City Unveils Proposed Ballot Measures

On Wednesday, the city sent a draft of proposed ballot measures addressing pension reform to each public employee union. Only two of those letters went to union groups that have agreed to set times to continue negotiations: the police and firefighters, which recently joined together in negotiations, and the unions representing architects and engineers (AEA), mid-level managers (CAMP) and maintenance supervisors (AMSP).

In each letter sent by Gina Donnelly, San Jose’s deputy director of employee relations, the unions were told that the draft was in response to Mayor Chuck Reed’s proposal in May to go to voters for more extensive pension reform than the charter currently allows.

The draft contains “Tier 2” pension guidelines for new hires starting next summer, an opt-in program for current employees, lengthening the time it takes to retire, and reducing cost of living increases amongst other ideas. The city is also reserving the right to make more changes to the draft.

The sworn officer unions are scheduled to meet with the city on Wednesday, while the union group of AEA, CAMP and AMSP will meet employee relations officials on Tuesday.

Click Here to Read the Draft for Proposed Ballot Measures.

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

29 Comments

  1. Apparently Chuck can’t read.

    I’m posting the link to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office report on the legalities involved in government’s ability to alter contractual obligations. I’m not sure what part of this can’t happen he doesn’t understand, but he will when the City is on the hook for my legal fees for their loss in court.

    http://www.ccpoa.org/files/110298_pensions.pdf

    As stated, there is established precedent that there can not be takeaways without offering something of comparable worth. This is well established, but it seems that Chuck skipped that day in law school. There is no way that this proposal complies with the legal standards set forth in the California State Constitution, the U.S. Constitution and case law.

    It would appear from the poison pill that he’s installed relative to unfunded liabilities that he’s attempting to extort employees into not suing for fear of making the existing retirement system cost prohibitive.

    Fortunately I’m so close to retirement that I’m not worried about the impacts of the lawsuit. Should this come to pass as proposed, we will be going to court and the City finances will suffer another needless hit courtesy of the man responsible for the demise of the city.

  2. “The city sent a draft of proposed ballot measures addressing pension reform to each public employee union.”

    Intimidation by threats of a ballot measure stinks of extortion.  Perhaps it’s time public employee unions send a proposed ballot measure addressing Council – Mayor Reform.

    • Maybe the public employee unions can send a ballot measure that would have real reform for the retirement system.  They do have the opportunity to comment on the current proposals in the memo and can change them through negotiations, if they have real ideas based on facts, not fantasy numbers thay have used in the past.  I do not see this as intimidation, just the reality of the timeframe to get some needed change to keep the retirement system solvent.  I hope the conversations can be completed instead of the continued bashing of our eleceted officals.

    • I have read the draft proposal and it is definitely illegal. Also, it appears that they are trying to force employees to choose between what is bad and what is worse. My suggestion to the employees is to not choose either. Let them impose and then take them to court. Good luck to you all.

  3. Our mayor continues to march to the beat of his own drummer (cue the Sinatra version of “My Way” in the background) One hates to think what all this ballot hoo-ha has already cost.  It seems outrageous that he and members of the council continue to waste public resources on an wrong-headed idea that will lose in court.

    Not to go all practical here, but why don’t they adjust employee contributions to the fund as needed, and call it a day? This article does the math:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/07/why-pensions-are-underfunded/241522/

    • You quote an article that relates to CalPERS.  Have you done any research to determine the percentage of a San Jose’s employee’s compensation invested toward their fund?  San Jose does not participate in CalPERS so you are comparing apples to oranges.  The as related to CalPERS says a “veteran, retiring on a “3.0% at 50″ pension, will collect 90% of their salary in retirement, and they will need to contribute 32.5% of their pay into their pension fund every year they work. On that basis, 9% is less than one-third what will be necessary to fund their retirement pension.” 

      First the 32.5% is the total contribution—between employee and employer.  Furthermore, San Jose safety employees contribute far more—double—the 9% represented in the article. 

      Second, in San Jose, close to 32.5% of salaries is being put away for safety employees. So what is the City’s problem. Something else must be at work here. And remember the City does not contriubte to social security (which, as an aside, is more than the 6.2% proposed in the ballot measure so Reed is trying to contribute less than he would have to SS)and so the City is saving on these costs for every employee.

      Hopefully the city and the unions’ actuaries will provide the true facts, including how the costs change based on the time frame by which the liability is amortized.  As you will see the time frame for amortization remains a mystery in the ballot measure. How can a citizen be expected to vote on a measure that does not provide basic information of the actual fiscal impact both on the employer and employee.  Again, Reed attempts to hide the facts.

      • How can the public even WANT to vote on something that is not legal? Once they actually understand the fact that the ballot does not contain what is legal and also understand that if they voted that reform in, it would cost the City millions in just legal fees, alone, I do not think they will go for it. I also find the notation in the ballot which states, in part, “In the event any section of this Act is determined to be illegal, invalid or unenforceable….”. They KNOW it’s going to be found invalid…and then comes the lawsuits. Why they are setting themselves up for this is beyond me. The public would be crazy to vote for this.

  4. The employee related actions and proposed city charter changes as espoused by Mayor and Council will accomplish at least two (2) main goals.

    First, to continue to shield from the taxpayer’s detection and subsequent wrath, the continuous incompetent ministerial acts by Mayor and Council which have resulted in a reckless accumulation of public debt.

    The “shielding mechanism” involves vilifying city employees, unions, retirees as the causative agents for the city’s financial peril.

    These incompetent ministerial acts include, but are not limited to; the frivolous budgetary allocations which could easily be interpreted as a “gifting of public monies”, to special interest groups and Citizen Based Organizations without regard to funding retirement systems, infrastructure (i.e. road repairs) and public safety.

    Enabled by the Mayor and Council, the San Jose Mercury News; an entity which is given “special privileges” to gain access to sensitive public information, resulting in commercial and or pecuniary gain, the taxpayers and those that subscribe to this worthless journalistic rag of dubious repute, are only given a “snippet of the city hall shenanigans” by the aforementioned yellowish pedantry in a dithering variation of rubato meter.

    The song invariably remains the same.

    Secondly, is the continued systematic destruction of the Civil Service System.

    Currently, the Civil Service System has been so corrupted and abused, the City workforce already is experiencing a ” two-tier system”. Those that have an “in” with the administration get promoted and others actually get hired into jobs they are not qualified to have. Now, Mayor and Council want to codify the sham.

    A two-tiered employee system further incorporates by reference that equality and fair play are euphemisms for utopian beliefs and will do nothing to solve the institutionalized corrupt and incompetent ministerial acts which serves to sustain and propagate the predicate prevaricate.

    It is of interest to note that none of the ballot measures gives the voters the option of; eliminating the Office of the City Manager and to redefine a process to expeditiously remove a Mayor and or Council members from office.

    David S. Wall

  5. San Jose is going to be a place where people come only to seek some training and a little experience. The people will then leave with that training and experience to other cities that will allow them to retire 10years earlier at a higher pay rate. What is the selling point for city employees to stay with this city, when other cities offer so much more? This city is going to lose talented individuals and continue its “death spiral.”

    • The saddest part is that for decades the reverse was true.  So many good officers would line up for jobs at SJPD that the could afford to be picky.  Many otherwise potential candidates then chose to work at other agencies and try to lateral over to SJPD once they had some training and experience under their belts. 

      This was due to San Jose’s reputation as having average pay (actually lower for years than every other agency in the county), good benefits, but excellent career paths and a supportive community.  Now San Jose is quickly going to be the lowest paid agency with the worst benefits and no career opportunities. Detective and unique special assignments are slashed and promotional opportunities are long gone.  Any officer hired by SJPD can look forward to years in the patrol division with no lateral or upward movement possible and a community that clearly does not want the best, just the cheapest public safety they can get away with.

      San Jose will be the place to get hired, attend the police academy, complete the Field Training Program and achieve a basic Peace Officer’s Standards and Training (POST) certificate before applying to other agencies with better opportunities.

    • You are right on. Yesterday the fire department reported that they are seeking to rehire the 49 firefighters the City laid off last year and can now rehire, but about 20 or so are not coming back because they have found other employment.  Thus, the City has to spend hundreds of thousands if not millions on training new firefighters to fill those spots.  It would have been cheaper to keep those firefighters on the payroll and the city would not have lost the talent other departments got for free.

  6. I have a ballot measure proposal of my own:

    Effective date: Immediately upon passage

    Background: Whereas a majority of the city council including the mayor have publicly stated that they are opposed to a “defined benefit” retirement for all current and future City employees; and, a majority of the Council including the Mayor have agreed to eliminate, or, drastically reduce the retirement benefits for all current and future City employees; and, pay and benefits for City of San José Employees lags behind the pay and benefits for cities and counties in the surrounding area; and, a majority of the Council including the Mayor have publicly stated that further reductions in pay and benefits will attract higher quality employees which will act to increase the reputation of the City of San José as a great place to live and work.

    Whereas all members of the Council including the Mayor are members of the Cal-PERS retirement system and the City of San José (taxpayers) foot the bill for retirement contributions on their behalf; and, a Cal-PERS retirement is a “defined benefit” retirement plan where members achieve vested rights towards retirement benefits after only 5 years of service ( CSJ employees vest after 10 years; and, council/mayor accrue the right to 2% of their base salary for every year of service (maxing out at 32% due to term limits – the equivalent of 16 years service – 8 years council + 8 years as mayor as in the case of the sitting mayor); and, Cal-PERS benefits are portable should the council member/mayor move on to elected office or other government employment at the local/county/state level allowing the member to continue earning the rights to 2% of their base pay per year of service with final compensation based on the average of their last 3 years of service; and annual COLA’s increases in subsequent retirement years.

    The City of San José by a majority vote shall:

    (1) Permanently cease membership in Cal-PERS for all Mayor and Council positions.

    (2) Change the beneficiary for the Mayor and Council members benefits (accrued up to the date that this measure is passed) to the City of San Jose General Fund. 

    Impact:

    Using the collective wisdom of a majority of the current council including the Mayor, the immediate impact of a drastic reduction of the existing benefit package will “attract a higher quality” candidate to serve as an elected councilperson and/or mayor for the City of San José.

    The fiscal impact will be immediate cost savings derived from the City having no further obligation to pay towards the member’s retirement. Further, by attracting a “higher quality” candidate the taxpayers can be assured that the City will be run in a way that is both fiscally responsible AND that the future Mayor and Council will put the taxpayers first by providing for quality base services like Public Safety, Libraries and infrastructure ( streets, sewer, garbage…).  The long-term fiscal impact will be the addition of a revenue stream for the City’s General Fund derived from taxpayer funded Cal-PERS contributions.

    • I agree. And by the way Pete Constant put out a memo that said almost the same thing. The others tried to say that CalPERS won’t let that happen and it got referred to staff – like everything else they don’t want to do.

      • Pete Constant is a “Grandstander.” He took the council and mayor’s “pulse” and was able to intuitively discern (not so tough to do given the subject of his proposal) something he knew would never be seriously considered.

        He did the same thing with his much ballyhooed “budget memo” that would have saved 53 police jobs. I will never forget al the other memo’s that he submitted that cost jobs at the PD and others that proposed “streamlinings” that have put the public , and MORE IMPORTANTLY OFFICERS at risk.

        Pete Constant is a phoney.

  7. The City knows that several portions of this draft ballot measure are flat out illegal and will never happen.  What the City ought to be doing is trying to pull its collective head out of its arse and negotiate from a place of reality.  Chuck Reed is hell bent on spending countless taxpayer dollars chasing his tail in court trying to overturn decades old precedent that protects vested pension benefits, but hey, it ain’t his dime he will be wasting, it’s the taxpayers.

    Reed is a lawyer and lawyers love to litigate and that is where this is headed unless 6 members of the Council agree to work on legally permissible pension reductions.  No union will agree to illegal pension changes, they can’t.  Chuck Reed and Slick Sam Liccardo think they have this figured out, but they are in for a rude awakening and the citizens of this City will suffer.

    There is a way to get the savings necessary to preserve the services everyone says needs to be saved, it is legal and allowable and does not try to overturn the legal doctrine of vested benefits…hopefully 6 Councilmembers will not be bamboozled by the “want to be litigator” Reed and Slick Saratoga Sam Liccardo.  Only time will tell.

  8. I just love the BS poison pill thrown in at the end.  It basically says if this is deemed illegal, which similar measures have been in other jurisdictions, we still win anyway.  Heads we win, tails you lose.

  9. Reed is just like the lying politicians that added the mortage companies, banks and wall street. The council are no better as well they are all paid off. Reed takes in almost a million a year in fund raising. He wants to fund a ball park by taking money from current and retired employees. His words they should share in the pain.
      Before we can fix the agreements with employees we need to remove the very people who put these contracts in place. Reed voted for all of these contracts. He sells his loyality to whomever will pay the most. Read said no more lying cheating or stealing. Reed had to give back money he stole. Ask Reed about City bonus pay (They give bonus pay they just have a secrect name for it ” cost recovery”) has anyone ever seen the numbers.
      Its time to stop these elected officals before they really ruin the country. Remove Reed and elect a mayor and council that work for the people not for their pocket book.
        Notice Reed is going to the voters to take money from retirees but he is not going to take away the pay from councilmen who receives a dissability check as a police officer while working full time as an elected council person. this council person has said he ran a photography busniness while he was retired and while he was on the city council. He claims to work 80 hour weeks. Hardly the activity of someone trueley dissabled. he may be dissabled but no public servant should be able to hold two positions with the city at the same time or collect two checks. It opens a way for people to cheat and profit. an elected offical looking out for the City would put a stop to it now.
        Start the reform by removing the people who made the mess in the first place. Stop trusting con men. Anyone who sides with Reed is part of the problem. What Reed is doing is wrong and not the way a true leader should act. It’s long past time we need to put and end to this now.

  10. This country of ours is on it’s ass, the state of California, is on it’s ass. San Jose California is on it’s ass. Chief Moore, with the ICEing on the Mexican Cake is on his ass. Are the Democrats happy because their mascot is being ridden by every one?
      I can only shake my head, in distrust and pathetic growning.
      Think about it folks. If you are a multi million dollar corporation and have out soursed most of your manufacturing to third world countries, or 2nd world countries, or hell first world countries. Yet we here in America, must live by what is available to us by way of making money the old fashion way, selling drugs and alcohol. You anin’t seen nutting yet. Ohio, Montana, anywhere USA. 
      There is a spectrum of power that never sees the light of day. It’s not China!. It’s US, you and I , that allow these snake oil prophets to sell our country down the tube. When was the last time you looked at your shorts and it said made in the USA?
      Now there is a novel thought, it comes down to our underwear. God I hate the thought of where we are going, or should I say being lead?.
      Reed, PLO, Sam, Compos, , Where are you guys? Tom built a , WHAT? We gave him 6 MIL of OUR money? That was a mere drop in the fish bucket compared to what Gonzo the Goofy got away with. Why not just tar and feather the culprits. You simply keep sucking your thumbs, hoping your term will get over before the boys with the straight jackets come for you.
      Reading the Mercury News about Moore today, I could hear the sucking up sounds by the likes of the Round table jerks.
      Tomorrow is Sunday. I bet not even God can help us!
      So, I think I will go fishing. If I don’t bait my hook, I may be able to fish all day, and write another column, that will be so pointed that it may not get published,Here.

    Who Are We

  11. I sure wish the-powers-that-be/were had told me they were going to pull this when I opted for a career with the City—twenty-one years ago!  I never would have come to work for San Jose.

  12. ” Reed, PLO, Sam, Compos, , Where are you guys? Tom built a WHAT? We gave him 6 MIL of OUR money? “

    $6 million was last years’ gift of public funds to Tom

    No, Mayor sold city parking for for $ 1/2 million ( $40 sq ft ) when city was buying less valuable downtown baseball land for $80 sq ft it should of sold for $1 1/2 million or more –  Council’s 2011 – $1 million gift of public funds to Tom

  13. RAPE!!!  That is what’s happening to city employees.  And anyone promoting or voting for this proposal is guilty of the same act of rape.  Just what kind of services do you think the victims of this crime will be willing to provide in the future?

    • read this letter. it explains in part, the continuing problem with the overbearing, unreasonable way that the city approaches its employees. The City is acting in bad faith, simple as that. Taxpayers beware – you will pay the price

  14. I’m the king of all kings on the ballot will state at my will every citizen must report for public service duty weather a legal citizen or not. You we be paid but your pay will go directly to me.  With this money I will control the world, I will enter your mind and control you as a puppet master. Give me the money !!!