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.