- Scott Herhold: Learning how to speak Pension (SJ Mercury News)
Update 6:25 p.m. The City Council passed the measure to put the pension reform plan on the ballot by a vote of 6-5. The Mercury News has the story here.
The San Jose City Council is meeting to discuss and vote on, among other things, putting the mayor's pension reform proposal on next year's June ballot. Mayor Chuck Reed had wanted the declaration of a fiscal emergency leading to a special election in March, but he put that on hold after a report last week that lowered the city's original $80 million projected budget shortfall to $25 million.
But the mayor and some city council members still want pension reform to go forward, now calling for his plan to be put on the ballot in June.
The unions are not on board. From a Friday column on San Jose Inside by Jim Unland, a sergeant in the San Jose Police Department and president of the Police Officers Association:
What San Jose has is not a fiscal emergency but rather a leadership emergency. Mayor Reed’s answer to his numbers being wrong? Well, he still wants to plow ahead with his unlawful pension scheme, which will lead to litigation and hundreds of millions of dollars of risk for the city. Let me be clear, we support lawful pension reform and as a matter of fact, we presented to the city just yesterday a new proposal to roll back pension benefits to 1996 levels for new hires and current police officers and firefighters who opt into this plan...
You would have thought that [the reduced budget shortfall] would have been greeted with happiness at City Hall. Instead, the Mercury News reported that the mayor and city manager “greeted the news with skepticism and some dismay.” This is not the news they wanted. This does not bolster their arguments for a fiscal emergency. In fact, the vote for that isn’t going to happen because they at least want to hang onto some shred of credibility.
What does still appear to be happening is that the mayor is moving forward with his unlawful ballot measure in June. Instead of a March election though, he wants an election in June.
Janice Rombeck, editor of our news associate NeighborsWeb SJ, says the lower deficit projection is partly a result of the number of police and firefighters who have been cut, as opposed to any rosier and sustainable economic circumstances.
"It's not going to open up any of the community centers that have been built but can't be staffed," she said, giving one example of how the reduced shortfall will only help the city's fiscal situation up to a point.
The unions have floated their own pension reform plan, but the mayor doesn't think it goes far enough, Rombeck says.