San Jose Pension Reform, Measure B (June 2012)

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A City of San Jose Pension Reform Ballot Question, Measure B is on the June 5, 2012 ballot for voters in the City of San Jose in Santa Clara County.[1]

According to a 2010 audit by the city, the amount that the city pays every year for the retirement plans of its retired workers has risen from $73 million in 2001 to $245 million in 2011. Over the last two decades, the amount paid by the city in total pension benefit payments has grown sevenfold. The amount that is paid out of the account every year has been exceeding the amount paid in for over 10 years. The city's 2010 audit also says that the city is about $2 billion short of the amount that should be in the account to pay for future benefits.[1],[2]

Support

  • Chuck Reed, San Jose's mayor, is a leading supporter of the pension reform measure. He began advocating for pension reform in the city in early 2011. Scott Herhold, a Mercury News columnist, says, "Make no mistake: The proposal that San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed unveiled...to curtail retirement and health benefits for city employees will define his mayoral career."[3]
  • Jeff Cristina, director of Environmental Services at GreenWaste Recovery in San Jose, supports the measure.[1]
  • County Assessor Larry Stone says he supports the measure because "We need significant reform, not just incremental reform. Why? Because the current system is unsustainable."[1]
  • City Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio.[4]

Opposition

The measure is opposed by the city's public sector employee unions. In a statement released by five unions after the vote to place the measure on the June ballot, the unions said, "the mayor and his supporters scored some political points today, but only time will tell what the ultimate cost to our city will be."[1]

Ballot text

The question on the ballot:

MEASURE B: To protect essential services, including neighborhood police patrols, fire stations, libraries, community centers, streets and parks, shall the Charter be amended to reform 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, reform disability retirements to prevent abuses, temporarily suspend retiree COLAs during emergencies, require voter approval for increases in future pension benefits?[5]

Path to the ballot

The San Jose City Council voted to place the measure on the June 5, 2012 ballot in a meeting on March 6, 2012. The vote was 8-3.

Chuck Reed, Pete Constant, Pierluigi Oliverio, Madison Nguyen, Sam Liccardo, Rose Herrera, Donald Rocha and Nancy Pyle voted in favor of placing the measure on the ballot.

Ash Kalra, Kansen Chu and Xavier Campos voted against placing the measure on the ballot.[1]

Lawsuits

See also: 2012 ballot measure litigation

Removal from ballot

On March 16, a lawsuit was filed against the City of San Jose, arguing that the measure should be removed from the June ballot because the ballot question written to describe it isn't neutral.[6]

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are:

  • Robert Sapien, president of the San Jose Fire Fighters Union
  • Franco Vado, a police officer in the city
  • Karen McDonough, an environmental service specialist
  • Clifford Hubbard, a retired firefighter[6]

Robin Johansen of Remcho, Johansen & Purcell is the attorney working with the plaintiffs. In the complaint, she says, "The code says it has to be fair and impartial, not an argument for the measure. When you look at the kinds of emotionally laden words -- reform and abuse, essential services -- those are very strongly worded phrases intended to get people to vote for the measure."[6]

Chuck Reed said, of the lawsuit, "They're doing everything they can to try to keep the voters from considering the ballot measure. So this is just another step."[6]

The case will be heard on April 3.[7]

Voter guide arguments

On March 23, Beth Roth (the campaign treasurer for Measure B) and Pete Constant (a San Jose city council member) filed a lawsuit seeking to have six statements removed from the "arguments against" section of the official voter guide.[8]

Their complaint says that Measure B opponents smuggled "false and misleading" statements into their argument against Measure B.[9]

The six statements/phrases that Measure B supporters seek to have removed on the grounds that these statements are false are:

  • "It could eliminate disability retirements for police and firefighters injured on the job and unable to perform their previous duties, it increases by thousands of dollars the amount widows and seniors pay for promised health care, and the City admitted that Measure B may not be constitutional because it violates employees’ vested rights."
  • "But city officials never even tried to offer taxpayers a way to achieve any savings that would stand up in court."
  • "City workers recently took 10%-18% pay cuts."
  • "Employees proposed dozens of legal pension reforms that would have increased retirement ages, reduced benefit levels and lowered COLA’s. Police and fire even proposed to cut pensions back to 1962 levels."
  • "politicians unsuccessfully tried to declare a fiscal emergency"
  • "This pattern of inaccurate financial projections, meant to scare voters..."

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References


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