After losing an appeal over ballot measure language, Mayor Chuck Reed decided to drop his 2014 state pension reform campaign and delay it to 2016. The effort would have had to collect 807,000 signatures to make it on the ballot, with little time between now and the filing deadline.
"It’s a judgment call at this point," Reed told San jose Inside, adding that, realistically, signatures would need to be turned in by mid-April. "I don’t know if it's impossible, but it’s certainly impractical."
He added that he was "disappointed" about the "inaccurate and misleading summary produced by the Attorney General."
While Reed will term out of the mayor's office at the end of this year, he vowed to continue working on the issue so it goes to California voters in 2016.
"I'm not going to run for elected office, but I'll probably stay in politics in some fashion, on a part-time basis," he said. "It's an important issue to me; it's an important issue to the state. The one thing I've learned as mayor is issues are hard, and you can’t quit just because they're hard."
Reed and other proponents of his reform measure sued California Attorney General Kamala Harris over the way her office worded the ballot description of the initiative. The sentence in question said that the measure "eliminates constitutional protections for vested pension and retiree healthcare benefits for current public employees, including teachers, nurses and peace officers, for future work performed."
Reed called the wording "false and misleading," adding that it "creates prejudice" against the initiative. But Sacramento Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner said a line-by-line reading turned up "nothing false or misleading" about the description.
The loss comes a day after Reed celebrated a victory in a separate case appealing a $1 fine from the state's political watchdog.
The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) fined Reed $1 in October, saying he violated campaign contribution rules by channelling $100,000 from his fiscal reform committee to one supporting Councilwoman Rose Herrera in her re-election bid. State rules bar "candidates," which has included elected officials, from giving political funds to independent committees that aim to get another candidate elected.
But Reed appealed the judgment, arguing that he was an officeholder—not a candidate—when he made the donation in September 2012. In his appeal, Reed's attorney argued that the state's campaign contribution laws are unconstitutional, citing the Supreme Court's ruling on the controversial Citizens United case.
Following the tentative ruling, which the FPPC chose not to appeal, Reed maintained that contribution standards should be consistent, whether the committee is led by a union, corporation, PAC or candidate.
“I’m glad that the Judge agreed that the FPPC unfairly applied a different standard to my committee than it has for other independent expenditure committees," he said. "As I’ve said many times before, I’d like to see Citizens United overturned. However, until that day comes, the FPPC has to treat all independent expenditure committees equally.”
The problem with FPPC's argument, Reed stated in his writ of mandate, which also went before Judge Sumner, is that it focuses on the wrong type of donations.
"[State law] does not limit contributions to candidate-controlled committees," he wrote. "Rather, it bans contributions from candidate-controlled committees."
Candidate-run committees can accept unlimited donations, the writ continues.
"The question is whether government may ban those committees from then contributing to other committees which make independent expenditures. Following Citizens United, the answer is 'no.'"
Josh Koehn contributed to this report.