‘Pension Modification’ Ballot Measure a Go

The Sixth District Court of Appeals sided in favor of labor unions Tuesday, ruling that Measure B must change the term “pension reform” to “pension modification,” and also alter the way the ballot question is worded. Unless the city appeals the ruling to the California Supreme Court, the ballot measure is set to go before voters June 5.

“Having considered the parties’ positions on the appropriateness of the ballot title and question, we agree with petitioners that the ballot title and text are impermissibly partisan, and we will therefore issue a peremptory writ in the first instance,” the three-judge panel wrote in its ruling.

Both city officials and those aligned with labor claimed victory.

“This is the fourth ruling that we have, from the Superior Court and now the Court of Appeals, that Measure B ought to go to the ballot, so that’s good news for the people of San Jose,” said Mayor Chuck Reed. He added that Tuesday’s ruling is “not a big deal, because there will be enormous amounts of publicity, and people will understand it’s about pension reform.”

Union political consultant Tom Saggau disagreed with Mayor Reed, calling the appeals court’s decision “a precedent-setting ruling” because the judges said it will be for publication, meaning other cases can cite the decision if other cities choose to follow San Jose’s path to altering pensions and retirement benefits at the ballot.

Saggau added that the changes to the ballot question are also a huge win, because it takes out the clause about saving “essential city services.”

“Nowhere in measure B does it say one red cent is going toward preserving services,” Saggau said. “We’ve seen this council waste money on all sorts of boondoggles.”

Here is the way the ballot question will read following Tuesday’s ruling:

“Shall the Charter be amended to modify retirement benefits of city employees and retirees by: increasing employees’ contributions, establishing a voluntary reduced pension plan for current employees, establish pension cost and benefit limitations for new employees, modify disability retirement procedures, temporarily suspend retiree COLAs during emergencies, require voter approval for increases in future pension benefits?”

Click here to read Tuesday’s ruling and the new Measure B ballot question.

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

16 Comments

  1. As a campaign PR stunt, there is some value in getting the ballot question right, but as we learned in the new city hall ballot question (and as we in Berryessa have learned in parcel tax elections), you literally cannot rely on the actual ballot question, the impartial analysis, or the proponents’ arguments in the voter booklet you will be mailed a few days before the June election.

    What matters is the exact language in the actual complete resolution adopted by the City Council.  Do not be deceived.

    I hope some honest expert will publish a section by section analysis of the proposal as it exists in the council resolution so we can vote in an informed way.

    The mayor and his henchmen have manipulated a variety of ballot measures in Berryessa and I would expect no less of them in this matter.  Same people, same tactics.

    • Absolutely—nowhere does the city inform the citizens that there really is no “reduced voluntary pension plan.”  The IRS has to approve such a plan and many municipalities have been waiting over 5 years for the IRS to approve or deny their plan.  Thus, in the meantime, the Measure means all employees will have to pay close to 50% of their salaries in pension or in other words take a 35% pay cut on top of the 10% pay cut they already took.

  2. Chuck and cronies may win in the “court of public opinion”, as he continues to lie, cheat and steal to get the voters to vote for his personal agenda. This being said, the Court of Appeals ruling is a very real indication that the city employees will win in the court system that really counts.

    Chuck and his cronie’s have misrepresented the facts (lied) and have put forth a ballot
    measure that will ultimately be defeated as it is illegal. Unfortunately, the damage
    that Chuck and cronie’s will have inflicted, will cost the San Jose taxpayers many millions of dollars and the loss of good city employees who provide the “services” that Chuck often refers to. Employees will lose their homes and will be unable to provide for their families. San Jose will become “that place”, where nobody in their right mind will want to come to work, as they can get better pay and benefits as well as far better treatment and respect from just about any other government employer.

    Chuck is counting on the San Jose voters acting like “sheep”, who will naively believe his propaganda and vote from a position of misinformation and ragged emotions. I don’t know what could possibly be done that hasn’t already been done, to get the voters to heed the warning to get educated on the issues before the vote. “An ounce
    of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, in this case the prevention is educating oneself on the issues and not following Chuck blindly into what surely will be “fiscal slaughter”.

    Godspeed San Jose

  3. The Mayor claiming victory is laughable, the city spent thousands and thousands of taxpayer dollars fighting this lawsuit and lost.  Period.

    The court of appeals ruled that Measure B can go on the ballot only if it is changed to what they ordered.  Reed never was a litigation attorney, more of a land use lobbyist attorney so it is no wonder he lost.  The fact of the matter is that Reed lied about $650 million being the pension cost projection and was caught and he tried to lie to the voters by placing on the ballot a question that a court ruled was unlawful.

    He’s the only person on earth that would claim victory when his arguments got kicked in the teeth.

  4. > The Sixth District Court of Appeals sided in favor of labor unions Tuesday, ruling that Measure B must change the term “pension reform” to “pension modification,” and also alter the way the ballot question is worded.

    Whoop dee doo.

    Not going to change the way I vote.

    • The court actually removed the entire first sentence of the measure, changed the ballot title, and removed other parts as well.  The Mayor and his supporters tried to place an unlawful measure before the voters and the court of appeal said NO.  The court held accountable Mr. No Lying, No Cheating and No stealing:

      Here is how KGO ABC 7 reported it last night:
      http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/local/south_bay&id=8616089

      The city lied about the justification for the measure using a now discredited and false $650M pension cost projection, the real number being less than half that amount and will burn through millions trying to defend Measure B in court post election.  Lou Scannon, stop drinking the Kool-Aid!

      • > Lou Scannon, stop drinking the Kool-Aid!

        Everybody knows that the problem is that government employee compensation is WAY out of line with what the overwhelming majority of ordinary Americans earn.

        And, that government employee pensions are UNSUSTAINABLE.

        People are tired of being screwed by the government AND the unions that call the shots.

        Call it “reform”; call it “modification”; call it Chuck Reed’s evil scheme.  It doesn’t make any difference.

        The insiders are getting too much.  The people are getting too little.  And the people are DESPARATE to do something about it.

        If Chuck Reed and the unions want to bite, and scratch, and kick and roll around on the ground like mud wrestlers, we don’t care.  We’re happy to kick everyone in the ass, as many chances as we get.

        Just take your greed, and arrogance, and entitlement mentality and go to hell, and leave us alone.

        • Wow Lou,

          We haven’t even met and you think I’m greedy, arrogant, and should go to hell and leave you alone?  I’ll keep that in mind next time you need the police for something.  (Actually, because I have integrity, I’ll respond anyway.)  I’m one of “the people” too, not an “insider.” 

          Unlike a private sector employee, I don’t receive Social Security, matching IRA contributions, stock options, bonuses, commissions, or the like.  My good friend, who works for a local tech firm, has a BS degree, like I do.  He is a line-level supervisor, like I am.  He has about the same number of years’ experience as I do.  He makes upwards of $30K a year more than I do.  Additionally, he received a $25K Christmas bonus in 2011.  He has a couple hundred thousand dollars in stock options.  He can take a free shuttle to work.  His company matches his IRA contributions.  He will receive Social Security when he retires.  And as far as I know, he has never once risked his life on the job.

          Not all public pensions are created equal. I will be eligible to retire at age 55, after 21 years service, with 54% of my highest year’s salary. That’s after contributing between 17 and 22% (depending on the year) of my paycheck to the fund.  If most people put 20% of their salary into a retirement fund for 21 years, I imagine they’d be doing pretty well too.

          If I were to go to work for just about any Bay Area police department as a patrol officer, I would make more money, and have a better retirement package than I do at SJPD as a supervisor.  We are the lowest in overall compensation in the Bay Area, and far below average among Santa Clara County agencies.  Yet the hiring standards at SJPD are higher than many other agencies in terms of education, background, etc.

          The real problem is that San Jose’s priorities are wrong.  San Jose spends approximately 50% of its general fund on Public Safety.  This is the lowest number in the country for cities with a population of 500 thousand or greater.  It’s much more common to see that number in the 65 to 75% range.  SJPD has the lowest number of officers per capita of any city in the country with a population of 500 thousand or greater.  If we had twice the number of officers we would still be among the lowest.

          How sad it is to see City leadership (to use the term loosely) destroy morale, devalue their employees, and decimate a once strong, highly professional work force. This has, and will continue to trickle down to a much lower quality of life for the residents of San Jose.

  5. The Mayor spins again! He says that the courts ruled that “Measure B ought to go to the ballot.”  However, the issues before the Courts did not try to prevent the measure from going on the ballot.  Thus, at no time did any court confirm that Measure B “ought” to be on the ballot. The Courts only confirmed what language could be used to describe the Measure and on that front the City lost on all fronts. This was a 100% victory for the employees!

  6. Just read the opinion—“costs awarded to petitioners.”  Thus, the City is already on the hook for their own legal bills and the union’s legal bills for their improper actions and efforts to violate Election Laws.

  7. Thank you. Now hold your costly election so we taxpayers can gladly pay to shove it up your **** even further Meyer Greed. You’ ll be joining your old pal Ron Gonzalez in pariah ville.

  8. Wow Lou, I knew you were a bitter and jealous hater, but what do you KNOW about pensions, retirement and job risks?  Nothing.  Just pure hatred. 
      The pensions in San Jose are unsustainable, because in the good times, San Jose did not put matching funds into the plan.  That ensured a shortage in economic downturn.  Your hero, mayor reed, supported these lapses in funding….AND supported the current contract.  Why are you mad at the City Employees?  I sure wish I knew what YOUR salary was, what you do for a living, and bash the hell out of it.  But of course, i’m sure, its much more important than being a Police Officer, Firefighter or Paramedic.  Pathetic.

    • > I sure wish I knew what YOUR salary was, what you do for a living, and bash the hell out of it.

      Of course you would like to know my salary.

      If you knew it, you would use it to make an ad hominem argument.

      Unfortunately, you are limited to making your case based, more or less, on some pretty weak “facts”, ignorant stereotyping, and broadbrush name-calling.

      Spew away.  Electrons are cheap.  And your futility is amusing.

      I usually root for the underdog.  But in your case, I’ll root for the nicer people.

      • Ignorant stereotyping and broad-brush name-calling?  Here is a quote from one of your posts above, “Just take your greed, and arrogance, and entitlement mentality and go to hell, and leave us alone.”  I agree that name-calling and stereotyping are not productive.  You should take your own advice.

        Lou, I think your anger is misplaced.  From reading many of your posts, I don’t believe we are ideologically very far apart.  You’re angry at bloated, wasteful government; so am I.  San Jose is a great example of a City that has spent itself into the ground with irresponsible, “entitlement mentality” decisions for decades.  For example, San Jose’s RDA debt is the largest in the state, larger than that of Los Angeles!  The line-level City workers are just as much victims of bloated government as anyone.  We are not the insiders.  We need to be protected from government intrusion like any other worker. 

        I am a registered Republican, a fiscal conservative, and a strong advocate of small government.  So are most cops.  This is why we so readily offered such significant concessions in pensions when we were presented with the fiscal problem.  We were negotiating honestly, in good faith.  The City was not.  It is very disturbing to be lied to by your employer.  Integrity and honesty are very important to us.  I am in favor of pension reform, as are most cops.  If the voters were able to look at two or three pension reform proposals side-by-side, then vote on the best one, I’d be fine with that.  But the City Council refused to even look at any other proposals.  Measure B is a very ill conceived iteration of pension reform.  It really will end up costing the City millions of dollars, not saving money.  I only have three years before I can retire, so what ever happens, it will not effect me very much.  But measure B will be around to screw the taxpayers for years. 

        Reed is a Democrat, and not a true fiscal conservative.  If he were, the City budget would look much different.  (I.E. no more funding of dozens of not-for-profits, no more redundant free lunch programs, no more low-interest loans for low income folks, etc.)  Even Scott Walker realizes that public safety employees are in a category of their own.  There is really no private-sector counterpart, unlike most other public jobs.

        Be angry at government, Lou.  But don’t take it out on us line-level folks who just go to work every day doing our best, trying to keep a roof over our families’ heads and food on our tables.

      • LOL…touch a nerve did we?
        and as far as “weak” facts go, its about time you put your money where your mouth is.

  9. Here’s a fact Lou. Meyers Nave, the law firm responsible for this contrived emergency, will earn MILIIONS in legal fees for an unlawful measure. The ironic side of that is that Meyers Nave isn’t even a San Jose company. More government money leaving the city. Are you comfortable with that?