Progress: San Jose puts public pension reform before voters 

San Jose, Cailf. is taking a major step to tackle public pension reform — the city council has put an initiative before voters in November that would scale back obligations for city employees:

The second proposal would remove language in the city charter that spells out at what age employees can retire and how much the city must pay into their pensions. Instead, the council is asking for the flexibility to determine those numbers. The proposal would not affect current employees and retirees but seeks a second-tier pension plan for workers hired after 2011.

Opposition to both measures included Nora Campos, Kansen Chu, Ash Kalra and Nancy Pyle, four of the council’s labor allies. Together with union representatives, they were unable to make any headway.

“A decision of this importance demands an open and inclusive process,” Randy Sekany, president of San Jose Fire Fighters ?Local 230, told the council. “It’s not about economics, it’s about public safety.”

But an anemic economy and widespread unemployment have generated growing animosity toward generous public employee union salaries and benefits.

As Jerry Mungai, president of the Almaden Valley Community Association, told the union members in the audience: “If you don’t like your job, you’re free to leave for another.”

The city council also put forth a measure that would reign in union arbitrators to keep costs down. Many states are underwater big time on their public employee obligations — California taxpayers owe over $500 billion, more than the gross national product of Saudi Arabia. With rapidly deteriorating budgets and new laws in Missouri and New Jersey requiring public employees to start paying for their pension funds, the tide of public opinion is turning quickly on this issue.

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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