Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Let the Character Assassination of San Jose's Mayor Begin

Yesterday we wrote that Mayor Chuck Reed was about to gain national scrutiny for his tough approach to reining in San Jose's mounting pension obligations. Well, as reported in the San Jose Mercury News today, we were not mistaken: the local unions denouncing Reed have now been joined by labor leaders at the state level and at least one Democratic State Senator from Wisconsin.

According to Spencer Coggs, who was one of the Democrats who fled Wisconsin to prevent Governor Scott Walker from implementing a measure to reduce collective bargaining rights, Reed's proposal "pushes the nuclear option." Following that awkward mixed metaphor, Coggs went on to say, "Your mayor is saying 'My way or the highway.' He's trying to make public employees the scapegoat for the city's financial problems." We're not clear on why that makes it completely fine to ignore those problems, but okay. He was joined by Art Pulaski, chief officer of the California Labor Federation, who opined, "I'm here because we're shocked at the conditions the mayor of San Jose is trying to create." Both men spoke at a rally organized by the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council.

Once again, let's put all of this into perspective. San Jose has a staggering budget deficit of $115 million, and currently spends half its budget on paying retiree benefits. Under any realistic scenario, those pension obligations are expected to mushroom in the next few years, to the point that the city would have to drastically scale back its workforce and eliminate many services altogether. The impetus for Reed's proposal is to prevent San Jose from becoming a retirement fund that happens to have a City Hall, and which would be pretty unlivable for its working population. The unions' response to this, essentially, is denial. They don't accept that the current crisis is anything more than the result of a temporary market downturn. Which makes sense, of course: if you're collecting a six-figure salary and can expect to collect even more from your pension once you're 50, we can't imagine why you'd find a problem with the current state of affairs. We'll also reiterate that Reed is a Democrat; hence, this is not a question of partisan politics.


  1. 90 % city workers don't make a six-figure salary. I didn't see any cuts to the Mayor's perks, let alone the City Manager ($400k/yr).

  2. You won't hear us complaining if the Mayor and City Manager cut their pay cut to $1/year. But that still wouldn't save San Jose's budget.