Unions Try To Replace San José Mayor Over Pension Reform

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Labor unions in San José, Calif. are overwhelmingly opposing the Democratic mayoral candidate who backed pension reforms they claim are bad for the city.

Their choice is Dave Cortese, a county supervisor and former city councilman, who opposed the pension reform proposal known as Measure B. He is also expected to seek a settlement for the union suits against Measure B, if he wins. The measure was designed to control runaway employer costs, according to Public CEO, but has attracted a lot of controversy in the meantime.

Measure B was advocated by incumbent Democratic Mayor Chuck Reed, who has also been severely criticized by unions. Reed is endorsing Democrat Sam Liccardo as his replacement because term limits prevent him from running for reelection. Liccardo is seen as another Measure B supporter.

The San José Police Officers’ Association argues that as a result of this pension reform, most of the first new training graduates this fall will leave, due to low pay and pensions. Additionally the police union president, Jim Unland, predicts that 200 officers may leave if Liccardo is elected.

Measure B was approved by 69 percent of San José voters two years ago, but labor unions and other critics say it has severely hurt public safety.

Superior Court Judge Patricia Lucas upheld 12 of the 15 provisions in Measure B last December. However, she did rule that making employees pay the unfunded liability by increasing their pension contribution rate violated what is known as vested rights. This led to an appeal of her ruling which Reed is optimistic the city will win.

“It’s been a long time since the California Supreme Court had a clear shot at the issues on vested rights,” Reed told Public CEO. “Lawyers will disagree, so we will have to wait and see.”

A spokesman for the Cortese campaign explained why he disapproves of Measure B.

“Pension changes pushed by Liccardo/Reed were decided by the voters in San José in 2012 and have resulted in the loss of over 400 police officers,” the spokesman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

He went on to say, “Some provisions were ruled illegal in the courts and the rest of the changes are now included in the city charter where no mayor or council can adjust them. Last year, with $23.5 million spent on police overtime to backfill positions, the cost savings from Liccardo/Reed pension changes that drive away officers are specious at best.”

“Dave supports legal pension reform measures, having supported the enactment of tough rules to end pension spiking while he was on city council. The way reform should have been approached is to bring all parities together, which Dave did on the County Board of Supervisors, saving $225 million through negotiated public employee give backs,” the spokesman added.

Cortese’s campaign spokesman concluded, “There are ways to balance the budget without driving away a dedicated public safety workforce. Dave has focused on efforts to restore San José as the Safest Big City in America, by restoring neighborhood patrols and gang and burglary prevention programs.”

“It’s in their work plan,” Reed told Public CEO. “There is a great deal of resistance by the national unions who are lobbying against anything that might give employees a choice.”

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Connor D. Wolf