non-existent)  passed in Nnovember of 2010 has their passage provided fiscal stability? Or were costs controlled through EMPLOYEES VOLUNTARILY TAKING SALARY & BENEFIT CUTS AND THE CITY CONTINUING TO LAY OFF EMPLOYEES AND FURTHER REDUCING CITY SERVICES TO RESIDENTS?

        The City cut neighborhood police patrols, fire stations, libraries, community centers, streets and parks and more even though they said that passage of measures V and W would PREVENT cuts.

        (save any drivel that passage spared the City from having to cut more than they did because the IBM Report and the City Auditor’s Report detail how to continue to cut with or without pension reform)

  6. Here’s one for you: Integrity. As in possess the integrity to honor a formal contract. Perhaps a novel concept to you but not novel to the English language