City Balks on Halting Pension Talks

UPDATED: When Alex Gurza gives an update on labor negotiations to the City Council on Tuesday, he’ll have some explaining to do about pension reform negotiations. City officials refused to discuss pension reform on Friday with unions so they could focus on language for a ballot measure. Union representatives responded by walking out. On Monday, Gurza said he was sorry and his office asked the unions to come back to the bargaining table.

In a letter sent Monday from San Jose’s deputy director of employee relations, Gina Donnelly, to union officials, she wrote: “Due to the deadlines associated with a November ballot measure, we suggested that we focus our efforts on the language related to the proposed ballot measure that address retirement reform for current and future employees. It was our hope that by seeking input and recommended changes to provide the City Council for their consideration on June 21 st, that we could achieve consensus around the retirement reforms to be placed before the voters. Unfortunately, after meeting for approximately 30 minutes, you abruptly ended our meeting and indicated that you were ‘done.’

“We want to reiterate that retirement reform has been and remains a critical issue for the City and that the City remains committed and available to meet with AEA, AMSP and CAMP regarding the language related to a proposed ballot measure that will be considered by the City Council on June 21, 2011. Due to the deadlines associated with ballot measures, it is imperative that you notify us immediately if AEA, AMSP and CAMP are interested in meeting to discuss the proposed ballot measure so that we may secure meeting dates and times immediately.

“In addition, per your request in accordance with the mutually agreed to side letters, we offer the following dates/times to begin the meet and confer process regarding retirement reform for current and future employees as well as the Supplemental Retiree Benefit Reserve (SRBR):

• Wednesday, June 8, 2011, 2:00 - 4:00 PM, OER Conference Room
• Thursday, June 9, 2011, 2:00 - 4:00 PM, OER Conference Room
• Monday, June 13, 2011,10:00 AM -12:00 PM, OER Conference Room

“Please note that the purpose of these proposed meetings is separate and apart from any discussions over the proposed ballot measure to be placed before the voters. The same immutable deadline for the proposed ballot measure does not apply to the meet and confer process pursuant to the side letters. Please confirm your attendance at any or all of these proposed meetings.”

Also on Monday, San Jose’s director of employee relations, Alex Gurza, said his office is “sorry about that misunderstanding.”

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: When Alex Gurza gives an update on labor negotiations to the City Council on Tuesday, he’ll have some good news regarding a tentative deal with the Police Officers Association. However, he’ll have far less to say about pension reform negotiations .

According to unions representing architects and engineers (AEA), mid-level managers (CAMP) and maintenance supervisors (AMSP), city negotiators have halted talks on pension reform with unions until language for a ballot measure is crafted. Approximately half of the upcoming year’s $115 million deficit was due to increased retirement costs, which are projected to reach at least $400 million by 2016.

Councilmember Ash Kalra, an opponent to the Mayor Chuck Reed’s proposal to go to the voters for pension reform, was critical of the decision to stop pension negotiations.

“I think it flies in the face of collaborative negotiations—creating ballot language before you even sit down to talk about pension reform with your employees,” Kalra said. “This suggests that there’s more of an interest in confronting and challenging the unions then dealing with our true fiscal problems.”

Kalra was the most vocal challenger on the council of the mayor’s proposal to alter public employee pension plans via ballot measures. Kalra suggested that the city will face multiple lawsuits that cost millions and stall any action to reign in the cost of public employee retirement benefits.

According to notes taken of a meeting last Friday between the city’s negotiating team—Gina Donnelly and Aracely Rodriguez—and Nancy Ostrowski, the chief negotiator for the coalition of unions AEA, CAMP and AMSP, the city made it clear no retirement reform negotiations would take place. Instead, Ostrowski was asked for her input on potential ballot measures. August 2 is the city-imposed deadline for crafting the ballot measures.

“The City Administration has chosen to disregard what their bosses told them to do: work with the employees on negotiating and costing out pension reform proposals and presenting fiscally sound options to the decision makers, the City Council,” Ostrowski said.

In the side letter documenting Friday’s meeting negotiation, Ostrowski was told by Donnelly that even successful pension reform negotiations would not stop a ballot measure. Ostrowski protested by saying that the city’s interpretation of the council’s direction to negotiate was incorrect, citing the mayor’s own words in his proposal for ballot measures.

“This proposal is not the only solution,” Reed wrote in his memo. “It is one combination of ideas that we believe will solve the problem. We are open to other solutions, and our proposal directs staff to engage with employee groups and to discuss alternatives that also solve the problem.”

The union has announced plans to park an RV (recreation vehicle) across the street from City Hall for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in case the city changes its stance on pension reform negotiations.

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.


  1. The unions are eventually going to get together and spend a considerable amount of money informing the public of the risk in voting for Reed’s ballot measure. They will likely point out there is no “free lunch” to the voters.  If we all could vote against signed contracts, then we would never pay our attorneys for their work and most of us would vote to pay lower mortgage payments to our banks. I doubt there is a court in California that will rule in Reed’s favor.

    Previous court cases have consistently gone against state and local governments that have unilaterally tried to reduce pension benefits.  It is unlikely that any court will allow the “state of emergency” loophole Reed is attempting to implement to abrogate his employment contracts. Further, they will take a dim view of his “poison pill” provisions.

    My suggestion to the unions would be to inform the public that they will sue, they will win, and to contact Mayor Reed when their taxes, sewer, garbage, and water bills go up because of the bond San Jose has to put up to cover the loss.

    People think twice when there is risk involved.

      • It has already worked all across the country.  However, the unions didn’t sue for pensions reductions, they sued for breach of contract.  Kind of like whoever financed your car coming to you and telling you that despite you signing a 5 year contract at x% they were extending the payments by 2 years and doubling the interest you will be paying because they did a bad job of managing the company portfolio.  All the unions will do is show that the city is violating a contract, which they will be doing, and it will be stopped as it should for anyone who signs a contract and expects both parties to live up to their agreements.

        • Breach of contract?  Please.  Those contracts weren’t “negotiated” with anyone to begin with.  Only one side was at the negotiating table. Our city council is on the same side as government employees, against the taxpayers.  Ordinary people with private sector jobs are not even allowed to know what goes on during these “negotiations” where obscene pension benefits are swindled.

          Your precious contract is the essence of corruption.  Don’t believe me?  Take it to the voters and see the result.  Then imagine what the real result would be if only private sector job holders (actual taxpayers) were voting on it.

        • You are obviously not a lawyer.  You can make all the philosophical rants you want but it doesn’t change the legal precepts.  And, if you think the politicians willingly granted the contracts that the unions have negotiated over the years, you are either in denial or completely devoid of access to the facts.  Contract negotiations have historically been contentious and downright ugly between the city and their unions.  To say they are both on the same side is ludicrous.

  2. “We are open to other solutions, and our proposal directs staff to engage with employee groups and to discuss alternatives that also solve the problem.”

    How many wonderful ideas have been presented by citizens and employees, alike, and they just ignore them? This is just fluff to make it look like they are listening. What a crock of sh!t. Let him go ahead and proceed with the ballot. What the citizens will be voting on will be illegal and it will cost them millions. A hard head makes a soft behind. But, hey…it may work out in the end. Once he screws everything up further than what it is, they will oust him, themselves. All of the 5 who signed the reform proposal were reprimanded by the County of Santa Clara’s Democratic Committee. The have stated they will be supporting the employees. Everybody is letting this man know what he is doing is wrong and what does he do? Just what he wants to do. How arrogant can a person get? He doesn’t listen. The downfall of this city. His daughter must be so proud.

      • That’s what it looks like. With the reprimand from the Democratic Committee, it might make it a little harder for them to get elected in any future elections. This will follow them and will be brought up in any election where they try to run on the Democrat ticket. They may as well just register as a republican. They’re done.

    • You state that everybody is letting this man know what he is doing is wrong and that he (Reed) just keeps doing what he wants to do. 

      Only you seem to forget that he isn’t deciding this by himself.  He is putting it on the ballot.  So apparently he is banking on “Everybody” not telling him he’s wrong.  In fact, he’s banking on “Everybody” in the form of the voting public of San Jose siding with him as they did overwhelmingly on Measure V & W.

      The County Democratic “committee” isn’t everybody.  If you think they’re some huge influential group on the average voter you’re sadly mistaken. We’ll see in November.

      • And when all of EVERYBODY votes on an illegal ballot, let us see how you like it when those millions of dollars in legal fees start coming out of your pocket. I’m sure we will THEN hear about THAT, too. And, make no mistake, it WILL be fought out in court. IF you were smart, you would take a look at what the law says about what he is trying to do. Just MAYBE you will start to believe what we are trying to get across to you.

  3. It looks as though the city has sweetened the pot a bit with a potential side letter deferring Tier 2 layoffs until next year.  Apparently the city council measured the mood of the officers and decided that going to arbitration might sidetrack them from working full time on a ballot measure designed to render all previous contracts moot.  If Reed can get a ballot measure approved making sweeping pension changes, I’m sure any capitulations now will pale in comparison.  It is like choosing to lose a battle in order to win the war.  Of course those ballot measures will ultimately be found illegal but he is willing to roll the dice.  I predict with this new side letter the POA membership will vote to ratify the contract.

    • Yes they will.  The membership will be hoodwinked into the idea of saving jobs.  With retirements and firings at an all time high we will be close to the city numbers anyways.  We will not be having any new hires until they reach 900.
          It is true the city got wind of the “NO VOTE” and tossed the members what they think is a bone.  They want this YES vote so they can continue down the path with a ballot listing on the side bars on this contract.  Hook Line and sinker we are done.  No politicians look bad and they get the result HERR CITY MGR needed.  SHAME

      • Every year the city goes into contract negotiations with take aways, reductions, and cries of gloom and doom.  In fact, during the boom times when the city was rolling in money and spending it on every little pet project, the city still came to the contract bargaining table with nothing but pull backs.  While private sector companies were rewarding their employees with good pay and perks, fiscally wise or not, the city was treating their employees like the necessary evil they view them to be. 

        I remember at the PD when at the height of the boom the city suddenly found out that they had been giving us our uniform allowance without paying taxes on it.  The allowance was not even enough to pay for dry cleaning of uniforms for a full year let alone replace torn or worn wool pants, shirts, or other equipment.  While everyone else was party hardy, the city discovered this oversight and began reducing the uniform pay by quite a bit.  One would think as a gesture of gratitude during good times the city would just have absorbed the cost. 

        The moral of the story is that the city will pull out all the stops during contract negotiations every time.  And, every year their tactics will become more and more extreme.  Look at what is happening now.  Predictions of 278 layoffs are suddenly being re-evaluated.  A side letter knocks off 156 of those threatened if the POA buckles.  Now we see their might be tax money that can be diverted to keeping cops.  Then the federal grant might help out too.  We are now down to 87 potential layoffs. When the dust settles, there might be layoffs this year after all because all the unions wet their pants. Well Reed and Figone, your over the top bullying worked.  Your dire predictions of catastrophe have dissolved and blown away in the face of capitulation by the unions.  Congratulations, your scare tactics worked again.  Never mind that most of it was fabricated.  You now have that money to buy the ballpark, expand city building, and support city entitlements.

  4. 6 out of 10 Council votes to move “Special Projects” money over to the General Fund! If YOU don’t do it, it will be political suicide. YOU have been censured by the Democratic Party, YOU have been unfair in negotiating with employees, and YOU have been unfair to us residents! It looks like your political careers are in high gear to end! With Murders at an all time high, Fire everywhere, Police leaving at record rates, the Fire Department getting fined monthly for late responses, I am sick and tired of YOUR incompetence! It is time to recall and VOTE YOU out!

      • The fire dept is being fined by the county for every extended response for Ems calls, which has increased due to cuts in engine manpower. We have been fined $85,ooo in the last six months. This comes out of the 6FD budget which has been severely cut.

  5. City Council has repeatedly said that it is being forced to impose huge pension reforms on city employees because the employees will not work to solve the pension problem. Council says these reforms will have legal challenges – and may well be illegal – but **they have no choice**.

    So now it has finally come to light that City negotiators have made NO effort whatsoever to negotiate with City employees on pension reform. City negotiators have said “we are not ready”, “please stand by”, and “we’ll get back to you.” All the while, they are trying to march Council toward the single solution of imposing changes that are in blatant violation of the law.

    Such an attempt to manipulate the process, to manipulate the law, is pushing our Council to waste millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars to impose a solution that will ultimately lose in court. This saves NOTHING for the city and will decimate city services.

    Now that the ENTIRE council is aware of how this has transpired, it would be blatant malfeasance for them to pursue this path in complete disregard for the obvious facts.

    Hold your City manager and your negotiating team for its failure to follow City Council orders to negotiate with City employees. Force them to cost out all the proposals that City Council instructed weeks ago. Force them to carefully evaluate each option raised by the employees. Find a *legal* solution to this issue. This will take months to discuss with so many unions given that they are essentially starting from scratch.

    I am greatly disappointed in our new Vice Mayor’s attempts to step up to this issue. Rather than following her true instinct and intuition, she hopes to follow the Mayor’s lead into the mayoral seat. I hope she now realizes the folly of selling out her morals and values. There is still time to regain your common sense, Madison, and fix this situation before the Mayor leads this city into the abyss.

  6. “I am greatly disappointed in our new Vice Mayor’s attempts to step up to this issue. Rather than following her true instinct and intuition, she hopes to follow the Mayor’s lead into the mayoral seat. I hope she now realizes the folly of selling out her morals and values. There is still time to regain your common sense, Madison, and fix this situation before the Mayor leads this city into the abyss.”

    She needs to come to her senses. She has fallen in with the wrong crowd and when people fall into the wrong crowd, nothing but ill becomes of it. She’s on the “nasty” side. She will fall with the rest of them when this whole mess implodes. I ALMOST feel sorry for her. I think she was duped and is a puppet for Chucky Boy. She has already been reprimanded by the Santa Clara County Democratic Committee for taking part in this, along with the other 4.

  7. Mr. Kalra can always be counted on to oppose Mayor Reed’s attempts to solve our financial crisis.  Once again we see Mr. Kalra has no plan other than “talking” with the unions.  We have done this for a decade of deficits and all we have to show for “talking” is a $400 million projected deficit in 2016.  Time for Mr. Kalra to put his political career aside, stop playing games,  and present a real plan with real numbers before San Jose goes bankrupt.

    • The fact is, the City set a 5 year window in which to close the liability of the pension funds.  In other words, all the stock market losses must be recouped within 5 years instead of setting a longer time table and allowing the market to recover.

      It is structured in order to look worse than it is.  Pension reform is necessary, but the fear/uncertainty/doom is not helpful.  Kalra is being rational and moderate, while standing in front of $400 million and yelling “emergency” is not.

      • Mr. Kalra should then show us his numbers if Mr. Reed is somehow making the financial crisis “look worse than it is.”  Are you saying the budget cuts are imaginary?  Will the city soon be hiring police officers for the thinly staffed department?  Will the southern police substation be open and fully staffed?  Will the deteriorating roads soon be fixed?  Will libraries be open more than three days per week?  Of course not.  San Jose is heading for bankruptcy and Mr. Kalra has no clue how to restore even the most basic services for San Jose residents.

        • League of Cities has classes and discussions on this issue and how to develop a fiscal emergency.  Steve O have you ever tried to get the complete city budget not the water down version available on the internet.  Do you know how many non profits are still being paid by the city?  Did you see the recent federal investigation involving non profits and free money.  Some were given 2 million dollars and they owed the goverment 1 million.  Nothing paid.  Were you at the council meeting when this emergency fiscal topic was key topic.  once it was discussed and settled they gave away 1.5 million right after?  Do you know how much city property is being rented and what do we have to show for it?  I THINK NOT.  The list goes On and On and On

    • Nobody trusts that drunk.  He preaches to teenagers the ills of drinking and driving just days before he does it. 

      Talk about ZERO credibility.

  8. Now, ask yourself this question: with this now seeing the light of day, what could possibly compel the POA membership to ratify the tentative agreement with the city?

    The city doesn’t want to negotiate or compromise. They want to coerce and extort. Binding arbitration is sounding better and better. At least with an arbitrator we might get a fair shake.

  9. @ For OfficerD

    Sadly, I agree with you. One of the things about being a cop – a strength and a weakness, by turns – is that we tend to thing tactically, but not strategically. I suspect, as you appear to, that Reed believes that if he can get the ballot measure passed, it would re-open every single existing contract and renegotiate on usurious terms. As you observe, the ballot measures will be found to be illegal, but that hasn’t appeared to deter Reed. ‘Good faith’, ‘negotiation’, and ‘compromise’ don’t appear to be a part of Reed’s vocabulary; they certainly aren’t in Figone’s.

    Here is one reason I will be voting ‘no’ on the contract: the POA has negotiated in good faith to establish an opt-in 2nd tier pension plan, which would save both officers and the city money at the expense of a reduced benefit upon retirement; however, I do not believe this will be enough for City Hall. I believe that the 2nd tier will also be targeted by Reed’s ballot measure. In short, I believe that no contract is worth anything more than the paper it’s printed on so long as Reed believes that existing contracts can be voided by ballot measure. (Bud Selig, take note.)

    The upshot is that negotiating any contract which only partially addresses a handful of the issues at stake and which largely ignores pension reform that is stable and ironclad is really not a worthwhile contract at all. It’s a form of leverage.

    For those officers who read my posts and have not voted, I offer this bit of ancient wisdom from Sun Tzu: “In difficult ground, press on; in encircled ground, devise stratagems; in death ground, fight.”
    Ladies, Gentlemen, in light of Mayor Reeds goals, his ballot initiatives, and the negotiating ploys coming out of the City Manager’s office, we are, most assuredly, in death ground.

  10. Officer “D” your are correct, we ARE on death ground. It is time to fight. I believe we have not fought enough and let the City steamroller the Police Department. In a war, what are some of the things the agressor does? 1. Destroy morale 2. Elimate the leaders 3. Remove all goals. 4. Provide constant confusion and 5. Destroy the will to fight. The City did a great job in accomplishing this. The city completely destroy morale by taking effective groups and reorganizing them. Changed the work hours for certain groups. Moved effective specialized groups into patrol funtions. Deamonized police officers are lazy, cowards, who live off the fat of the land.

    The City had a plan all along and have effectivly implimented it. We are down in the trenchs and its time to stand up and fight. We are fighting not only for our well being and families, but we are fighting for Law Enforcement across the United States. We are the first line of defense of the Constitution. We are the people, for the people.

    Mayor Reed, I don’t know what your intent is, but you have taken a step into history that could destroy San Jose. Obviously you have never read, Our Founding Fathers, LAPD Rampart report or The Fall of the Roman Empire.

    I am proud to be with this Police Department and I will walk proud despite your goals.

    • Did my part this morning and voted NO. Having spoken to quite a few others there are ALOT of no votes out there. The word is spreading. Godspeed my brothers.

      • Call everyone you know.  This is a city Hoax being played against an inept association.  The city does NOT want to keep hounding the police as crime is soaring.  If this passes they “Politicians”can tell the citizens the COPS agreed to this.
            I find it hard to believe that the city has suddenly found money to keep these tier 2 members around.  Even our association said “The City Has No Money”
        VOTE NO!

  11. “The City Administration has chosen to disregard what their bosses told them to do: work with the employees on negotiating and costing out pension reform proposals and presenting fiscally sound options to the decision makers, the City Council,” Ostrowski said.”

    Who is city administration that “disregard what their bosses told them to do” ?

    Garza is not disregarding his boss Figone only the Council’s political posturing like Figone did to Constant and other’s political posturing for votes

    Figone runs city government not Council who only political postures and approves that what Figone’s staff recommends

    • San Jose has a strong Mayor form of government.  I believe the change was made during Tom McEnery’s term as Mayor.  However it wasn’t until Ron Gonzales became Mayor that the City Manager completely and totally deferred to the Mayor’s office. 

      Deb Figone is not independent in the same way as Les White was when he was City Manager.  The diminishing effectiveness of the professional administrative staff (City Manager and her senior staff) has been disastrous for San Jose.

      Mayor Reed is calling the shots these days.  City Manager Figone is complying with his direction.

  12. Liccrado defends pensions position

    The decision of the local Democratic Central Committee—whose leader is on the union payroll—

    to reprimand me and four of my Democratic colleagues for supporting Mayor Chuck Reed’s pension reform proposal (“San Jose council vote creates intraparty battle,” Page 3B, June 5), comprises another flailing attempt to label as “Wisconsin-style union busting” any serious effort to avoid municipal insolvency.

    Fortunately, most Democrats—and San Jose residents—do not heed the views of labor-controlled party insiders.

    They entrust me to work to preserve the environment, meal programs for seniors, libraries, gang prevention services, affordable housing, and public safety.

    Yet soaring retirement costs force layoffs of hundreds of dedicated police officers and one-tenth of our workforce, while recent public safety retirees continue receiving average pensions of over $103,000 annually.

    Cities throughout the country face stark choices between paying employees fairly to work or paying them extremely well to retire. Democrats—and Americans—value work.

    Sam Liccardo

    Member San Jose City Council District 3

    • Then it wouldn’t be laughable.  “Preserve public safety”?  Really Mr. Licardo, I don’t see that.  I see this mayor, with you fully complicit, as irreparably damaging public safety for decades to come.  You are not an expert on public safety.  You have become a shill for anti-union people who feel the tide has turned in their favor for dismantling workers rights.  I also believe that if the public sentiment was pro-union or pro-public safety right now, you would be as equally vociferous in your support of that philosophy.  Typical politician.

      Here is a nice quote for you about politicians: 

      “In order to become the master, the politician poses as the servant.”  ~Charles de Gaulle

      • Yes poses as the civil servant.  Isn’t that the claim all your cops, firefighters and city workers who are busy fleecing the public make? 

        Liccardo is a genius: Cities throughout the country face stark choices between paying employees fairly to work or paying them extremely well to retire. Democrats—and Americans—value work.. 

        I’d rather pay ‘em fairly to work. Get pensions in order by your choice or voters!

        • Read again; “the politician poses…”  Cops and firefighters are worker bees, not elected politicians.  By the way, if you want to pay fairly, why don’t you go and take a poll of public safety compensation nationwide.  Then factor in cost of living and see where San Jose stands.  Then you will understand the exodus of public safety workers to “greener pastures”. It will be fun to watch the “voters” duped by Reed continue to slash their own wrists all the time kissing Figone’s ring and thanking her and the City Council for their brilliant leadership as they bleed out.

    • LOL,…oh our hero,…Slick Sammy Liccardo, NOT! As they say at the games when an opponent strikes out,….YOU SUCK! Voted NO today. Have a nice summer.

    • Note the constant citing that it is either maintaining services or providing current compensation levels. Neither the Council nor the public seem to understand that the quality of library, park, public safety, development permits etc. is proportional to the quality of those performing those services. I know in my City vocation that ensures the safety of buildings constructed in this City that the drastic reductions in the “carrot” that brings competent people to municipal services will be drastically reduced. No competent structural engineer will consider San Jose as a place to seek employment. Many Cities/Counties in the area pay all retirement and pay SSI retirement for example. San Jose is on the road to becoming a 3rd World operation, a farm team for the big leagues.

      I know for a fact that the base benefit I started with of 2.5% accrual of base pay at 55 year minimum age is an entirely sustainable. I know by comparison with my father’s pension plan with a private renowned research firm where he held a non-management research engineer position that after 20 years retirement had 2/3 of the original principal and after his death, my Mother lives on minimum distributions covered almost entirely by the interest on the plan’s investments with monthly amounts significantly exceeding his final salary. Unlike the City plan, there is no death penalty allowing Retirement Services to keep the employee balance upon early death as a windfall.

      In a nutshell, it’s the enhancements stupid! Lumping public safety escalated compensation with the IT, legal, engineering, and finance union’s meager enhancements in one figure is disingenuous. The same goes for sick leave payouts. There will be a heavy price to pay with imposed upon workers using up their sick leave each year that will require increased full salary over strength staffing.

      Finally, the idea espoused that a City approaching bankruptcy will cause court order drastic cuts in pensions. There is a Federal agency ensures up to $60k annual payment for private defined benefit plans. I assume public plans have similar coverage for pension plans funded per Federal guidelines.

      • Is that the sick leave buyout that everybody decries so much was put forth by the city, not the public safety unions.  The city has known for decades that they are understaffed in public safety.  Instead of hiring, they found a way to entice police and fire officers to show up to work even if they were sick with the offer of more money down the road.  City officials knew that the carrot of a large payout would reduce the amount of employees that call in sick, which was normal at the time, to a much lower level and therefore reduce the need to have more staff available to handle average sick, vacation, training, and other absences.  The city made that bed and now its the unions fault for accepting their offer.  The city officials just kicked the can down the road years back.

    • Hey Sam, let’s just disregard the flap over the reprimand over you and your colleagues regarding the pension reform vote. Let’s just stick to ONE LITTLE NAGGING FRUSTRATING LITTLE DETAIL: YOUR PLAN IS ILLEGAL!!!!! Moreover, it will cost the city millions to defend it – millions which would be better spent on salaries – and time – time which would be better spent coming up with novel approaches to work WITH your labor organizations and arrive at meaningful workable solutions to address the pension crisis.

      Let me be clear: not one council member gets a pass here. You all – each and every one of you in your own unique ways – have been complicit in tearing down this city – from Measures V and W, to your collaboration with Reed over his latest pension debacle, to every single council person who’s voted in favor of a commercial-to-residential zoning conversion to every single one who’s voted for additional housing projects and especially subsidized housing. Every single one who’s voted to support the Mexican Heritage Plaza at taxpayer expense or MACSA: those too are guilty.

      Every single one of these decisions has adversely affected San Jose’s business model. And the truly sick thing is that there’s more than enough information out there for them to be informed enough to know that these choices would cause problems for San Jose in the future.

    • Sam,

      you hate all retired city employees, especially PD and fire. I asked about selling the 92K police sub station and you mocked who would want a police station.  Any company would want this building at a discounted cost.  Maybe 75K?  That’s half the city budget.

    • Sam,

      time to go back to being a lawyer or what ever you do. If you have so much time on your hands to read this then we need a new city representative. Most retirees do not make ends meet.  Unless your Council member Constant double dipping on a fake disability, running a photo business and sucking up a council pay check as well..

  13. At yesterday’s City Council Meeting after an hours long closed session meeting the Council came out in open session and Mayor Reed made the following statement:

    We have heard the concerns from the bargaining units regarding timelines and processes related to retirement reform.

    The City Council has provided staff direction to work with the bargaining units on potentially giving more time to the process for the good of the City and to provide capacity to talk about both issues together:  the potential ballot measure and negotiations over broader retirement reform issues.

    This may or may not include moving the November timeframe for a ballot measure.

    Staff will be contacting the bargaining units to discuss this further.

    However, we want to be clear that we are under a tight timeframe and that there is urgency around this issue in needing to address our retirement costs prior to Fiscal Year 2012-2013.  Any process must ensure that we reach a resolution before the budget process begins for 2012-2013.

    We also recognize that the POA has not concluded voting on the tentative agreement and we want them to know that we are very appreciative of their work in reaching a tentative agreement that will avoid the layoffs of an additional 156 police officers.

    We want to ensure there is time to work with them, and all of our bargaining units.

    We appreciate those bargaining units who have asked us to begin negotiations on retirement reform, including AEA, CAMP, AMSP, and the San Jose Firefighters.

    Staff will be following up with all of our bargaining units to work on a possible framework for the negotiations and will be reporting back to us no later than June 21st on those discussions.

    End of Statement.

    Clearly, this is a recognition that the legal hurdles to what some on the council are trying to do are becoming more and more apparent and they are coming to there senses that a negotiated settlement is better than drawn out litigation that will cost the city millions and that they will lose.

  14. It’s illegal. They know it is illegal, so why give them something they can’t take? That being said, If they were fair and reasonable and raised the retirement age to 62, I would go for that…but not 65. If they lowered sick leave payout to 60%, I could live with that, but TAKE it away and I will fight. According to law, when they take, they are suppose to provide something comparable…and they provided nothing. Everything was take, take take. There is plenty of room for negotiation, but be fair about it.

    • Reed, Figone, Liccardo, et al,…cannot be fair, it is not in their genes. They are snakes, that is why this POA will be dubbed idiots if this contract passes. I voted NO so I can sleep at night. So be it.

  15. To be pulled over by a 65 year old patrol officer.  Maybe I’ll get out of the car and bait the officer into chasing me so I can watch them have a heart attack on the spot.  Maybe I’ll jump a few fences and then wait for them to catch up.  It sure will be fun to watch them fumble for their Visa at the restaurant as they paw through their AARP card and their senior citizen discount cards.  These officers will have so many service stripes down their sleeve they won’t even be able to bend their elbows to salute Chief Figone.  They will be able to legally part in the handicap parking spaces now though.  They’ve got that going for them, which is nice….

    • I get your sarcasm and I think you’re wrong.
      There’s no substitute for experience. Most situations requiring police officer involvement have a far better chance of being resolved peaceably by an authoritative grizzled veteran who’s ‘been there done that’ a thousand times before.
      I know 65++ year olds who, with a couple of well chosen words and an unmistakeable authoritative presence, have made twentysomething would-be toughs shake in their boots and back down.

      In a situation, give me old Officer D or Officer Tom any day.
      You can keep your young, fit, preening Officer X. He’d only lose his cool and get somebody hurt.

      • Experience is a great thing and I’m glad senior officers have it.  But, there comes a point when you have to fight, run, or otherwise engage in very physical situations.  Not every crook decides to have a conversation before they fight. You have clearly been watching too much TV if you think that a soft spoken veteran can resolve every situation by acting like Sheriff Andy Taylor.  Street cop work is a young man’s job by and large and even the old salts will admit it.  Trust me on that one.  Go into any patrol briefing and check on the ages.  Then go to the detective bureau and see who is either there or fighting to get in.

  16. JG. I appreciate the vote of confidence, but I’d like to discloses a few things here: I’m not some old salt – at least I don’t think I am. I’m in my mid-30’s and I’ve been with the department for 11 years. I do have some experience in this line of work but I’m nowhere close to 65. And, the last thing I’d want to at this point is work to that age and put 40 years on the job. Want to know why?

    This job is tough. It’s tough on the psyche and tough on the body. I’ve seen what working until you’re almost 60 looks like: I’m second generation. My dad put 33 years in and retired just before he was 60. By that time, he’d had 5 surgeries to repair blown out ACL’s on both knees and had an unrepaired torn bursa in his shoulder. A year before he retired, he tried to arrest a drug dealer near fountain alley and collapsed. I got the call from a dispatcher that he’d been taken to the ER. When I got there, I was told that he was being treated for a concussion. He was off work for a few days. Things could have been much worse. Citizens were there to help my Dad out. Had they not been, that dealer could have easily hurt or killed him before his fill officer arrived. I thank God my dad survived to retirement, but he carries scars – alot of them – and health problems because of his job which will never go away.

    For myself, with as few years on as I do, relatively speaking, I just recently came back to duty after a fourth surgery on my arm. I’m back to full swing, but I do have lingering problems. As much as my experience may help in tough situations, as much as I work at not losing my cool, there are times when it just doesn’t matter. That cool, the ‘verbal judo’… these things often don’t help with the sociopaths, the mentally ill or the addicts out there. In those situations, it’s youth, skill and physical ability that will win out.

    I think there are some great ways to revise the pension system so that it’s a win for everyone – including the city, but especially the citizens. Laying off the newest officers, the future of the department isn’t the answer, though. Nor is making officers work into their late 50’s or 60’s. We’d like to have real,workable, solutions – real, workable, AND legal.

    • Officer D,

      I appreciate the candor and the perspective, so thanks for that.

      I know you’re a cop not a fireman but I’d be curious to know whether you believe the same age considerations that are claimed to limit the longevity of a policeman’s career would also apply to firefighters?

      Also, it’s difficult to reconcile the assertion that being a cop is only for fit young men when every day I see petite young women behind the wheels of patrol cars. The department obviously figures out a way to accomodate officers whose speed and strength are naturally limited by their gender. Why is it out of the question for the same principle to apply to older cops? 

      We’re continually being told by SJPD that SJPD is a topnotch organization- the most professional and highly trained and skilled law enforcement agency in the land. And this may well be true. But that doesn’t mean that it mightn’t benefit by reexamining some of it’s policies. It seems to me that a truly dedicated, well constructed and administered department would find a way to utilize the invaluable knowledge and experience of it’s most senior people rather than simply put them out to pasture. And I can’t help but feel that this big early pension is instrumental in facilitating those who are only too eager to go out to pasture- a real green pasture.

      I’m not in a position to judge your injuries and ailments and their effect on your ability to do your job. I wouldn’t presume to do so for any individual whether it’s you, Tom, Steve, Frank, or Pete Constant.
      But I do know that environments are populated by creatures who are best adapted to that environment. Through ill-conceived rules and policies create a world that most favors uncommitted opportunists and you will find that environment populated with uncommitted opportunists.

      • The most seasoned veterans are leaving the SJPD as fast as they can because of the city behavior, not because they are being shown the door.  Many senior members do not want to leave, myself included, but feel we have to based on the ingratitude of those we serve, the cut throat methods being employed by the city, and the better opportunities that lie elsewhere.  Loyalty only goes so far when you have a family to provide for. 

        Also, if you bump up the retirement age, you would have to drastically change the way the PD is organized.  Currently every position in the PD is obtained through competitive testing.  When a position comes up in the detective bureau, officers can test for that position usually by taking an oral board and sometimes a written exam.  The playing field is level except for a small amount of points added for seniority.

        If you are going to keep officers into their 60’s, and then decide that they are only able to work the detective bureau, you are going to engage in age discrimination for the younger officers.  A fat lawsuit will ensue out of that one.  You are also dismantling a process that has proven to be very successful at making SJPD a top notch organization and that is the mandatory rotational policy.  Officers can only work a specialized assignment like the detective bureau of special operations for 3 years and then they have to rotate back to patrol for a minimum of one year.  This keeps a constant flow of very highly trained officers working the patrol division and keeps the specialized assignment members from getting complacent and stale.

        If you decide to populate the detective bureau with only older officers and keep the younger officers in patrol, you can throw that very successful model out the window.  And, what happens when your younger officers reach a certain age and want to move to the detective bureau but it is full?  Will you force aged officers into an early retirement because they cannot work the detective bureau due to a lack of space?  Again, lawsuits would abound. 

        John, there is certainly a benefit to thinking outside of the box and constantly looking to improve policies and procedures.  But you seem to think that it’s the SJPD’s first time to the dance.  Many organizational policies and procedures have come about through many years of research, trial and error, and by studying other agencies.  The current model is in place because it has worked very well.  It has a proven track record of success.  Now for the sake of saving a few bucks in a down economy, you want to tip over the apple cart thinking that there just must be some better way to do business.

        The SJPD is already being demoralized by Reed and his cronies supported by the public.  There couldn’t be a worse time to go in and start making changes and experimenting with new procedures just to try and pinch some pennies.  In the end those efforts will simply prove to be more damaging than helpful and many of the time tested procedures will have to be put back in place.  But not before more good officers are driven to other agencies and into unplanned retirements.

        Add to that the huge increase in disability retirements that will come from an ages police work force and this whole idea is a disaster in the making.

  17. “Former San Jose Employee” said

    ” San Jose has a strong Mayor form of government.  I believe the change was made during Tom McEnery’s term as Mayor.  However it wasn’t until Ron Gonzales became Mayor that the City Manager completely and totally deferred to the Mayor’s office.

    Deb Figone is not independent in the same way as Les White was when he was City Manager.  The diminishing effectiveness of the professional administrative staff (City Manager and her senior staff) has been disastrous for San Jose.

    Mayor Reed is calling the shots these days.  City Manager Figone is complying with his direction. “

    How can we change city government back so Strong City Manager to balance of Mayor and Council who seems to be controlled, represent and our taxes for benefit of either Labor unions or lately Chamber / Rotary who spend million fighting for control of Council majority so they can get millions city taxes in political paybacks and Council votes ?

    In meantime residents get higher taxes and fees, fewer city services, under maintained streets and neglected city infrastructure that will cost billions future taxes to update when California is one of highest tax states in US with highest unemployment and San Jose is highest taxed city in Silicon Valley with fewest jobs and tax revenue due to special interest influenced city policies and Council votes causing 10 years budget deficits in good time and bad

    “Former San Jose Employee” do you have any solutions to city governemt mess taht will bring city back to being accountable to voters and taxpayers not political special interests which ofter includes highly political city administration ?

    Look forward to discussing your ideas and solutions

    • The original change was made by a ballot measure to change the City Charter.  I doubt that any politicians would want to take action to reduce their power.  It would take another ballot measure to change back to the strong City Manager role.

      What I saw during former Mayor Gonzales’ tenure was that the Mayor’s office controlled information and decision making processes.  In the past, various city committees comprised of council members would make recommendations to the entire City Council.  That would allow Council Members to gain expertise in areas that interested them.  It also encouraged them to look at the big picture-how does an issue affect things city wide as opposed to just their District.

      With the strong Mayor form of government, individual Council Members essentially look out for what is best for their district.  Each district is like a little mini-fiefdom.

      I think it’s been very bad for San Jose to centralize so much power in the Mayor’s office.  Having all the council actively engaged in city wide issues was much more productive.

  18. Mayor’s Budget Message. Ask for 10% and then take 15% from employees and then try and raid employees solvent pension fund that paid out $250 million but gained $400 million this year alone in investments not including massive contributions from employees own pay. The pension fund is being sabotaged and overloaded by the amount of people the management and council are prematurely chasing into retirement.  All under the guise of an unfunded liability they plan to fund on the backs of the employees an absolute unnecessary amount in 5 years.  There’s no real bill due in 5 years, this is a scam on the workers and taxpayers.  It’s completely irresponsible and demonstrates bad leadership and bad business. There’s Billions in Retirement funds just sitting there in this pseudo fiscal crisis untouchable by politicians by design because they will surely squander if given the chance (maybe on a stadium).  We have a crisis, but it’s not a fiscal crisis, it’s a management and leadership crisis.  The Mayor provides no leadership and has no vision to run the city successfully. He cannot close a baseball deal, can not close a Tesla deal, can not close a UPS deal and most recently an can not convince Apple to build a campus in San Jose. Now wants the voters to battle employees over defined benefits that have years of case law clearly exhibiting it’s just not legal. Spend tax payer’s money on ballot measure with legal consequences.  He‘s been reprimanded by the Democrat party for pulling the fiscal crisis card when there is none ($4 billion in annual revenue and a solvent pension fund worth billions). When handed the reins of San Jose it was the safest City in America, we now have more murders in 1/2 the year than we had all last year, in fact two more this weekend.  And where did they dig up this auditor, awful reports stretching old data telling coincidently what the Mayor wants to hear?  Negotiating teams that show up like Charlie’s Angels to discuss nothing?  Millions of tax payers dollars squandered in loser programs like the Convention Center?  Lets face it San Jose is a great place to live and work, maybe the best, but clearly not a vacation and convention destination?  Lets be transparent and discuss in closed session how we are going to try and rob the pension fund from the back door. San Jose has gone from 7,000 workers down to 4,000 this year for a City of a Million people (one of the smallest work forces per capita), but yet the deficit is going up, how is this possible?  Never in the history of San Jose has there been a poorer management and leadership team than now.  How many more reasons do we need? Recall Reed, so we can be proud to live and work in San Jose again.  Gray Davis thought he was untouchable, its time for a ballot measure, it’s called a recall, time to move the stale and unqualified politicians and their bush league managers out and move in real statesmen and stateswomen.  Recall Reed.

  19. Very well said! I looked into the the Recall procedures. It only takes 44,000 signatures to get it on the ballot. Surely that can done just by standing outside closed Fire Stations and getting those resident signatures!Even at Church on Sunday it was discussed to us on how unsafe this City is!

  20. how the public is trying to flush the public employees salary and pensions down the toilet but they have made no demand, whatsoever, from the administration, in trying to find out how we got to this point. I would think they would want to know how THE CITY OF SAN JOSE went broke. We are suppose to be a wealthy city. I would think the citizens would want to know where the money went and how it was spent. We should NOT be having money issues. The pensions and salaries DID NOT break the city. That is what they WANT you to believe. Citizens need to look into mismanagement and hold those accountable who are responsible for this mess. If the administration knew we where having problems 10 YEARS AGO, why didn’t they start trying to fix things 10 YEARS AGO, instead of spending, spending and spending the taxpayers money, then waiting until things were dire and start tearing down the employees? They gave themselves a 20% raise in 2007. Does that sound right to you???? 20%????? If we were financially in trouble for these past 10 years, why the 20% raise and $600 a month car allowances. What kind of city would have a financial advisor who could not rein this in, years ago. How come one month we are short one amount and two months later be short another 10, 20, 30…50 million dollars? How does that happen???? Are the books being kept correctly? If they were, this should not have snuck up on any one of them. NO ONE, NOT ONE CITIZEN is stepping up to find out how the money was mismanaged. They are going to let those responsible get away with it and hold the employee accountable.

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