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The Farsider

June 7
, 2012


Bill Mattos, Editor and Publisher <bilmat@comcast.net>
Leroy Pyle, Webmaster <leroypyle@sjpba.net>


The Farsider is an independent publication that is not affiliated with the San Jose Police Benevolent
Assn. The SJPBA has allowed the Farsider to be included on its web site solely for the convenience
of the retired San Jose Police community. The content of this newsletter does not represent or reflect
the views of the San Jose Police Benevolent Association's Board of Directors or its membership.



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 lawsuit...

Labor Sues Over Measure B

By John Woolfolk
Mercury 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 decades.”

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 legality.

“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 compensation.

“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 fiscal emergency.

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 vote. Wow.

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

Letter 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

Letter 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

By Columnist Scott Herhold
Mercury 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 Measure B.

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 Liccardo.

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 law school.

The city

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 Brown.

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.



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 the area...


Victory for Pension Reform

—San Jose voters overwhelmingly approve city initiative that could have nationwide influence—

By John Woolfolk
Mercury 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 hires.

“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 back.”

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.

Reed’s Measure 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 year after.

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.



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

By Michael Corkery
Wall 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.
The Vote

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.

San 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 state.

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 drastic cuts.

"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 Systems Inc..

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 workers.

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.

Wilma Hashii 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 job.

"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 Fighters.

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 years.

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.

Police and 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 median.

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 contractors.

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.

A view of San Jose as seen from
Mayor Chuck Reed's offices.

"Some people 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 recently.

"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 the Farsider.

(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 they do.


• • • • •

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

Mercury 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 state system.

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 plan.

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 Braunstein.

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 felony counts....”

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.

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For 'balance,' there was this letter to the editor that the paper chose to run next to the editorial above...

Letter to the Editor

Mercury News — Sunday, June 3rd

Don’t Break 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 me.

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




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 this link:

For the most recent releases, click here:



May 31st

Wild Bill,

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 another opportunity


To read an uplifting news article about the vets' arrival at Reagan International, click on the link below...



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May 31st

Hi Bill,
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 Walmart shopper.

Steve Weesner

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.



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June 4th

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.


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June 6th


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.


(Gummow) <boca2@roadrunner.com>

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 that matter).

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" <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6lEGaIk1OU> (7 Mins.)
Second Clip, "They'll Call this Video Racist" <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1h5qS6VVIo> (3 Mins.)

Comments about either or both of the videos for next week's Mail Call column are welcome.

To access the pjtv website that Bill Whittle appears on, click on the link below:



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June 7th


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?

Thank you,

Jim Giambrone

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 soup recipe.")


Before jumping into the cabbage soup diet with two feet, however, you should first read this review about it by clicking on the link below.




The facts behind the legends, information and
misinformation that has or may show up in your inbox

New Articles

• Fraudsters claim a government grant will pay your utility bill in full for one month.

• Does a virus known as LQP-79 produce "zombie-like" cannibalistic behavior in humans?

• Do numeric codes used on produce stickers identify how those food products were grown?

• Another purported photograph of shooting victim Trayvon Martin is circulating.

• 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.

Fraud Afoot

• Visit our Top Scams page for a list of schemes commonly used by crooks to separate the unwary from their money.



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 instead.

• • • • •

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. (7 Mins.)


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. (2 Mins.)



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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 Mins.)


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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.)


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Ever the animal lover, here's a video clip from Sharon Lansdowne that proves size does in fact matter. (4 Mins.)


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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.)


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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.

"German," she replies.


"No, just here for a few days."

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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.)



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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.)



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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.)


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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 Min.)



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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.)


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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.

Part 1: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9Fyey4D5hg> (3 Mins.)

Part 2: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgBKhj48VDY> (4 Mins.)


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NASA 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. (3 Mins.)


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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.)


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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.)



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Pic of the Week


It's not every day you see a WalMart shopper smiling at everyone behind her...



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