Life After Measure B

Gay publicly spoke up about—and against—the belt-tightening measures that Council has taken in recent years.   In public session, she told the City Council about how the 14 percent cuts in her salary would make it difficult for her to continue to make payments on her modest home.   She warned about the dangers of Measure B, the pension reform measure on the June ballot, and testified against the Council’s decision to impose reductions in retiree medical benefits.  In every case, Gay spoke with civility and with a heartfelt conviction that comes from someone who reasonably relied upon promises that were made to her when she decided to move to San José to work for the City years ago.

Gay and I disagreed.  I consistently voted for each of those cost-reduction measures, as hard as it was to swallow when seeing the impact of those changes on dedicated employees like Gay.  

On June 5, 2012, 69 percent of San Jose’s voters approved Measure B.  The following week, Council approved a second-tier pension and modified retiree healthcare plan, ending a chapter in the most divisive political battle in recent memory.  As the battle moves to the legal arena, we need to move beyond this acrimony toward the collaborative approach that has characterized this Valley’s past success.

While I have consistently spoken publicly for more sustainable retirement benefits, I recognize that these changes have come at a substantial price.   Morale has flagged, some employees have fled to other cities, other workers retired before the changes could become effective, and interest has declined among top-caliber candidates for our police academy.  Their frustrations have understandably taken a personal turn, against each of us who supported pension and benefit reform.  Two colleagues who recently sought re-election, Rose Herrera and Pierluigi Oliverio, faced a host of malicious and false accusations from union-backed politicians, lobbyists and campaign consultants.
So, where do we go from here?  Gay’s example provides some insight, in my view. 

Despite her public disagreement with my positions on the very issues that so severely impacted her own financial situation, Gay has not stopped volunteering for her Spartan Keyes community.  She also did not stop working with my office. She recognized that her Spartan Keyes neighborhood depended upon her to work with us to advocate for additional funding for a youth worker in her community, to address rising concerns about gang activity.  She stood up before Council to support an effort of mine to fund the rehabilitation of long-neglected alleyways a dozen blocks from her home.   She led a recent meeting to address concerns by neighbors about an expanding industrial site.  In every case, Gay continued to be the collaborative, dedicated community leader she had always been. 

Undoubtedly, we could point to many other city employees who have found ways to do more with less in recent years.   San José police officers worked diligently to reduce San José’s violent crime rate in 2011 (contrary to some media reports), despite steep cuts in police staffing and salaries.  Our library and city planning staff each earned national awards for their recent accomplishments. Although our Economic Development staff lacks the 80-employee Redevelopment Agency we had three years ago, they’ve scored big successes in recent months, luring such large employers as Polycom, Oracle and Netflix to San José. 

As revenues to the City return, I hope that we can restore salaries to ensure that employees receive pay commensurate with their private-sector peers.   In the meantime, I hope that the examples of many of our hard-working employees serve as beacons for all of us to find a way to rise above our political battles.  None of those battles, it appears, matter much to the one million San José residents who still depend on their City to respond to a 911 call, and to provide a safe place for their child to read after school.

Sam Liccardo represents District 3 on the San Jose City Council.

25 Comments

  1. I hope that we can restore salaries to ensure that employees receive pay commensurate with their private-sector peers.

    Sam, the 90s are over.  Those peers either don’t work the jobs they used to, or they’ve taken drastic pay cuts themselves.

  2. Sam, thank you for pointing to Gay Gayle as an example of a City employee whose commitment to public service goes beyond self-interest.  There are many more employees like Gay. 

    Sam, thank you for pointing to Gay Gale as “someone who reasonably relied upon promises [emphasis added] that were made to her when she decided to move to San José to work for the City years ago.”  Gay Gale is not a lone City employee who “reasonably relied upon promises.” 

    Sam, thank you for “sustaining” the City employees’ arguments that the promises were indeed promised, and cannot be changed unless both parties agreed.  As a Magna Cum Laude graduate from Georgetown and a Magna Cum graduate from Kennedy School of Government and Harvard with a law degree, you’ve made your schools proud in making this very compelling argument, Counselor

  3. Councilman Liccardo, while I appreciate the bare nod of acknowledgement for the hard work and relentless professionalism of my peers with the PD, I am disheartened by your lack of honesty about the outcomes of the passage of Measure B which are already apparent, to wit:

    1. 100 officers have resigned/left the PD since Jan. 2011 in the aftermath of Measures V and W, layoffs, and in anticipation of the passage of Measure B. This represents a loss of about $17.5 million in training expenses.

    2. At least 30 additional officers from SJPD are in the process of being hired by other agencies. This represents a potential additional loss of $5.25 million in training expenses.

    3. You rejected meaningful and, most importantly, lawful pension concessions when you and the majority of your peers rejected the POA’s proposal to transition to a PERS plan. This proposal alone would have saved the city $465 million over 5 years, or 71% of Mayor Reed’s bogus off-the-cuff $650 million pension shortfall and just about doubled the actual shortfall anticipated by the city over the next 5 years.

    4. Despite asserting that Measure B is fiscally responsible, you and your accomplices have never been honest about this simple fact: San Jose has no legal 2nd tier or opt-in retirement plan. To set one up would require IRS approval which will likely not be forthcoming in a meaningful time frame. Indeed, the backlog of other applications to the IRS for alternative retirement plans suggests that San Jose will never be able to implement an opt-in retirement plan. If implemented, the practical outcome of measure B will be that top-step offers would have to live on $39,000 take-home pay. (http://protectsanjose.com/content/truth-about-measure-b)

    5. You fail to acknowledge that the battle over Measure B was nationally televised which means that every public agency across the nation which is paying any attention at all knows that Measure B was nothing more than a legislated breach of contract. They therefore will intuitively understand that neither San Jose’s voters nor the vast majority of San Jose’s leadership can be trusted to uphold their end of the deal.

    6. You fail to acknowledge that most of the salient points of Measure B have already been litigated. Of particular note is the COUNTY OF ORANGE v. ASSOCIATION OF ORANGE COUNTY DEPUTY SHERIFFS decision which upheld that vested rights cannot be taken away from employees to include OCDSA’s 3% @ 50 retirement plan.(http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ca-court-of-appeal/1554101.html)

    7. You fail to acknowledge that this has been the conclusion of the City Attorney’s office, at least one retired city attorney – Joan Gallo – and various other experts.

    8. Your insinuation in the last paragraph that the passage of Measure B will somehow resolve citizen’s concerns regarding timely 911 responses and a safe place for a child to read are disingenuous. What does it matter if you’ve set the wheels in motion to make it less costly to hire police officers if you can’t hire quality recruits or laterals in the first place or if the ones you do hire have no intention of staying with the PD. How do you propose in even the near term to retain the comparatively few officers the City presently has and how do you propose to repair the trust between city employees and city leadership which the leadership has destroyed?

  4. When I applied to SJPD just over six years ago, there were more than 2,000 applicants for approximately 30 open academy recruit spots. Today, or post-Measure B, we had just 800 applicants for approximately 45 open recruit spots. This stark contrast occurred while Oakland PD received over 2,000 applicants for an academy also scheduled to begin this September. Moreover, one must also consider the fact that there has been a statewide void in law enforcement hiring over the last three years; thus, one would (and should) believe that there would be a substantial increase in applicants with respect to this mere fact alone.

    The simple fact that more than two times the amount of applicants would rather work in Oakland as a police officer than San Jose is disturbing, and if I may candidly submit, absolutely pathetic… Currently, there are more than 35 SJPD officers in backgrounds with San Francisco PD. I wish the best to them; and, also to you and your fellow council members that singlehandedly dismantled a once widely respected proactive police department while decimating its members’ passion and morale, which can never be recovered no matter how many patrol pay-cars or downtown pay-jobs you salt to its wound.

    My personal view represents the Department at large. I come to work, collect my disrespectful and insufficient paycheck, and go home. I can recall the times when my fellow midnight shift officers and I used to run out of briefing and diligently work hard all night to make a self-initiated arrest on a gang member – even if it was 4:00am. Let the gang members shoot and stab each other, for I will no longer chase on foot or in car because you, sir, have made it not worth it to get injured and lose my job without a disability safety net. Frankly, I really don’t care. I’ll take a report, and drop it in the box.

    Make no mistake, this may be my personal opinion, but it represents over 99% of your Police Department. I’m not exaggerating…. Pat yourself on the back

    • Beautifully stated! But the truth is , this pathetic Mayor and council could care less.Lets see when all is said and done , How will history judge the people who single handedly destroyed San Jose.

  5. Sam,
    As a long time patrol officer who has been hurt numerous times upholding my oath to protect the citizens of San Jose, the thing most disturbing-if not outright immoral-part of Measure B is the removal of any safety net of financial protection to the officer or his/her family in the event of a debilitating injury. You and the rest of the city council, as well as the mayor and city manager all endorsed this provision. Isn’t it ironic that Pete Constant would no longer qualify for a disability retirement that he now receives under Measure B’s provisions which you and he wholeheartedly endorse. Why would any San Jose Police Officer now put themselves in harm’s way intentionally, knowing if they are disabled they will have no way to take care of their own family?

  6. Where to start with this…..

    First of all..only small percentage of voters of a city in which 1 million reside even showed up to vote. That does not make it a mandate Sam. That would require a record voter turnout. Your so called “win” really wasn’t.

    Secondly, How dare you actually ask me to let it go. I didn’t start this fight. I actually was happy paying 22% of my salary into my pension. Now you want to up it to over 50% pre-tax incrementally over the next 4 years, and you just want me to be OK with that??!!??  Have you fallen and hit your head??

    I do not and will not forgive you or any other member of this council. Yes that includes Ash and Rocha. You all have failed miserably when it came to leading this city.

    Do not expect me or any other cop or firefighter worth a damn to ever give up during a fight. We just aren’t wired that way. In fact, we are wired to win. everyday. at all costs. so we can go home to our families.

    What you have started is an all out assault, much the same in my mind as if you are trying to kill me. The difference is your weapon in my paycheck and financial security.

    I will probably “play nice” with the next council, but not you. Not a chance.

    What I swore and PROMISED to do was defend those who cant defend themselves, uphold local, state, and federal laws, and serve my community with pride and professionalism. You PROMISED us a fair wage and certain benefits.

    I will uphold my promise no matter what. Even if it happens to cost me my life. The sad part is, you can’t even uphold your promises, and all you have to lose is an elected position. What does that say about the difference in our moral characters Sam?

    While I will remain here at SJPD, doing the best job I can under these circumstances, I will not, and please I say this with all respect, I will not ever just “let it go” until the fight is won and I come out victorious. That is just the way it will have to be. If not just for me, but on behalf of every city employee you 261’d over measure B you can take your article, comments, suggestions, and play nice stuff, and well….put it in a dark place.

    • Officer Z said, “First of all..only small percentage of voters of a city in which 1 million reside even showed up to vote. That does not make it a mandate Sam. That would require a record voter turnout. Your so called “win” really wasn’t.”

      I agree with what you said 100%. Sadly, the people who didn’t bother to vote are the very people who scream the loudest when their home is robbed, or their car is vandalized, or they are physical assaulted, or their services are reduced.

      In one way I can’t blame them for not voting. They were probably sick to death of all the negative campaigning, political posturing, and gave up trying to figure out the truth from fiction.

      On another note, it seems that Mr. Liccardo has begun his run for Mayor in this column. You know the old, “Forgive and forget, can’t we all get along, now vote for me platform?”

    • HAHAHAHA! You are absolutely correct , Cops & Firefighters do not give up! They are NOT made that way. Part of the reason San Jose was one of the “Safest Big Cities”  was because of this trait.Now you will get to see it first hand. So even though Im Positive that you , Sam have never Been in a real fight. KNUCKLE UP , because a fight is what you , the Mayor & rest of Council have coming. People like you make me sick, you sit back and make judgements/decisions off of what you have read. But have you ever worked in the field, ever had to separate 2 drunks,respond to a drowning,let a parent know that their child was never coming home? No , I didnt think so! The Men/women of public safety are what made San Jose what it once was , So sleeptight knowing more employees are leaving for greener more appreciative pastures. those who choose to stay , will continue todo the best they can , which is seriously more than you deserve

  7. No thanks, I will not accept your olive branch. You decided a long time ago to go the austerity route, the low road, you made everything confrontational and made the police officer and other city employees the scapegoat.

    In the words of King Leonidas, “MOLON LABE.” “COME AND GET THEM.”
    How dare you even think you can even offer a hand shake at this put in time.

    I remember when, it was a mangers meeting. I think it was in Febuary 2010 when you stated, “Can’t we just fire all the employees, and then just rehire them with new contract.” Wow, now that’s a leader.

    As for your fellow councilmen, what did they expect. What goes around comes around, they are big boys and girls.

    Measure B has just started. The unconstitutional act by my government towards me, a police officer that swore to uphold the constitution is a slap in face. You should be
    ashamed!

    I like my chances in court, because a contract cannot be broken.

  8. I depend on you to resign. Don’t try to make nice now that your plan is backfiring.
    You said,
    “As revenues to the City return, I hope that we can restore salaries to ensure that employees receive pay commensurate with their private-sector peers”

    Yeahhhh,,and what are the cops going to do other than leave?
    Cops don’t have private sector peers genius. And if anyone is stupid enough to try to throw out “ohh, what about the military,”
    Think past your muddled brain and remember that in the military, 100% of all salary, food, housing, equipment, and education are paid by the employer. Can you offer those benefits?
    Not to mention that any able bodied person with a GED can enter the military.
    Again Liccardo, I depend on you to resign.

    And while you’re at it, why don’t you house some of those homeless from St James park in one of your many rental properties? You fraud.

    BTW, Father Lindner is asking you to be a character witness for him. You were an altar boy weren’t you?

  9. I depend on you to resign. Don’t try to make nice now that your plan is backfiring.
    You said,
    “As revenues to the City return, I hope that we can restore salaries to ensure that employees receive pay commensurate with their private-sector peers”

    Yeahhhh,,and what are the cops going to do other than leave?
    Cops  don’t have private sector peers genius. And if anyone is ridiculous enough to try to throw out “ohh, what about the military,”
    Remember that in the military, 100% of all salary, food, housing, equipment, and education are paid by the employer. Can you offer those benefits?
    Not to mention that any able bodied person with a GED can enter the military. 
    Again Liccardo, I depend on you to resign.

    And while you’re at it, why don’t you house some of those homeless from St James park in one of your many rental properties? Do something benevolent to make all those silver spoon fed academics proud.

    • Im seriously confused? How can revenue return , when we are only building low income homes and NOT bringing any new jobs to san Jose?The only ones making any money are Greeds developer buddies

  10. “As the battle moves to the legal arena, we need to move beyond this acrimony toward the collaborative approach that has characterized this Valley’s past success.”

    “I recognize that these changes have come at a substantial price.”

    Sir, if the collaborative approach had been taken in solving the pension funding issues instead of pushing this obscene iteration of pension reform called Measure B, the “substantial price” you refer to could have been altogether avoided.

  11. As a resident of San Jose my whole life, i wondered why do 70 percent of police and fire employees retire on disability pensions while in Los Angeles it’s only 25 percent. Seems like a scam to me.

    • Could not agree more, fact is disability retirements do no change their pension amount, only their tax liabilities.  They still get the same amount as someone with a service retirement based on years of service.

      BUT the retirement board hands out way to many disabilities and it works the same as the city council.  All behind closed doors.  You cannot get and facts about individual cases.  Board hides behind confidentiality of employees.  A retiree does not that the case to the board unless they know they have the votes.  Same way chuck and council watse public comment time already knowing how they are going to vote.

    • prescient,

      If public employee pensions went away completely, the amount of taxes you pay to the City of San Jose would change by such a miniscule amount that it would be statistically insignificant.  The fact is it’s not on your dime.  We put between 17 and 23% (depending on the year) of each pay check into our retirement fund.  (That’s before the additional 16% Measure B demands.)  And if we want to max out our pension, we must work for thirty years.  One would have to start at age 20 to retire at 50.  Minimum age for police officers is 21, and most start when they’re older than that.  If you put 20% of your income into a retirement fund for thirty years I imagine you’d be doing pretty well yourself.

      If you’d really like to impact your taxes, start with some of these expenditures:
      1. $797 million annually is set aside for the airport.  (I thought the airport was supposed to be self-sufficient.)
      2. $152 million annually to provide financial assistance to low-income individuals for home purchases and rehabilitations
—Achieve success with “Destination: Home,” a program that provides services and financial assistance to the homeless and those at-risk of homelessness.
      3. $410 million annually budgeted for “other.”  (How specifically is the “other” money being spent?  No one will say.)

      Just those three budget items add up to $1.36 Billion with a B each year.  And we’re arguing about pension costs of less than $300 million over five years?  Actually, according to the City Manager’s own budget projections published at the beginning of the year, pension costs are virtually flat for the next five years.  The pension fund is 85% funded (which any financial expert will tell you is quite healthy.) 

      Attacking San Jose’s public employee pensions is merely a politically expedient thing to do.  And sadly, Measure B will end up costing the City millions of dollars, not saving money.

      • Nobody is talking about San Jose’s public employees, we’re talking about the police and fire department. Imagine, start work at 30 years old retire on a fake disability pension at 40 and have free medical for life. Then go and get a job at the Sheriffs department. What a scam.

        • And all this time I thought police officers and fire fighters were public employees…

          There is no example in reality that fits your scenario. 

          1. If a police officer retires on a disability, he/she can not be a cop at another agency.  He could, however, become a City Council member.
          2. Ten years of service would earn a police officer 25% of his/her highest year’s salary, not exactly a living wage.
          3. Police officers are not eligible for a retirement medical benefit until they have 20 years of service.
          4. The retirement medical benefit is not free.  Employees put approximately ten percent of each pay check toward this benefit.  And once they retire, the premiums are still thousands of dollars a year.

        • Prescient,  Sounds like you are describing P Constant? 

          What about the officers that have legit injuries?  How do you purpose the city deals with them?

    • Spoken like someone who has never laid it on the line for someone else. While Im sure paper cuts hurt they are not equal to Blown out shoulders,Knees & backs. Not to mention increased rate of heart attacks, Strokes, diabetes. Look at how many personnel are in SJPD/SJFD & you will see for yourself how severly understaffed they both are compared to any other city its size. The reasoning is simple , They do more with less.If you think it easy then put your money where your mouth is and take the test. first the written, then the manipulative , then the Psychological, then the Medical, not to mention multiple interviews, then the academy, then probation. Everybody talks a big game but few have the guts to jump in and give it a shot

  12. Tell you what Sam,  give me back the 10% we gave to save the city and then give me a 16% raise over the next 4 years and I will let it go! 

    While you are at it,  why don’t you lead the way and propose that the city council members take a 16% pay cut spread out over the next four years. I know you can not change your PERS retirement contributions so why dont you just take a pay cut like the rest of us and show us you too are willing to do your part.

    • Don’t forget the “half of the unfunded liability,” or potentially 8% on top of the 16%, plus the promise that if I’m injured on the job I will be taken care of.  In other words, pretty much say, “Never mind…” to Measure B.

      Guess we’re not going to be letting it go any time soon.

  13. prescient,

    Your animosity is understandable; in fact, much of what outrages you has been outraging good cops for decades. Though the police department has been statistically very successful avoiding many hiring pitfalls (alcoholism, dishonesty, etc.), identifying and weeding out the scammer-personality has proved impossible. With job benefits, the unfortunate reality is that employees who possess a victim-mentality, extreme selfishness, or low character will exploit all within reach, even those protections (like early disability) that should be considered sacred. This truism applies to all occupations.

    The police department has been long plagued by a minority of employees who fake, or grossly exaggerate the impact of, on-the-job injuries, so much so that fifteen years ago a couple of detectives were assigned to monitor those considered most suspect. The investigators found what was expected, on two fronts: first, the cops were faking it; second, the city lacked the moral fiber to follow through and do for its police department and public the right thing, which was to terminate the offenders. Instead, city management tried to offload the messy business onto the district attorney, who politely told them to clean their own dirty laundry. Result: not a single one of these scheming cheats was fired (all eventually retired with a paycheck 20% larger than their honest peers).

    As demonstrated so clearly by Chuck Reed, this city has always preferred to conduct a smear campaign or political lynching—using lies and gross generalizations—against it entire workforce than to stand up for what is right, or trust its own management team to competently prosecute a case against an employee who has actually broken the rules. Every patrol team knows what it’s like to carry an empty beat because some self-centered schemer has discovered the tax-free wonders of the soft-tissue injury, the unnecessary surgery, or the coronary condition made worse by cigarettes and alcohol. Because of schemers, good cops work harder, face added danger, and now, get slandered.