Measure B Backers Down General Tax, Labor Council Members Can Public Safety Tax

Though polling appeared to show San Jose voters are willing to pay more to restore public services, the City Council on Tuesday voted against placing any tax hikes on the November ballot.

While most council members wanted to present a measure to voters, they couldn't agree on whether it should be a general sales tax or one designated specifically for public safety. Six council members supported the designated public safety tax. The rest wanted tax revenue to boost a broader range of city services, including libraries and street repairs, but failed on a 4-7 vote.

The council voted 6-5 in favor of the public safety-specific quarter-cent sales tax measure. But under California law, the measure would've needed at least eight votes to make it to the ballot. A motion to add pavement maintenance for emergency vehicle routes failed on a 3-7-1 vote. (Councilman Don Rocha was out of the room.)

No one brought forward a motion to put the marijuana business tax increase on the ballot, so there was no vote. The proposal asked to double the tax rate on pot clubs from 10 to 20 percent.

Mayor Chuck Reed, Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen and council members Johnny Khamis, Pete Constant, Sam Liccardo and Rose Herrera supported the public safety-specific tax, arguing that it reflected voters' priorities of hiring more cops. They also expressed worry that funds from a general tax could be wasted on non-essential services.

Council members Rocha, Ash Kalra, Xavier Campos and Kansen Chu wanted to make sure some of the revenue went to fund other services, including libraries and the mounting backlog of road repairs.

Kalra said it's naive to think that $34 million in public safety tax revenue would fix the retention problem at the San Jose Police Department, which he blames on Reed's pension reforms.

"We need to fix the problems with Measure B and enact pension reforms that are actually legal," Kalra said. "Having a dedicated public safety tax is not going to get more officers in the department and it’s not going to turn the tide in neighborhoods ..."

In memos leading up to the meeting, Rocha also criticized the council majority for opposing a general sales tax.

“Viewed purely through the lens of fiscal sustainability, restricting revenue to public safety would actually be a problem, as it would prevent us from devoting at least a portion of the revenue to road maintenance,” Rocha wrote. “Our pavement maintenance backlog is growing every day, and is beginning to approach the magnitude of our unfunded pension liabilities. I understand that solving the unfunded pavement maintenance problem might not be as exciting for some of my colleagues as solving the unfunded pension problem as it does not present an opportunity to kick public employee unions along the way, but it is no less serious an issue. Pursuing a special public safety tax would completely ignore this problem."

Also on Tuesday, the council voted to place one charter change on the November ballot. If approved, the proposal would give the independent boards that oversee the city's pension funds to hire an at-will CEO among other changes.

Two proposals were referred to city staff to continue the meet and confer process with city unions: 1. Employee pension modifications; and  2. Holding employee bargaining sessions in public.

31 Comments

  1. Amen,fix roads but not just in front of city hall. You screwed public safety so lets fix other problems. 23 murders thus far with out going chuck and could care less sammy.

  2. This has to be one of the most dysfunctional, childish, and inept mayor/city councils in San Jose history. They have made politics and cronyism their main priority, over everything, including public safety. Only Ash Kalra has done a good job. God help this city if Liccardo is elected mayor against the odds.

    • Against the odds, you say, Phil Collins… Cortese (Reed’s former Vice Mayor) got the city into this mess and he got a lower percentage as only labor candidate than he and chavez did combined the same election Reed beat Chavez by 20 pct points. Nice try Cortese apologist.

      • The Phil Collins songs you refer to is “Against All Odds”, not “Against the odds”. Figures a Liccardo apologist would change the facts a bit and present it as something truthful.

        • I believe it is only one song, Observation…….what artist has multiple songs with the same name, silly :-). Figures, a Cortese apologist would try to divert attention from the fact he served as Chuck’s Vice Mayor and endorsed Xavier Campos’ re-election bid. The last thing San Jose needs is the next mayor of San Jose being in Xavier Campos’ pocket….we need to turn the page from candidates who endorse shady politicians because they vote the same way…….heck, even Liccardo endorsed Kalra…..and you know why – because Kalra was the best candidate for the job and Liccardo recognized that.

          • Your response is nonsensical. I was waiting for the Xavier Campos reference, so thanks for that.

      • SJC you like to mention frequently that Cortese was “Reed’s Vice Mayor” like they were elected as a team/package – to imply that folks who support Cortese now should be Reed supporters.

        Here is the low down on the position of “Vice Mayor” taken directly from the City Charter:

        “SECTION 503. Vice-Mayor.
        At the second meeting of the Council following the end of each even-numbered year within which a Regular Municipal Election is required to be held, the Council shall elect one of its members as Vice-Mayor who, until a person is appointed to succeed him or her, or until his or her office otherwise becomes vacant, shall serve as Vice-Mayor during the temporary absence or inability of the Mayor to discharge the duties of his or her office.”

        http://www.sanjoseca.gov/DocumentCenter/Home/View/115 (see page 13)

  3. What this article failed to mention is that the public safety tax proposal put forth by Reed/Liccardo and their disciples contained a poison pill in that if Measure B failed in the court of appeals the tax increase would be voided. And yes…Kalra got it right.

    • Interesting… Why is our local media so inept? Are they purposefully not publicizing these very relevant facts? I don’t think it is happenstance that both the Murky News and SJI endorse Liccardo…

    • Michael Roberts: I just read the council agenda with the ballot language for the sales tax dedicated to public safety. There is no mention of a poison pill if Measure B fails. Could you tell us where you read about this poison pill?

      • It was on a Channel 11 newscast here is the youtube link. The comments concerning the poison pill or booby trap appear at around 1:20 of the video article:

        Watch “08 04 2014 NBC San Jose Council proposes booby tr…” on YouTube
        08 04 2014 NBC San Jose Council proposes booby tr…: http://youtu.be/e573hBojGx8

        • Michael Roberts: Thanks for the link. I did more digging and found the ballot language in Mr. Reed, Mr. Liccardo, Mr. Constant, and Ms. Herrera’s memo adds the line:

          “…which shall expire after nine years, or upon any unfunded increase of pension or other retirement benefits, whichever comes sooner…”

          See http://sanjoseca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/33607

          • Thanks for the link Steve. Working off my cell phone is sometimes difficult to do research. As you can see the current city council plays a constant shell game with the voters. On one hand saying we support public safety and propose a tax that will supposedly show just that; then on the other hand if Reed, Liccardo and the others don’t get their way with Measure B they pull that support away. If they were serious they should put a no strings attached ballot measure up for a vote. Reed and Liccardo are like school boys who want it their way and if they don’t get it they are going to cry and take their ball home so no one can play

  4. The only silver lining here is that Reed, Liccardo, Constant and Nguyen will be out of here soon.

    Stubborn is an understatement, hardheaded would be a compliment.

    This is clearly an issue that cannot be fixed by throwing money at it. The pride of six idiots is causing the suffering of a few hundred thousand.

    Queue the Liccardo/Reed “fiscal responsibility” bandwagoner who offers no collaborative solutions to stop the exodus of SJPD officers and restore the SJFD to full capacity…

    • I wouldn’t call Liccardo being elected mayor as him being ‘out of here’…but to each his own :-)

      • Liccardo is not going to be mayor. Yesterdays disgraceful exercise by our esteemed Mayor and city council further cemented his defeat.

  5. “Mayor Chuck Reed, Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen and council members…Sam Liccardo and Rose Herrera supported the public safety-specific tax, arguing that it reflected voters’ priorities of hiring more cops. They also expressed worry that funds from a general tax could be wasted on non-essential services.” Now they are worried about tax dollars being wasted on non essential services??!!

    It was only last year that Herrera moved forth a motion to forgive a $600K loan to Downtown College Prep, a school in which her son is the founding principal. The motion passed, and $600K in City tax money is gone forever for a charter school, that is led by the son of the very council member that put forth the motion to forgive the loan. An absolute stunning lapse of ethical judgment, if there ever was one. In an earlier council meeting, Reed authored a memo to loan Ace Charter School over $250K, in return for this school making its meeting rooms available to the public. Big woop, considering that a public school is right next door, with equivalent or better meeting rooms.

    This $250K “loan” directly diverted public money away from infrastructure projects. Reeds memo states that the Infrastructure Backlog Reserve for vice mayor Nguyen’s district was to be reduced by the same amount. A little shell game. Wonder what a majority of District 7 residents think is more important…infrastructure improvements or this one private charter school? What’s odd is that the school is not even in D7, but is instead in D5.

    Here’s your link, See item p. on page 8. http://www.sanjoseca.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/1981

  6. When Chuck Reed made the political decision to blame the local effects of the mortgage crisis on public employees the only way he could sell it was to convince voters that these employees had, through their unions, wielded too much influence on the council and had, in effect, been pushing them around. Of course it was a lie — the largest block of employees was not even represented by a union, but it was, when served up to a public whose retirement prospects had been deteriorating for decades, a lie that had appeal.

    (By the way, anyone who believes the fairy tale of all-powerful public employees running the city needs to ask themselves this: if the council was previously held hostage, how did it free itself? Usually when someone identifies themselves as a freed hostage we hear about a rescue or escape to a place of safety, but in Reed’s story the council just walked out the door, held a press conference, and blamed its predicament and all previous decisions on the kidnappers. Quite a whopper, but one so compelling that the intellectual giants at the Mercury News sold it to voters and have never stopped running it.)

    Now, a half-dozen years into Mayor Reed’s great leap forward it appears that part of the lie has come true: council decisions are overly influenced by their perceived impact on public employees. It appears that the mayor and his gang of five now factor into every decision its effect on public employees, and anything that could be beneficial to employees, even if it benefits the greater good of this city, is targeted for sabotage. These are not the actions of a council focused on serving the city, they are instead the actions of those desperate to prevent the smoke from clearing and the public seeing the disastrous results of its dirty work.

    Chuck Reed has dreams of being the Johnny Appleseed of pension reform at the national level and his dreams depend on keeping the lid on the truth about his fix-it formula of lies and destruction. Likewise, Sam Liccardo’s future will go up in smoke should the air be allowed to clear. Both are intent on paying for their dreams with the safety and well-being of the citizens of San Jose, both are funded by outsiders, and both envision San Jose’s future in terms of a full-service center (airport, hotels, convention facilities, etc.) for a business community that, lucky for them, can afford to live elsewhere.

    • This is the closest to the true that has ever been published. And the City’s legal counsel, Meyers Nave got the benefit of consulting and selling this disastrous plan to the City, then representing the City to defend the illegal plan put forth by the City.

      No discussion about the City’s fiscal health can take place without also including the impact of the State shutting down all RDAs, of which San Jose’s was arguably the second largest and most active RDA in the State up until 2010-11.

  7. “A motion to add pavement maintenance for emergency vehicle routes failed on a 3-7-1 vote. (Councilman Don Rocha was out of the room.)” Don “Model Boy” Rocha was probably just having his hissy-fit for not getting his way out of view of those atending the meeting.

  8. Do lets not forget the $600,000 revenue loss in downtown parking fees as a result of Liccardo negotiating a deal with the Murky News – he bought Murky support without spending a single dime of his own money and cost the City a $600,000 revenue loss in the process!

  9. I’m disgusted at all of these nickel & dime tax and fee increases that seem to be on the ballot every two years. I recently heard a woman say that she could not afford to take her kids to Great America; why are we even talking about increasing her tax burden?

    A recent post on this blog was titled “City Poll: San Jose Voters Welcome Higher Sales Tax.” For the record, I was not polled and I do NOT welcome any more taxes. A follow-up post asks “City Misleads with Sales Tax Poll?” and says Dave Cortese cited the “overwhelming majority” of voters being in favor of paying higher taxes in a press release urging the city to put a measure on the fall ballot. I do not believe this to be the case and will vote for Liccardo.

  10. Liccardo’s tax, which I also oppose, would have been dedicated to public safety while Cortese’s tax would be a “general tax” that would just go into the general slush fund.

    • A tax dedicated to public safety sounds great, but means nothing. They put 100% of the tax into public safety, but then reduce the amount that was funded from the general fund. Just a big shell game.

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