June 7, 2012
Mattos, Editor and Publisher
Leroy Pyle, Webmaster
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THE LAWSUIT OVER THE PASSAGE OF MEASURE B
You should find everything you need to know about the lawsuit filed by the POA
by clicking on this Protect San Jose link...
• • • • •
Here's how today's Mercury covered the passage of Measure B and the POA
Labor Sues Over
News — June 7, 2012
San Jose police officers and firefighters Wednesday made good on promises to
legally challenge San Jose’s voter-approved pension reform with a pair of
lawsuits filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court. San Jose voters Tuesday
approved Measure B by a nearly 70-percent margin. Mayor Chuck Reed championed
the measure to control pension costs that have soared from $73 million to $245
million in a decade and are projected to continue rising, outpacing revenues and
forcing the city to cut staffing and services to residents to cover the bill.
But unions maintained the measure violates court rulings that prohibit
government employers from reducing workers’ pension benefits during their career
without offering something comparable in return. “Measure B is unlawful and
unconstitutional,” said Christopher Platten, an attorney for the firefighters.
“Measure B impairs promises made to current and retired San Jose employees for
The unions asked the court to block implementation of Measure B’s provisions
while the case is decided.
“If we lose, so be it, but we’ll at least try to fight it,” said San Jose Police
Officers’ Association President Jim Unland.
Reed said he was not surprised by the union lawsuits. San Jose preemptively
filed suit in federal court Tuesday seeking a ruling affirming Measure B’s
“This is California,” Reed said. “Nothing important happens without litigation.”
Reed was confident Measure B will withstand legal challenges because the state
constitution and city charter grant its elected leaders authority over employee
“The California constitution grants charter cities complete authority over
employee compensation, and our own charter provides that the council can from
time to time amend or change any retirement plan,” Reed said. “So I think we’re
in a strong position on the facts and the law.”
Measure B does not change pension benefits employees and retirees earned to
date. The measure limits retirement benefits for new hires and requires current
employees to either pay up to 16 percent of their salary more for their current
pension plan or switch to one that is less generous. It also would allow the
city to temporarily suspend cost-of-living pension increases for retirees in a
The provisions affecting current employees would not take effect for another
year to allow time for courts to weigh in. City officials next week will
consider implementing reduced pensions for new hires except for police and
firefighters, for whom that will be decided in arbitration. City officials this
week also plan to ask federal authorities to approve a reduced pension plan
current workers could choose for their remaining years rather than pay more for
the existing plan.
~ ~ ~
Also in today's paper was this editorial and two
letters to the editor about Measure B.
Pension Vote is
Beginning of Real Reform
Editorial — Mercury News, June 7, 2012
Gentlemen, start your lawyers.
The Indianapolis 500 for the prize of pension reform really gets under way in
San Jose now that voters, in the qualifying trial, approved Measure B by nearly
70 percent Tuesday. The real contest will be in the courts, and attorneys were
going full throttle Wednesday, filing a variety of lawsuits.
We don’t know who’ll prevail and who’ll end up crashing by the wayside as judges
rule on various aspects of the measure. But we do know this: If voters had not
approved Measure B overwhelmingly, pension reform would be dead. City unions
would have taken the vote as approval of the status quo, and the city would have
careened down a path to fewer police officers on patrol and fewer library hours
— or else to borrowing money to push the cost of today’s employees onto future
generations, like running up credit card debt and passing it on to your kids.
Measure B maintains fixed-benefit pension plans, but it requires employees to
pay more for the current benefits or to choose a less generous plan that still
is better than what’s offered in the private sector. If parts of the plan are
struck down, at least elected officials opposed to Measure B will understand
what voters expect them to achieve.
Take San Jose’s District 2, the Edenvale area, where incumbent Ash Kalra
consistently votes against reform. Kalra’s challenger, Tim Murphy, was virtually
unknown in the community but ran on a pension reform platform. He captured 47.42
percent of the vote. Kalra can’t ignore that signal.
Meanwhile, in District 6, Willow Glen and the Rose Garden, Measure B opponent
Steve Kline ran what appeared to be a serious campaign against incumbent
Pierluigi Oliverio, a reform champion — but Oliverio got 67.45 percent of the
In Berryessa’s District 4, Measure B opponent Kansen Chu was re-elected, but
with a more modest 54.19 percent tally The top contenders for a runoff in the
Almaden Valley’s District 10 all said they supported Measure B. Unfortunately,
in District 8, vicious union attacks on pro-reform Councilwoman Rose Herrera
forced her into a runoff — but her opponent will be newcomer Jimmy Nguyen, not
Patricia Martinez-Roach, whom the unions first tried to promote. That, at least,
is a relief.
~ ~ ~
Next to the editorial were these two letters to
the editor. If I was a young cop assigned to work a beat in a marked unit today
I think I might wear something to hide my face. Perhaps a Batman mask.
Message Has Been
Sent to S.J. Unions
to the Editor — Mercury News, June 7, 2012
Bravo! Three cheers! And thank you to the residents and taxpayers of San Jose,
Mayor Chuck Reed and the City Council, and the San Jose Mercury News for their
hard work in support of Measure B, withstanding political assaults on all sides
from the city’s unions for months. With a win by a 40 percent margin, there are
no ifs, ands or buts about it; public employee compensation reform is something
the voters absolutely want and the unions must adhere to. Their lawsuits to stop
implementation of Measure B are petty and desperate, but the message has been
clearly sent: There is no other side to this debate, you are either with us or
against us. It’s up to the unions to decide where they stand.
Bob Pfahnl, San Jose
~ ~ ~
Courts May Have
Final Word on Measure B
to the Editor — Mercury News, June 7, 2012
Well, are we proud of ourselves? The public employees of this city asked that we
keep the promises that were made to them when they were hired, and with the
Mercury News cheering us on, we have now shown them. We have had the “courage”
to tell them “no.”
Changing the conditions of employment for future hires is one thing;
unilaterally altering agreements that were made in good faith is quite another.
Although we, the voting citizens of San Jose, obviously don’t understand this
fundamental distinction, I suspect our courts will.
Dave Elliott, San Jose
• • • • •
And finally, Columnist Scott Herhold's topic in
today's paper was about the Measure B and lawsuit...
Measure B Now a
Stage for Lawyers
Columnist Scott Herhold
News — June 7, 2012
In Tuesday’s decisive victory for San Jose’s pension reform Measure B, the
voters spoke loudly. Now it’s the lawyers’ turn.
A lineup of experienced legal talent is already swinging into action in one of
the most anticipated employment law battles of the new century.
Not incidentally, this promises to be a lucrative war for attorneys on each
side. None of this litigation comes cheap. On Wednesday morning, the union side
opened its fusillade, filing two lawsuits in state court aimed at overturning
The city filed even earlier, going to federal court on Tuesday to seek
“declaratory relief,’’ essentially a judicial review of the measure that got
nearly 70 percent of the vote.
“There’s no question each side would like to frame the issues in a way that the
court will see them through the preferred lens,’’ said San Jose Councilman Sam
It’s hard to overstate the weight of this case: A victory by the city could
invite other municipalities to try the same moves.
If the unions win, it could end attempts to cut benefits for existing employees
— and instead focus attention on pensions for new employees.
Given all that, it’s worth taking a look at the legal talent on both sides. In
baseball terms, it’s like facing the 3-4-5 hitters.
The key trio of attorneys for labor are Christopher Platten, a partner with the
San Jose law firm of Wylie, McBride; and two partners with the San Francisco
office of Carroll, Burdick & McDonough: Jonathan Yank and Gregg Adam.
Adam, the lawyer for the San Jose Police Officers’ Association, is a Scottish
native and triathlete who knows the fight: In March, he filed two unsuccessful
lawsuits aimed at trying to stop Measure B on procedural grounds.
Adam’s blurb on the Carroll, Burdick website says he “typically uses a
collaborative approach in his advocacy; however, he also brings formidable
litigation experience to bear.’’
Translation: A nice guy but a bulldog in court.
If Jonathan Yank’s name sounds familiar, it should: He’s the son of Ron Yank, a
longtime labor attorney and former lawyer for the SJPOA.
The younger Yank
has amassed his own credentials, however, representing firefighters and cops in
a range of litigation. He is heir to a political tradition, which matters here.
Finally, there is Platten, who has the most extensive local knowledge. He is
just ending a stint on the San Jose planning commission, and he’s represented
various unions such as city firefighters and the Newspaper Guild.
A Wisconsin native and Green Bay Packers shareholder who is known for an
encyclopedic memory, a booming voice and an office filled with union
memorabilia, Platten won a significant arbitration victory for San Jose
firefighters in 2007 in a battle over how pensions would be calculated.
Platten also has real experience as a union leader.
He served as an officer of the Retail Clerks’ union in San Diego before going to
Because the city attorney’s office is conflicted out in this case — the city’s
attorneys face the effects of Measure B, too — San Jose has been forced to turn
to outside lawyers. The three key ones are alumni of the San Francisco city
attorney’s office. The intellectual light behind the city’s strategy is probably
Jonathan Holtzman, a San Francisco attorney and Stanford Law School grad who
once served as director of labor and policy for San Francisco Mayor Willie
So far, San Jose has agreed to pay Holtzman’s firm up to $550,000. Holtzman has
been at the forefront of several attempts to make government more efficient. But
it has sometimes been uphill.
In November, the California Supreme Court ruled against attempts to trim health
care benefits for Orange County retirees.
Providing the courtroom guidance for San Jose is the Meyers Nave law firm, and
in particular two of its Oakland-based attorneys — Art Hartinger and Linda M.
Ross, who were authors of a legal opinion on behalf of Measure B. Hartinger won
a significant victory this spring on behalf of the Richmond Police Department,
which was sued by seven AfricanAmerican officers who alleged discrimination. In
that case, the defense vigorously contested the charges, even digging up a
sidewalk in an old canine training center to successfully disprove an allegation
that it once had an inscription of a racial slur.
Ross, who handled the losing side of the city’s fight over what to name Measure
B (“pension reform’’ was renamed “pension modification’’), served as general
counsel to the San Francisco mayor’s office.
She joined the Meyers Nave firm in March.
THERE REALLY EVER A DOUBT THAT MEASURE B WOULD PASS?
The Mercury News seems to be as thrilled as
Mayor Reed with the passage of Measure B as the font size of the paper's front
page headline rivals that of the 1969 Moon Landing. While this isn't news for
you local readers, we're including the story for the many of you who live out of
Jose voters overwhelmingly approve city initiative that could have nationwide
News — June 6, 2012
San Jose voters Tuesday handed Mayor Chuck Reed a crucial victory as his
nationally watched pension reform measure won a decisive margin.
It was a big night for pension reform, with a San Diego measure also leading by
a wide margin. City employee unions that argued the measures are illegal were
expected to challenge both in court.
But voter approval of San Jose’s Measure B puts Reed and the city in the
vanguard of efforts to shrink taxpayer bills for generous government pension
plans. Passage also strengthens Reed’s hand as he and his City Council allies
work to enact the measure with a vote next week to reduce pensions for new
“I want to
thank the voters of San Jose for their commitment to fiscal reform and to
creating a more sustainable future for our children and grandchildren,” Reed
said as returns were coming in. He added in an interview that he expected a big
win after talking with residents around the city and called it a victory not
only for taxpayers who have watched city services trimmed as pension expenses
surged, but also for employees whose retirement plans will be more sustainable
with the changes.
The San Jose and San Diego votes drew interest around the country as a gauge of
voter support for reforming pensions at the ballot box. Gov. Jerry Brown’s
pension reform proposals have gained little headway in the Legislature.
Voters like Howard Delano of Willow Glen were tired of watching their city
shovel more and more tax money into government pensions far more generous than
their own retirement.
“It’s out of control,” Delano, 60, said after dropping off his ballot. “Nobody
gives me a pension.”
But Yolanda Cruz, president of the city’s largest union, called the measure “an
unfortunate way to spend taxpayer money fighting it in court because we will
definitely take it there. Taxpayer money would be better used getting services
Pension reform advocates saw the San Jose measure as a key test of how far
cities can go in reducing pensions for current employees.
Unions argue that decades of court decisions effectively hold that government
employers may increase but never decrease current employee pension benefits
without offering something comparable in return.
Most pension reform around the state, including the San Diego measure and one
approved in San Francisco last year, change benefits for new hires. But pension
reform advocates and a state watchdog panel argue cutting only new hire benefits
isn’t enough to solve the cost problem.
B goes further than other efforts in tackling current employee pension costs. He
said that, as a charter city, San Jose has the authority to reduce pension
benefits not only for future hires, but also for current employees’ remaining
years on the job. If courts disagree, Measure B calls for the city to take the
equivalent savings in pay cuts.
Among changes called for in Measure B:
• Current employees keep pension credits already earned but must pay up to 16
percent more of their salary to continue that benefit or choose a more modest
and affordable plan for their remaining years on the job.
• Limit retirement benefits for future hires by requiring them to pay half the
cost of a pension.
• Suspend current retirees’ 3percent yearly pension raises up to five years if
the city declares a fiscal crisis.
• Discontinue “bonus” pension checks to retirees.
• Require voter approval for future pension increases.
• Change disability retirement with the aim of limiting it to those whose
injuries prevent them from working.
Reed proposed Measure B a year ago after his efforts — from championing new tax
measures to imposing 10 percent pay cuts on city employees — failed to erase
budgetary red ink that has soaked the city ledger for a decade. Though the city
projects a modest $9 million surplus in the upcoming budget, thanks largely to
the pay cuts and hundreds of job cuts, a $22.5 million shortfall is expected the
A key deficit driver has been the yearly pension bill that has more than tripled
from $73 million to $245million in a decade, far outpacing the 20 percent
revenue growth and gobbling more than a fifth of the city’s general fund. A city
audit blamed the rise on a combination of benefit increases, flawed cost
assumptions and investment losses.
City audits and news reports also assailed a system in which the city’s police
and firefighters take taxfree disability retirements at rates far exceeding
those in other big cities.
Government employee unions led by the American Federation of State, County and
Municipal Employees spent more than $440,000 toward defeating Measure B.
Business and taxpayer groups spent more than $682,000 toward its passage.
PRE-ELECTION PENSION-RELATED NEWS
On Tuesday of this week, KNTV's investigative
unit filed a report entitled "Measure B: Who's Really Behind the Money?" As of
10 p.m. last night (Wed.) the video and corresponding article was still on its
website. If you are interested and it's still up, the link below should take you
to it. (4 Mins.)
• • • • •
Given the results of the Scott Walker recall
effort in Wisconsin (he beat his Democratic opponent by a margin of 10 points)
and the overwhelming passage of Measure B in San Jose on Tuesday that got 70
percent of the vote, Mayor Reed may be on his way to national prominence as a
result of news stories like this in-depth Wall Street Journal article that ran
on June 1st, four days prior to the June 5th election.
As Costs Soar,
Taxpayers Target Pensions of Cops and Firefighters
Street Journal — June 2, 2012
SAN JOSE, Calif.—Firefighter Brian Endicott got an early taste of the pension
battle brewing here when a man at the grocery store angrily pointed to the
steaks in his cart.
"Who do you think you are, wasting taxpayers' money on a meal like this?" the
man yelled at 46-year-old Mr. Endicott, who was shopping for dinner with three
other firefighters from San Jose Fire Station No. 1.
This June, in a vote that is being closely watched around the U.S., the mayor of
San Jose, Calif., is asking residents to overhaul pensions of police,
firefighters and other city workers. Hear their stories.
Jose police officers such as
Rubens Dalaison face public
discontent over the effect of their
pensions on the city's strained budget.
After the 2001 terrorist attacks, sympathetic residents of this affluent city
gathered at the firehouse to offer flowers, cakes and pies. Today, public
sentiment toward the men and women in uniform has widely shifted, as many locals
are up in arms over escalating pension costs for public-safety workers.
In the current fiscal year ending June 30, San Jose's retirement obligations
soared to $245 million, up from $73 million a decade ago, according to the city.
For police officers and firefighters who have retired since 2007, the average
pension is $95,336, making them among the most generously compensated in the
Since the recession, dozens of state legislatures and city councils across the
U.S. have scaled back benefits and jobs in an attempt to plug gaping budget
holes. Safety workers like police and firefighters—who generally earn more than
librarians and garbage haulers—have often been spared from some of the most
"There is a sense that these are people who do particularly demanding jobs,"
says Ron Snell, a senior fellow at the National Conference of State
Legislatures, who tracks pension changes around the U.S. "There has been a real
reluctance to impose harsher conditions on them."
That notion is being tested here in San Jose, a Silicon Valley hub that is home
to technology giants such as Cisco Systems Inc.,eBay Inc. EBAY and VeriFone
On Tuesday, voters here will decide whether to overhaul pensions for all city
employees, including about 2,200 public-safety workers. The ballot measure makes
San Jose one of only a few places in the U.S. where voters have unilateral power
to restructure pensions.
The initiative would force current city workers to either contribute more to
keep their promised benefits or accept a more modest pension. It would also give
the city the right to temporarily suspend cost-of-living raises that retired
workers now receive.
Unlike many other public efforts to rein in costs, the San Jose measure targets
the existing pool of employees and retirees, rather than taking the easier path
of only cutting benefits for workers yet to be hired. Union representatives say
the proposed overhaul violates the contracts the city has negotiated with its
Similar pension changes in other states have sparked legal challenges by public
employee unions. Last year, judges in Minnesota and Colorado upheld the states'
reduction of cost-of-living raises for retirees.
If the San Jose plan passes, city workers—who now give over between 5% and 11%
of their base pay toward their pensions—could be required to chip in an
additional 16% to keep current benefits levels. Employees who refuse to do so
would receive more modest benefits.
Firefighter Brian Endicott has
noticed the public's anger.
"This is not a
city where you want to be a firefighter," says Mr. Endicott, who says he has
seen residents flip the middle finger at his firetruck, which never happened
before in his 17-year career.
In many cities, police and firefighters are a big driver of retirement cost
increases. These workers often are able to call it quits before normal
retirement age, which can lengthen their stream of regular payments, municipal
officials say. Public-safety workers say they need to retire earlier than others
because their jobs are dangerous and physically taxing. Some take other jobs
after retirement, though the San Jose mayor's office doesn't track the numbers.
The showdown in San Jose (pop. 958,789), California's third most-populous city
and the 10th-biggest in the U.S., has its roots in the late 1990s when
California lawmakers expanded benefits for workers in the state-run pension
plan. To keep up with nearby cities during the dot-com boom, San Jose sweetened
its offerings. Police and firefighters got the largest retirement benefits,
which climbed to as much as 90% of a worker's highest salary, excluding
overtime, before retirement, up from 75%.
But ever since the tech-stock bubble burst, San Jose has had a tough time
meeting its pricey obligations. The city today has about 1,100 police officers,
down 21% from 1,370 five years ago. Jobs in the parks and recreation department
have been cut by 37% during that period, to 460 from 753. Four new libraries,
financed in better times, are sitting empty because city officials say they have
no money to operate them.
Chuck Reed, the city's Democratic mayor, elected in 2006, says stratospheric
pension costs are largely to blame for the problems. "We love our cops and
firefighters. They are our heroes," Mr. Reed says. But, he adds, "they've lost a
lot of that support in recent years."
Wilma Hashii, a library advocate, at
the Bascom Library/Community
center, favors reduced benefits.
typifies that mood. "They don't need 90% of their salary when they retire,''
says the retired library clerk. "I understand their job is stressful. But most
of us are feeling pretty stressed financially right now."
The city had a
$115 million deficit in the latest fiscal year, San Jose's 10th year in a row in
the red. Pensions were the biggest drain, says the mayor's office. Of the $79
million in increased costs, retirement expenditures accounted for $58 million.
Scott Castruita, a 50-year-old retired patrol sergeant, says he earned what he
collects. During his career, he broke several bones in his right hand fighting a
suspect and dislocated his left knee knocking down a door. A frantic mother once
pleaded for him to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a 9-month-old boy. He
complied, he says, even though he knew the baby was dead.
"I did this because it was an honorable job," says Mr. Castruita. But tensions
eventually flared to the point "where you walked out and felt dirty," he says.
Anxiety among U.S. voters over unemployment, lower housing values and investment
losses have emboldened government leaders to roll back pensions of even the most
popular government workers, says Tracy Gordon, a fellow at the Brookings
Institution. Some officials have also sought to restrict public-safety workers'
contract-negotiating powers—in some places for the first time.
In September, voters in Hollywood, Fla., approved large cuts in pensions for
police, firefighters and other city workers.
Farther north, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee has proposed bills that
would allow certain financially troubled cities to reduce disability pensions
that firefighters and police officers can collect if they are injured on the
"I have been at this for 40 years and I have never seen an assault on our
fundamental rights as I have seen in the last 14 months,'' says Harold
Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire
U.S. public-safety workers were among the first civil servants to receive
pensions, and they often collect larger benefits than many other public
employees, municipal officials say. In San Jose, for instance, recently retired
municipal workers collected an average of $42,460—far less than the average of
$95,336 for safety workers. Workers who retired earlier get less. Public-safety
workers point out they contribute about twice as much to their pensions as other
workers, and they have to work 30 years to collect a pension worth 90% of their
pay. Like other workers, they have also agreed to large pay cuts in recent
Many city employees can cash out unused sick and vacation days when they leave
the job. But while the payouts have been capped or eliminated for most, they are
unlimited for longtime cops and firefighters. One police official in San Jose
who retired last year, collected $264,000 for unused sick and vacation time,
according to city records.
Mayor Chuck Reed says pension costs
are a drain on San Jose's budget.
firefighters say they have been willing to negotiate changes to their pensions
to help ease the city's budget crunch, but they have also claimed that the mayor
has exaggerated the problem.
Earlier this year, hundreds of public employees signed an ethics complaint
against Mr. Reed, saying he misled voters when he claimed in a news release that
pension costs could jump to $650 million in fiscal year 2015-16, up from $245
million in the current fiscal year.
Mr. Reed wrote in a letter to the Election Commission that he cited the $650
million as an estimate "if things got worse." The current estimate by the
retirement board's actuary is roughly $320 million.
Unions representing city workers also questioned why Mr. Reed took the pension
measure to voters when the city projects a surplus of about $10 million in the
new fiscal year starting July 1. Retirement costs are expected to remain flat,
and the additional funds should allow the city to open some libraries and
community centers, according to the mayor's office.
Mr. Reed has said he expects retirement costs coming from the general fund to
increase by $29 million in the fiscal year starting July 2013, contributing to
another budget deficit. He maintains that cutting pension costs is the only
feasible way to restore additional city services.
In late March, the city got a jolt when Moody's Investors Service cut its
ratings on San Jose's general obligation bonds to Aa1 from Aaa, citing the
"multiyear erosion of the city's general fund reserves." The city's management
is "being significantly challenged to manage retirement costs and faces arduous
barriers to reduce the impact of those obligations," Moody's said in its report.
"It was a reality check,'' says city council member Pierluigi Oliverio, who
supports the pension ballot measure.
San Jose is home to a mix of ethnic and income groups, including tech executives
from Silicon Valley and a fast-growing Vietnamese population. Roughly one in
three households earns more than $100,000. Many people say they moved here
because of the low crime rate and inexpensive homes. When the housing market was
thriving in the middle of the last decade, city property values soared. Prices
have dropped 40% since their peak in 2007, or slightly more than the national
Against this demographic backdrop, the current pension battle has divided San
Jose into two philosophical camps.
Charles Jones Jr., a 52-year-old business manager at Apple Inc., AAPL -2.90%
supports an overhaul of the pension system partly because of safety concerns in
the area. Across the city, in the first three months of the year, burglaries and
break-in attempts increased 37% from the same period in 2011, according to local
officials. Like many other residents, Mr. Jones would rather return more police
to the street than maintain the retirement status quo.
"People recognize the importance" of police, he says. "But how much are we
willing to pay for public safety and at what cost—at the expense of community
centers, parks and potholes?"
Others, meanwhile, worry that police officers and firefighters are being turned
into scapegoats because they are the city's most visible employees earning the
largest pensions. Some residents question whether pensions are really the
biggest cause of the city's financial problems.
Steve Kline, a lawyer who is running for city council, objects to a provision in
the ballot measure that could force police and firefighters who are injured on
the job to keep working instead of getting disability retirement benefits. He
also worries that the pension changes could cost the city hundreds of thousands
in legal fees defending a likely court challenge by the unions.
"Instead of trying to solve this by working together with the unions, the mayor
said 'I am going to shut down city services and blame it on pensions so people
will buy my economic reform ideas.' "
Mr. Kline says city officials should look for savings in other parts of the
budget, including renegotiating deals with outside contractors. The mayor's
spokeswoman says the city is regularly seeking ways to save money on
In a city where public-safety workers earn an average of $109,000, and other
workers collect an average of $69,000, police and firefighters are having a
tough time winning over voters. They are also up against a detective who
supports the pension rollback and is running for another city council seat.
view of San Jose as seen from
Mayor Chuck Reed's offices.
believe I am betraying the police," says Tam Truong, a 30-year-old mayoral
candidate. He says he finds such charges hurtful. He decided to enter the race
partly because he's upset about the reduction in police staffing, which he
believes has emboldened criminals. He says his own home was burglarized
"I am a cop. I am pro-police. I want more officers on the street, and I want
them compensated," says Mr. Truong. "But the question is, 'What is reasonable?'
I'd rather have a job than a pension."
Mayor Reed hosted a campaign fundraiser for Mr. Truong in February.
People like Mr. Castruita, the retired San Jose police officer, are already
learning to deal with the controversy over benefits.
Mr. Castruita receives an annual pension of $106,000, plus a 3% increase every
year. He was owed $91,000 for unused vacation and sick time when he retired in
August, according to city records.
If the June vote passes, the city council would have the power under certain
circumstances to eliminate yearly pension benefit increases.
Mr. Castruita grew up in San Jose and earned a nickel from a local vineyard
owner for every squirrel he killed with his rifle. As the city boomed, he
couldn't afford to live here, and moved to nearby Gilroy in 1988. San Jose's
median home value is currently $407,000, or more than double the U.S. median.
He says his pay never came close to earning the cash and stock options his
friends got from local technology companies. They questioned why he did such a
physically and emotionally difficult job for less pay, he says.
So Mr. Castruita was floored last year when some of those same friends
complained that his police pension cost too much.
"They said I am too young to retire,'' he says. "I told them, 'It's a young
man's game. How many police officers do you want out there in their 50s?' "
~ ~ ~
JoeMac penned the article below and sent it in
to the Wall Street Journal as a response to the story above. With Measure B
having been decided, however, it's unlikely it will find its way to print beyond
(Reply to the
Wall Street Journal story)
From 1976 to 1991, I served as police chief of San Jose, California. I was
never a member of, nor represented by, the Police Officers Association and was
not included in the Police Retirement Fund. I do not collect a pension from San
Jose and have no vested financial interest in whether or not the Pension Reform
Ballot Measure passes. (WSJ June 2) I do firmly believe, however, that the issue
of pension reform has been unfairly framed for discussion against the legitimate
interests of the police and the public.
During my fifteen years as chief, I was often at odds with the POA during
contract negotiations and earned a Vote of No Confidence by the POA, which
nearly cost me my job for fighting with them over work conditions and
discipline. Nevertheless, I always supported paying competitive police salaries
and benefits for the simple reason that you can’t have a police department
without cops. In San Jose, police salaries and benefits had fallen so low that
we could not compete for recruits with other police departments or against the
enormous demands of Silicon Valley’s expanding labor market. At one point, I was
forced to reduce educational standards for appointment and received a letter of
reprimand from the otherwise supportive Latino Peace Officers' Association. The
salary situation got so bad that a wave of the “Blue Flu” struck. For seven
harrowing days the city hung on the brink of anarchy. Fortunately, enough cops
worked twelve hours on and off to prevent a crime wave, but they notified the
city council that they could not continue indefinitely. Finally, a judge
ordered the POA back to work. Negotiations resumed and the city council ratified
a contract that gave officers more than they had agreed to accept before the
work stoppage. The council also fired a city manager who had bungled the
negotiations by demeaning cops, raising emotions to a level all too similar to
today’s political climate.
It’s a lesson for the future. The present police benefits are not the sole nor
primary cause of the city’s fiscal problems. Many other questionable political
decisions have depleted city revenues and increased non-essential costs during a
time calling for restraint in spending. A succession of mayors and city councils
did what they had to do to hire cops. The city and POA engaged in tough and
extended negotiations following state laws. Cops did not “Occupy” City Hall or
engage in unlawful conduct to insist upon their demands. Both sides signed legal
contracts guaranteeing today’s benefits for existing employees. In return, San
Jose got a bargain, becoming the safest large city in the nation with the least
per-capita police staffing, and the United States Civil Rights Commission
declared the SJPD a model.
Benefits for future employees have always been fair game for negotiations, but
it is not in the public interest to demoralize the police by breaking existing
contracts negotiated in good faith. The police are the ultimate symbol of
American government and its defender against mobs. When cops themselves lose
faith in government’s willingness to follow its own laws, it doesn’t bode well
for democracy as a whole. Whatever the voters decide in this election, it is
imperative that the police who protect citizens’ rights don’t come to believe
that the public has turned against them and lost respect for the important job
• • • • •
Yes, it's water under the bridge at this
point, but for the Farsider Archives, let it be clear that the Mercury News
pulled out all the stops to pass Measure B. This was the paper's editorial from
last Sunday, two days before the June 5th election..
Do Your Part to
Help Rein in Pension Costs
News Editorial — Sunday, June 3, 2012
In November, an epic presidential race will take center stage in Silicon
Valley. But the biggest thing on Tuesday’s ballot is pension reform in San Jose
— and much of the country is watching.
It’s not just the specifics of Measure B, floated by Mayor Chuck Reed to rein in
pension costs. The issue of reform dominates most of the City Council races,
pitting those who believe the ballot is the only way to achieve change against
those who say the city should keep negotiating with unions.
It also overlaps state races, since Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing reforms to the
And nationally, unions are backing the fight against Measure B while reform
advocates will be watching the results in San Jose and San Diego, which is also
floating a measure.
To restore police patrols, library hours and community centers in San Jose,
voters need to approve Measure B. Current pension programs are not sustainable.
Their costs have tripled in a decade even as the number of employees has shrunk.
Among other changes, Measure B would limit retirement benefits for future hires
and require current employees to pay more, or to opt into a more modest pension
Will it hold up in court?
We’re not sure. But if it fails at the polls, opponents will see it as public
approval of the status quo, and reform will be dead.
To keep fiscal reform on track, it’s essential to re-elect Pierluigi Oliverio in
District 6 and Rose Herrera in District 8. In District 10, all but one of the
six candidates supports Measure B, but the most promising overall is Robert
Incumbents Kansen Chu in District 4 and Ash Kalra in District 2 don’t support
Measure B, but their opponents are newcomers to local politics and lack
experience in their districts. In District 4, we’re not sure police detective
Tam Truong is ready for the council, but we’d like to see him in a runoff with
Chu, so we recommend voting for him. Engineer Tim Murphy has no civic experience
in his District 2 community.
So we recommend Kalra despite his pension stance because he has done good work
on some other issues.
Aside from pension reform, school questions dominate local ballots, with several
bond and parcel tax measures in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. We recommend
approving all of them. We’ve looked at each, including the West Valley-Mission
Community College District bond that has some vocal but, we concluded, off-base
opposition. The bottom line is that schools are being cut to the bone by the
state, and Silicon Valley is in grave danger of failing to educate the workforce
of the future. It’s a shame local voters have to take up the slack, but if they
care about education, it’s really the only way to keep from falling even further
behind. All the Assembly and Senate seats will go to runoffs in November. We
made a few recommendations for the primary but we’ll look at all the races more
carefully in the fall.
We hope that by then, reasonable pension reform will be in the works on the
state and local levels. Vote yes on Measure B in San Jose to get it started.
A final campaign note
We’ve said a lot about union-sponsored campaign hits, mainly in San Jose
District 8. They definitely take the prize for volume.
But for being just plain mean, a San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce PAC
mailer in District 10 wins hands down.
The mailer paints candidate Edesa Bitbadal as a political insider, but it comes
off as a gratuitous slap at former Mayor Ron Gonzales, who supports her. It
quotes a 2006 newspaper report that Gonzales was arrested “on suspicion of six
That’s true, in the wake of a garbage contract scandal. But the charges were
dropped. And for the past three years, Gonzales has been CEO of the Silicon
Valley Hispanic Foundation, active in philanthropy and education circles.
We had hoped that, under new CEO Matt Mahood, the chamber would take a higher
road in its political campaigns. It’s still got a climb ahead.
Campaign 2012: San Jose takes on reforms; the nation watches.
~ ~ ~
For 'balance,' there was this letter to the
editor that the paper chose to run next to the editorial above...
Letter to the
News — Sunday, June 3rd
Promise to City Workers
The current attack on retirement and health benefits for municipal employees is
shameful. I was a city of San Jose employee for nearly 30 years.
Although I knew other opportunities would pay better, the security of knowing my
family would receive the benefits I worked hard for was the true motivator for
Police and firefighters risk their lives every day. If reducing their benefits
to save a few dollars is truly what’s best for the citizens of San Jose, I
challenge all those who feel like Mayor Chuck Reed to line up behind him and
face all the widows and children of officers whose lives were lost in the line
of duty and tell them, “You’re being paid too much for your loss.” Shameful.
Alfred R. Vargas, Saratoga
MAC's LATEST NOVEL RECEIVES A STERLING REVIEW
In this latest
book, McNamara conveys the seething hatred between the police and gangbangers
and the fury of cops hindered by the constraints of politics and the law —
constraints that their criminal enemies hold in contempt but also use as a
shield. Those sworn “to protect and serve” wrestle daily with the complexities
of cop bonding, the code of silence and the temptation to conduct preemptive
strikes against violent criminals who terrorize the innocent and threaten the
lives of the cops themselves. They must cope constantly with the effects on
performance and health of “hours of boredom and moments of terror,” a phenomenon
well known to cops, firefighters, and members of the military in combat.
In both McNamara’s book and the real world of police work, the boundaries of
intelligence activities, including the difficulty of gathering information about
gangs and potential terrorists, regularly test the limits of the law. As the
cliché goes, these issues seem torn from today’s headlines: Earlier this year,
it was revealed that McNamara’s old department, the NYPD, monitored Muslim
college students at universities as far away as Pennsylvania and Connecticut and
even sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip during which he
recorded students’ names and how many times they prayed.
A recurring theme underlying the fast-paced action and intriguing turns of the
plot is the quagmire of the war on drugs, a subject that informs much of
McNamara’s non-fiction published work. In short, he feels that like Prohibition,
it distracts the police from more serious crimes, demoralizes them and fills the
prisons with people who have committed victimless crimes. Worst of all, the vast
profits realized by those at the highest levels of the drug trade inevitably
lead to corruption of police forces, big and small, international, national and
local. Honest cops’ frustration at trying to gather intelligence and evidence
against cartels and drug gangsters flush with wealth reaped from Americans’
hearty appetite for drugs, and at being hindered by their own brass and by
crooked cops lured into sharing the profits, conspire to create a miasma that
the author refers to as “cop noir.”
The world of cop noir echoes the dark societal view presented in the film noir
of the 1920’s and 1930’s whose aesthetics were profoundly influenced by German
Expressionism, an artistic movement that in addition to movies, involved
theater, photography, painting, sculpture, and architecture. The draw of
Hollywood’s film industry and later the impetus to escape the sinister tide of
Nazism led to the emigration to the United States of many Germans who had been
involved directly or indirectly in the Expressionist movement.
In America prior to WWII, the hard-boiled private eye classic novels (and often,
films) of writers like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett followed a literary
path that depicted the dark and cynical side of life. “Love and Death in Silicon
Valley” opens in a similar way, with a murderous thug armed with an assault
rifle lurking in darkness beneath the flowers of a bougainvillea vine that
reflect the starlight. And McNamara’s depictions of the desolate life in a
neighborhood decimated by violent gangs just a short distance from the opulent
estates of Silicon Valley’s information-age billionaires convey the kind of
no-way-out, claustrophobic hopelessness found in much of film noir. An
incestuous (in the departmental sense) and turbulent love affair appears and
reappears, complicating the violent plot and offering its own noir moments as it
raises issues of sexism in the macho law enforcement ranks.
Few readers will anticipate the surprise ending of “Love and Death in Silicon
Valley” but many will appreciate and dwell on the deeper themes and questions
long after they turn the last page.
~ ~ ~
Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is the Robert Wesson
Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University’s
Hoover Institution. He is a devoted reader of crime novels.
Joe's book is available on-line from Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Results from last week's poll...
For the full scope of state and national polling by Scott Rasmussen, click on
For the most recent releases, click here:
Thanks for including the video of the Honor Air service members arriving in
D.C. My wife and I were stranded there a while back and had the opportunity to
witness two flights come in. As the planes approached the gate, they taxied past
flags of the branches of service while fire trucks sprayed the planes with red,
white and blue foam. There was a band playing all the service songs for the old
vets waited to deplane, and hundreds of people clapped and cheered as they
entered the terminal. I was wearing my “My Son Is A Marine” hat and snapped the
best military salute I could for every one of the old timers. One old hero
walked through the ramp door, looked at the crowd and said. “Oh my God.” It
truly was an emotional experience.
Thanks again for sharing.
Mean Dean (Janavice)
P.S. The Marine second from the right is my son.
For those of you who missed last week's video
of some WWII veterans arriving in Washington to visit the WWII Memorial, here's
To read an uplifting news article about the vets' arrival at Reagan
International, click on the link below...
• • • • •
The gun laws may be crazy in CA, but here they are reasonable. A CCW Permit
"shall" be issued by the County Sheriff and is good for 5 years, without having
to qualify every year. I went to a gun show a couple of weeks ago and left with
a new handgun. It took 40 minutes for them to run a check on me before I
received my pistol, not the 10 days required in CA. The "bullet button" on my AR
has been legally replaced and 30-round magazines replace the 10-round mags.
Colorado also allows "open carry" of loaded handguns. Attached is a picture of a
Don't know why, but that photo brings to mind
this 16-second clip entitled "Shopping in Oakland" that we ran in the Farsider 4
or 5 years ago.
• • • • •
Here's Part 2 of my series on the Trayvon Martin shooting analysis. Hope you can
create a link to print it. The plot thickens! Enjoy.
Ed. — This is one of those .pdf files that
will appear on your desktop after clicking on the link above. Once it does,
double-click the file icon to view the article.
• • • • •
I've been watching Bill Whittle on PJTV and Declaration Entertainment for
several years and find his commentaries to be refreshingly on point, informative
and entertaining — almost always worth 5-10 minutes of my time. He also produces
a video series entitled, Scribing. I have attached an example as well (second
link). I don't know if you're aware of his work, but I have attached his most
recent video for your review. I'm not sending this necessarily for inclusion in
the Farsider, but rather to make sure you are aware of his work.
In an effort to keep peace in the Farsider
Family, I have made it clear on a few past occasions that I am trying not to
include in this newsletter any partisan items that bash Obama (or Romney for
Because I spend so much of my time in front of the computer throughout the week
preparing the Farsider, I seldom tune into websites like PJTV. I have, however,
seen several Bill Whittle videos that readers have sent in and passed some of
them along to you readers over the past couple of years. I don't feel that
either of the links Bob sent in are "over the top" in terms of politics, so I
have no problem including them along with Bob's letter. The first one is about
the TV commentator who made the news recently by saying he wasn't comfortable
calling our troops who died on the battlefield "heroes." The second one called
"scribing" is about the issue that many people are uncomfortable talking about:
Racism in America. These are the two links Bob included with his letter:
First clip, "Up or Down"
Second Clip, "They'll Call this Video Racist"
Comments about either or both of the videos for next week's Mail Call column are
To access the pjtv website that Bill Whittle appears on, click on the link
• • • • •
Do you think you'll ever get away from this issue? I have a massage patient who
wants/needs to lose some fast weight, and I recall that you were a fan of the
Loma Linda Diet, including cabbage soup. Do you have it? Do you know anyone who
used it and had success?
Long before the Internet was created, I
published in the SJPD Insider newsletter what was then called the Loma Linda
Cabbage Soup Diet that was very popular at the time and was being passed around
the nation via magazines and fax machines. I think it was in the mid 1980s.
While I never tried it myself, many members of the Dept. reported back that it
worked like a charm; that they actually did lose about ten pounds in a week as
advertised. The major downside, they said, was that it was boring and that it
produced (how to put this?) 'an excessive amount of flatulence.'
While I didn't keep a copy of the recipe, this one I found using Google sounds
like it, or pretty close. (You can find other variations by Googling "cabbage
Before jumping into the cabbage soup diet with
two feet, however, you should first read this review about it by clicking on the
WEEKLY SNOPES URBAN LEGEND UPDATE AS OF JUNE 2, 2012
The facts behind the legends, information and
misinformation that has or may show up in your inbox
• Fraudsters claim a government grant will pay your utility bill in full for
• Does a virus known as LQP-79 produce "zombie-like" cannibalistic behavior
• Do numeric codes used on produce stickers identify how those food products
• Another purported photograph of shooting victim Trayvon Martin is
• Did talk show host Neal Boortz deliver a controversial commencement speech?
• Did Martin van Buren write a letter to President Jackson about the
necessity of preserving canals over railroads?
• Did an Animal Planet documentary reveal the existence of mermaids?
• Photograph shows a tearful veteran embracing a wounded Marine.
• City boy turns a neat profit by raffling off a dead donkey to country folk.
• Don't forget to visit our Daily Snopes page for a collection of odd news
stories from around the world!
Worth a Second Look
• Is the soft drink Dr Pepper made from prune juice?
Still Haunting the Inbox
• Check out our 25 Hottest Urban Legends list to keep abreast of what's
circulating in the on-line world.
• Visit our Top Scams page for a list of schemes commonly used by crooks to
separate the unwary from their money.
LIGHTER SIDE & OTHER ODDS AND ENDS
Remember to click on the "Large Player" icon
on the YouTube control panel in the lower right-hand corner of the video when
you watch the first clip. If you do, all other YouTube videos should default to
the same setting throughout the rest of your session at the computer. If your
Internet connection is fast enough, you can click on the Full Screen icon
• • • • •
Why hasn't this Indiana TV news report that we
included in the May 10th Farsider grown legs? One might think that for the IRS
to send over 4 billion dollars to undocumented workers as a result of a tax
loophole would be of interest to the national media. Was I right when I posited
on May 10th that the subject is too hot — or too politically incorrect — for the
media to cover? Even Fox News? Here's the video again if you missed it earlier.
FactCheck has confirmed the TV station's
investigative report. The entry states that Democrats are resisting a bill that
would fix the problem, and it includes a short video of Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga)
who tries to explain why. He's chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee.
• • • • •
This guy can't seem to catch a break. According
to this clip we received from Leroy, the guy with the somewhat familiar face was
just told that Scott Walker won the Wisconsin recall election. Bummer. (4
• • • • •
This is Uncle Drew. If you see him on a
neighborhood basketball court mixing it up with a bunch of young studs, don't
bet against him. Have a look at this clip we received from Bill Leavy and you'll
see why. Don't miss the end. (5 Mins.)
• • • • •
Ever the animal lover, here's a video clip from
Sharon Lansdowne that proves size does in fact matter. (4 Mins.)
• • • • •
Don't miss this slo-mo footage of a Northern
Goshawk being put through her paces in a lab. Have a look and you may be
amazed. (2 Mins.)
• • • • •
Probably not as funny in France as it is elsewhere...
Angela Merkel arrives at Passport Control at the Paris airport.
"Nationality?" asks the immigration officer.
here for a few days."
• • • • •
For some reason it seems a little strange for our
burly PBA president to use a term like "cute," but that's how Dave Wysuph
described this ad featuring a mouse and a baited mouse trap. (1:30 Mins.)
• • • • •
Have any of you golfers played the Coeur d'Alene
Resort Golf Course that has a movable floating green? Looks like fun if you've
got enough balls. (6 Mins.)
• • • • •
If you are going to own a personal shotgun, why
bother with something puny like the Remingrton 870s we used to carry in our
patrol cars when you can have a shotgun like this one that Dirk Parsons brought
to our attention? (43 Secs.)
• • • • •
After watching this ad for Isenbeck beer, Mean
Dean (Janavice) said he is miffed that his parents encouraged him to play hockey
as he was growing up. That the ad is not in English is of no consequence. (1
• • • • •
Can Gus the bulldog successfully pull his wading
pool into the house? You'll have to watch this short clip sent in by Phil Norton
for the answer. (1 Min.)
• • • • •
Meet Jesse, the Jack Russell Terrier that earns
its keep around the house. Alice Murphy says she wants him. Have a look and you
may want him, too.
• • • • •
had the best seat in the house for the transit of Venus earlier this week. Have
a look at this rare video footage because it won't happen again in our lifetime.
• • • • •
This is an unusual political ad by the Catholic
Church that has so far received over 1.5 million views. Whether it is
controversial or not is in the eye of the beholder. (3 Mins.)
• • • • •
For our final item this week, yesterday, June
6th, marked the 68th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion. Ask those under the
age of 30 about D-Day today and the vast majority wouldn't have any idea what
you were talking about. Unfortunately, there was hardly a peep from the media to
tell them about the historical WWII event that turned the war around. For those
who do remember, here is historical footage from the Ronald Reagan Presidential
Library of the late president commemorating the then-40th anniversary of the
Normandy Invasion. Sure wish there was someone like him running for president
today. (13 Mins.)
• • • • •
of the Week
It's not every day you see a WalMart shopper smiling at everyone behind her...
|This is the message box, using the