Don’t make Don Rocha angry. You wouldn’t like to see him angry.
Or would you?
The recently re-elected councilman for District 9 issued a scathing memo Friday in support of a general sales tax measure while calling out Mayor Chuck Reed and his bloc of Measure B supporters on the council, as well as the Mercury News editorial board. Rocha doubled-down Monday with an additional memo, this time taking top city staff and Measure B backers to task for not adopting his plan to fix the city’s pension reforms.
Starting with his first missive, the councilman emphasizes not only the need for more revenue, but also what he sees as short-sightedness in restricting a ballot measure to funding just public safety. He points to the city's infrastructure backlog as one of the more serious issues that receives scant attention because it's not a sexy topic.
“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 writes. “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.
Another choice nugget from Rocha's memo:
- “In its editorial endorsing the special tax, the Mercury News Editorial Board makes the following argument: ‘We could not support [a general tax] in a mayoral election year when nobody knows who will control the purse strings come January. It would be all too easy for a labor-backed majority to slip back into unsustainable spending on pensions and benefits.’ To begin with, it's no mystery who will be our next Mayor: it will be the person who the voters of San Jose choose for the job. For the Mercury News to attempt to hold the voters' choice hostage because they might select a candidate endorsed by the 'wrong people' is arrogant and irresponsible. As elected officials who hold office only by the grace of the voters, we should show a little bit more faith that they know what they're doing.
The daily paper’s full-throated support of Councilman Sam Liccardo for mayor has been well-documented, and it’s no secret Rocha and Liccardo aren’t the closest of buddies. It then seems county Supervisor Dave Cortese, who would lead a “labor-backed majority” if elected mayor in November, has himself a pitbull in Rocha in the run-up to the runoff.
And one more strong take from the memo:
- “According to the poll, the voters support a general tax. It is within our power to unite behind that option and let the voters decide. Why, then, are people scrambling to invent arguments to avoid a general tax? Sadly, I think the answer is that the clique that has managed this city for the past several years relies on division to attain and keep power. Just as they needlessly drove divisions by mishandling the pension reform process, they are now seeking out divisions on revenue measures. The prospect of consensus is objectionable to them in itself.”
This is an interesting view, as it asserts that Mayor Reed, Liccardo and like-minded councilmembers actively search out reasons to disagree. In a time when so many elected officials bend over backwards being polite, Rocha’s tone is cantankerous and accusatory.
In a follow-up memo, he again argues against the daily newspaper’s suggestion that a Cortese administration would be worse than the last two years of pension reform—which Rocha did vote for—under Mayor Reed.
- “After two years of a deteriorating organization the flaws are even more obvious, but we still do nothing, all the while giving lectures about how ‘labor-backed majorities’ will mismanage our finances. Unfortunately this Council doesn't need any help making questionable decisions all on its own. Excesses may have occurred during past administrations, but equal excesses have occurred during this one they're just on the opposite extreme of the ideological spectrum.”
So there you have it. Rocha is on the warpath and it’s barely August.