2011 Community Budget Survey Results

As you may remember, two weeks ago I shared that the City of San Jose contracted with a public opinion organization to conduct a telephone poll of 1,000 residents. These residents were asked survey questions from Jan. 13 to Jan .17. In comparison to my web survey, the City did a “scientific survey” which means they called men and women from all council districts, different age groups, ethnically diverse, homeowners and renters who are likely voters. The company responsible is instructed to get a group that mirrors San Jose.

Here are the results from the 2011 City of San Jose budget web survey.

As I have shared in previous blogs, the surveys that I conduct are not scientific. They can be taken by anyone, and passed on through e-mail, therefore allowing anyone who has access to a computer to take it. The only control is the the survey can only be completed once on a computer. So, for example, if you have one computer in your household and one person completed the survey on that computer, then the survey can not be taken again.

Sharing surveys, especially those that are about budgets and policy, is commonplace.  Each week I receive several emails offline by actual residents about my blog. Residents shared they like to see what questions are being asked on the phone survey and to consider the choices themselves.

I edited the survey so that it did not have so much “city speak” in it. I also deleted and added to the format. For example, I omitted a question that I found confusing regarding transferring $1.5 million from municipal water to the general fund. I also modified a word that read “non-profits” and I wrote “charity/non-profits” since I have found people are unclear when they only hear non-profit.

On questions about retirement age, the survey did not offer the current retirement age as an option so I added that. Plus I added the Social Security retirement age.  The library tax question did not share the existing parcel tax cost so I added that. On the question of reducing the number of firefighters assigned to “certain” stations—“certain” stations translates to the least calls for service so I swapped in word “slowest.” On ending overtime pay for fire battalion chiefs and police captains, I found most people don’t know what these ranks mean, so I swapped out the titles and put in the word “management” as they are managers. My goal was to make the survey east to understand for residents.

With all this said, can I or you or anyone else for that matter learn anything from the survey? Can we extrapolate anything from it? Well, that will be up to you to judge.  Here are some results from the scientific poll:

80 percent support giving raises based on performance rather than seniority.

79 percent support slowing the pace of City employee pay raises.

79 percent support making decision on layoffs based on employee performance
rather than seniority.

73 percent support eliminating the traditional pension plan and replacing it with a 401K.

73 percent support limiting the amount of union business that union leaders can conduct while on City time.

69 percent support lowering the maximum level of annual pension benefits employees can receive.

65 percent support ending the policy of paying employees for a portion of their unused sick leave.

67 percent feel it is acceptable to reduce days and hours of operation at community centers.

61 percent feel it is acceptable to reduce the number of days the libraries are open.

The Mayor held the 5th Annual Neighborhood Association and Youth Commission Priority Session this past Saturday. Great turnout but unfortunately not equal attendance from all parts of San Jose. This year Innovation Games donated their services (free) which consisted of 25 collaborators to facilitate each table into discussing and making choices about the budget. 

Participants were given play money and trade offs the Council will have to make.  To eliminate a program, 100 percent of the table participants had to agree. To continue funding a program participants had allocate their play money—however it required buy-in from other table participants. City department heads were in attendance to answer specific questions from participants. Nearly all of the comments I heard Saturday were favorable from participants. Congratulations to our Mayor for incorporating more public input on the budget.

61 Comments

  1. I don’t know what survey you got your numbers from. The survey link you posted above does not reflect the percentage of support you cite in your article. Either you are a liar or you are misrepresenting the survey by way of flawed math. Which is it. I find your assumptions of a city of 1 million people by only polling 1,000 disgusting, immoral and offensive.

      • Officer Z –

        Statistics 101. See site: http://www.surveysystem.com/sscalc.htm and do the math. For a population of 1,000,000 persons, with a 95% confidence level, and margin of error of plus or minus 4%, you need a minimum of 600 respondents.

        The survey has more than enough respondents to be considered valid.

        Uneducated opinions only breed more uneducated opinions. Please do your homework before postings. Thanks.

        • SJ CITIZEN,
          what kind of survey allows you to change the questions during the survey.  SJ CITIZEN DID you read any of questions… it was a joke…. Just like the guy who wrote it..

  2. You put out a survey that you have to change the wording as the survey is being taken. That is just ,,,,  looking for a word so this will still be posted. But what level of education do you have. The survey of 1000 with changing questions is flawed.  And as you said, people did not understand some of terms. This is why you are the elected official, so we do not have to learn everything about city government. You tell us what should be done, not put out a survey to get the answers you want so you can say the people want this.  If the people knew some of the idiotic ideas you come up with they would vote for recall.  Your integrity is again called into question, for this and pass behavior!!!

  3. Well, having read the survey, all this does is reinforce the notion that, if you give the survey sample insufficient information to make an informed decisions, engage in a campaign of disinformation and set about maligning your work force (as was done with the Yes on V/W campaign), and then create a list of simplistic answers, you’ll end up getting most – if not all – of the answers you (personally as well as much of the city council) want to get.

    Once again, you have lent credence to Samuel Clemens’ assertion that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and stastics. But hey, congratulations; you got the validation you wanted.

  4. 27.7%  (209) thought that 75% was an acceptable pension for police and fire.
    That choice got the highest percentage of all choices.  That is interesting based on the campaign of misinformation and disinformation waged by the mayor, city manager council and MercuryNews.  The fact is that the average pension earned by our police and firefighters is less than 75% (72.3% if I remember correctly).

    • That is an interesting statistic.  So at 3% a year and a retirement age of 50, most don’t max out but do choose to retire early with less benefits?  Would it be better to raise the age or lower the vesting rate?

      Are disability retirements common?  Do they add to the amount drawn from the pension fund or does the disability money come from a different pool (state workers comp?)

      Do many choose to immediately draw pensions even when leaving for another job with a CalPERS agency?

      I actually think its okay for a retired person to make significantly less than a working adult.  I’m not talking poverty retirement like Social Security leaves some people with, but with some planning, expenses should be down (children grown and out of the house, house either paid off or able to be sold and downsized.)  Obviously this is an emotional entitlement issue…but lets talk about social values and cost/benefits for the whole community rather than just arguing about our own pocketbooks.

      Seems like this whole pension mania started small as a notion to create an incentive for long-serving staff to retire and make room for folks returning from WW2 to get jobs.  I’ll be happy to see the baby boomers and their selfish culture clock out, but I’m not going to be happy working into my 70’s to pay for their extravagence and greed.

      • @ Blair Whitney,  it’s great that you can see the other side,,,, Mayor and Mr. OliverIo would have us believe that every cop or fire men hiRed works for 30 years…. And gets this big 90% reality is very few make it 30 years.  And to make it 30 years without some type of disability is even more un heard of….So ask why don’t those cops work a few more years and get that big 30 year pension…?  It’s simple most are to beat up physically and mentally, plus being attacked by your city leaders that you on gravy train, plus one mistake could make you front line news for the chief and media to attack, plus having the mercury news accuse you of brutality, profiling, etc… When all cops just want to make a difference in their communities.  That would be a social value would you not agree? The constant threat of having someone beat you or kill you, or your integrity attacked, has cops leave much sooner then 30 years. Those with 18-20 years are already counting the days to leave with 25.  It just not worth it.

        Citizens have no idea what a beat officer does or fears. Even while at Starbucks officers have been attacked. Or for killed while sitting at coffee tale near Seattle.  Or most recently a man walks into the Detroit police station and shoots 4 cops.

        I don’t think people will agree on your social values.  My social value is anyone that protected my family and I by risking their own life needs to now step back and relax. He paid a huge debt to society by seeing things no one should have to see.

        Please watch the video link posted on this blog to see what MNBC says.

  5. Officer Z –

    Government employees years ago had 50-60% pension plans

    Labor politically organized and elected their candidates to Legislature, Governor and City Councils who after labor lobbying
    – changed pensions to 75% and 90% pensions
    – made pensions retroactive
    – continue with early retirements even though average lifespan has been increasing to 78.3   Males   75.6 Females 80.8
    – San Jose added 3% automatic pension increase each year doubling pension in 25 years so retiree at 55 receiving $100,000 would at 80 receive $200,000 making pension and budget deficit larger

    in mid 50’s result in billions unfunded taxpayer obligations

    No private pension plan equals government employee pensions and many residents feel government early age pensions at 75 -90% are grossly unfair and most non government employees will be working into their late 60’s to 70’s ( 10-15 or more years to have a small retirement

    California has 6th highest taxes before recent increases and is losing businesses, jobs and tax revenue to lower cost states and countries with no business recovery for at least 5 years  

    Higher taxes and less services to pay for pensions will only make business, residents leave and increase jobs in other states not California

    San Jose has and will cut many services and employees to pay very early age retiree high pensions

    The above summary has been extensively discussed in blogs and newspapers so links supporting summary should not be necessary but if you disagree, can be supplied

    So what are your workable solutions to budget and pension problems ? 

    It seems like labor’s solution is to rely on their labor elected politicians, stall any solutions and hope economy recover rather that provide any solutions

    Supporting links would be appreciated if you disagree with my comments or want to make points in response that are not well known Thanks

  6. Pier,
    Your survery was so loaded to the point of being meaningless. Where was the question asking if council members should be allowed to work for another employers while receiving full time pay and benefits from San Jose? Should council members be paid a stipend rather than a salary as with all other cities in Silicon Valley? Where were the questions asking if residents felt the city council was doing an adequate job of dealing with the explosion of illegal marijuana stores, the dismantling of a once great police department, expediting the sale of 3 unused golf courses, the total mismanagement of the convention center and “Team San Jose”, the fiscal prudence of spending $50 million for land for a baseball stadium, the continued push for affordable housing while giving the finger to bringing business to San Jose, the explosion of gang violence and extremely violent crimes, a computer system at the SJPD which is falling apart?

    You have totally demoralized and demonized almost every city worker. In watching you at city meetings I find your behavior pompous, arrogant and swarmy. You do seem like a tech genius though. You seem very qualified to deal with widgets.

  7. @ Mr. NO NAME … when you post a comment it says name and email. Not to put title… What are city employee budget solutions. So since you missed that pretty ez part you missed the part that we taking about the survey.  However it is clear that the result you wanted in the survey is lower pensions correct?

    • Private industry is in the game to make money morally and ethically. Government; if it is “profiting” from the taxpayers, is immoral because it is the taxpayers money and not the governments.  The best scenario a government could fund it self in is to neither owe nor be owed. In other words have a balanced budget something this crop of council persons has decided to address. Something that the majority of current council failed to do in the past like councils for many years have failed to address.

      The mayor and council have no idea how big the deficit is that THEY CREATED. Yes folks the mayor and council created the deficit NOT THE POLICE NOT THE FIRE DEPARTMENT NOT ANYBODY’S UNION, only the council is responsible because THEY approved every budget every year that gave us the $70bil deficit projected in Nov-10 ; $90bil protected in Dec-10 and the current projected deficit of $110bil.

      • Interesting read. 
        However, some questions or doubts pop out that I would like to see them address.
        1.) No discussion or evident consideration of retirement age: paid retirement at 55 or even 50 is hard to digest.
        2.) Discussion of education speaks only of totals.  It should at least attempt to segregate type of work.  That 34% of private sector employees have only high school or lower education vs. 16% of public, etc. might well be explained by the job types populatioons… and to the extent that lower educ group is a higher % of total, means that, on up, higher education in private is a lower percent.  Are we talking apples to apples?
        3.) Public employees seem to (I know I have only anecdotes) leave with a large payoff for accumulated sick & vacation pay.  I know only anecdotal, but I cannot accumulate sick leave nor be paid for that not taken.  There are also restrictions on vacation accumulation and significant pressure to use it and not have it as a future liability of the company.  Are these taken into consideration?
        4.) Overtime.  Is that included?  It is amazing to see govt official earning high salaries yet still be able to earn overtime.  Primarily that is in Public safety, but I question whether that overtime is necessary for high level management to come out and “observe” their subordinates whom should be able to conduct necessary assignments on their own or with lower level supervision.
        5.) Why don’t government employees pay for & use Social Security program?
        —Lastly, though argumentative, that a government organization (which CWED appears to be) or a consultant paid by them, comes up with the answer they do is not surprising.

        • Private sector:

          I agree that one needs to take into account the source of the study.  This study doesn’t appear to favor private or public.  It appears to have quite a bit a factual numbers.  IMO.

          In regards to your questions:

          #1:  I would have like to see the study address the 50-55 retirement issue.  I can say that on face value this is appears to be generous and it is.  However, a majority who retire at 50-55 will not obtain their maximum retirement payout.  (That is to say they will not have 30 years of service).  If they want to retire with full payout then they will have to work more into their 55-60’s, I would guess.

          #2: I’m not too sure I completely understand your comment.  What I think you are saying is that private sector jobs might contain a higher concentration of higher education jobs compared to the public sector.  Thus not having comparable data.  I’m not sure about this, but I would say that I think we would be surprised how many public sector employees have degrees (bachelors, master and doctorates).  This point blends into my point in #1.  Some of these people are getting degrees, going into public jobs later in life (because they have been in school) and retiring later or not getting maximum retirement. Great majorities don’t start at 21 and retire at 51 with full compensation.  Especially into today’s world.

          #3:  The study touches on this at the bottom of page 8.  Private sector gets more vacation and public get more sick time compensation.  I believe this will be tailored down in the future if it hasn’t already.  Private sector gets bonuses (even in this economy) and in the day stock options were the big money maker.  I believe the sick time accumulation is like the stock option alternative for the public employee.  The public employee chose this route and they deserve to be able to cash in on their “stock options” when they retire.  I think that any change in these types of compensation should be going forward and not changed retroactive.  Again IMO.

          #4:  On page 9 there is chart showing Supplemental pay, which includes bonuses and overtime.  If I’m reading that correctly, the private sector gets much more than the public sector. Having said that, I believe that the public sector overtime was mismanaged and is currently managed much more efficiently.  I think that data will show that overtime across the board in San Jose has been cut dramatically.  As far as Public Safety is concerned, overtime is necessary at times.  Public safety is a 24hr way of life.  As far as the police, officers will need to get paid for the overtime to follow up on investigations.  The sooner the investigation ends the sooner the crime ends.  The sergeant needs to supervises.  However, the higher up the command chain, I believe the less the overtime needs to be. 

          #5:  I really don’t know enough about that topic.  But in my own opinion what is the difference.  Some say that social security won’t be around.  Who would want that?  Some say that the Calpers and the like doesn’t have enough to pay out. 

          Anyways. There you have it.

  8. ” The fact is that the average pension earned by our police and firefighters is less than 75% (72.3% if I remember correctly). ”

    When the term ” average pension ” is used that for all retirees – those that retired years ago at lower pension payouts and recent higher 90% pension percentages

    The public’s opinion of politicians is at all time low and now public opinion of government employees is month by month declining as highly paid public employees are unwilling to make sacrifices to balance state and city budgets

    There is many misleading pension cost statements on both sides of public pension debate

    So without pension fixes to high percentage payout retires in the next 5 years the average city pension will increase towards 80-85%

    You apparently did not count San Jose outrageous 3% automatic annual pension increase so that today’s 75% pension becomes 77.25% next year, then 79.56% , then 81.95% etc

    which is another example of grossly misleading the public about true costs of government employee excessive pension costs paid mostly by taxpayers

    • $100,000 pension take home pay is larger since no union dues or health care when retired.
      Year 2 would be with 3% COLA is $103,000.
      Year 3 $106,090
      Year 4 $109,297
      Year 5 $112,576
      Year 6 $115,953
      Year 7 $119,431
      Year 8 $123,013
      Year 9 $126,703
      Year 10 $130,504
      Year 11 $134,415
      Year 12 $138,448
      Year 13 $142,602
      Year 14 $146,880
      Year 15 $151,263

      Now add on another 15-20 years.
      Average life expectancy including public safety retirements is mid 80’s. Source: CalPERS

      Learn more at
      http://www.pensiontsunami.com/

        • @Phil Carac
          Maybe you should look at this 3% for your company. And it’s not ridiculous ….the city offered it in lieu of any pay raise for 3 years.  This is only for police and fire who don’t have a good track record of living long lives after retirement.  Both occupations are pretty beat up when they retire.  In fact most never get to 30 years. They get hurt. Ask Councilmen Constant, he will agree with that. And another dumb idea from Mr. Oliverio is to make cops fire work into their 60’s …haha are you kidding me… Does anyone want a 60 year old man or woman coming to their aid when some guy goes postal at their work?

        • I do not think you understand that my company or other companies do not guarantee increases with shareholders picking up the bill since we do not have pensions.

          We will not receive a 3% increase every year in our 401K when we retire.  We instead will drain what we have saved. 3% compounded every year is too much.

        • @ Blair Whitney a good point.  The city had a partial program of keeping some of our broken officers In desk jobs… They plan to end that.  Those that hit 30 years would make excellent trainers … But then what kind of pension do they get with 40 years?

        • Could a physically limited veteran firefighter or police officer still contribute meaningfully in other areas of the city?  Perhaps running a community center or working in code enforcement?  Maybe the 50 year thing could be the age limit for patrol.  But after hitting this limit, public safety personnel could train up to and transfer to other city jobs until a more reasonable retirement age.  I wonder what the statistics are for 49 1/2 years olds suddenly developing disabilities that require early retirement timed perfectly to get both paychecks rolling in soon.

          Maybe that wouldn’t make sense with the pay scales, paying someone 100,000 to do something that someone would do for 58,000 fresh out of school, but it seems like that early retirement and longer lifespans is a real budget killer.

  9. Pier,
    Here is another question I wish you would have asked; “Did you know that our police officers pay over 22% of their own paycheck into their retirement system, which is the highest contribution percentage of any police department in the United States?”

    • > “Did you know that our police officers pay over 22% of their own paycheck into their retirement system, which is the highest contribution percentage of any police department in the United States?”

      Whoop Dee Doo!

      What matters is: “What is the cost of the total employee compensation package to the city.”

      Unions can play accounting games and hide real income by offloading costs into “employer paid benefits”, and make the take-home pay appear small, or the benefits contribution appear large.

      • Liberty,
        There is no smoke and mirrors involved. It is 22% of an officer’s gross pay. That is a pretty significant amount, especially since officers in every other department are paying anywhere from 0-5%.

        • Steve:

          It’s smoke and mirrors.

          What matters is: “What is the cost of the total employee compensation package to the city.”

          The union could negotiate that NONE of an officer’s gross pay goes to retirement.  Just reduce current gross pay by 22%, and increase the city’s contribution to retirement by the same amount.

          It’s just an accounting shell game.

          Stop trying to snow us.

    • The reason for that is the ratios specified in the city charter.  When the pension bomb started to explode I looked all over the country for “best practices” and actually saw hope of a new hybrid solution in SJ, with pensions retained based on the beneficiary paying more of the true cost.

      The moment passes, however, and we’ve chosen second tier pensions for new hires as the fix, which is a fraud that will help in 10-30 years, but basically just amounts to kicking the can down the road like all the other councils in the past have done.  Too bad, sounds good, but its neither fair/equitable nor does it represent a real sustainable solution to the problem of the independent SJ pension fund being a giant Ponzi scheme.

  10. William Smoke

    ” However it is clear that the result you wanted in the survey is lower pensions correct? “

    No, not if there are other workable solutions to budget and pension cost acceptable to employees and voters

    Most of government budget deficits so far have been blamed on high pension costs for early retirees and high pension payouts

    Are there other costs that if stopped would reduce budget and pension deficit? 

    So far there does not seem to be any suggested cost reductions or solutions by proposed by government employees except raise taxes and less services if high employee pension continue in weak state and city economy

    Some government employee on SJI have said public doesn’t know what they are talking about in making budget or city service reduction suggestions We hear the same from politicians and city manager

    So if there are alternative solutions proposed by employees then explained them to public or public is left with politician’s proposed solutions and city employees saying politicians are wrong – Not helpful to understanding issues or solutions

    Doing the same thing, the same way has resulted in no solutions, only angry comments and blame game with public tired of both politicians and employees fighting, more taxes and less services  

    Are there different solutions that are acceptable to employees, voters and taxpayers ?

    Why should any voter vote to take money out of their pocket for higher taxes while receiving less services when the only stated cause of both is government employee’s political control of government granted them market or higher salaries, mid 50’s retirement with very high pensions and benefits ? 

    Answer that question so majority of voters agree and you will have a solution

  11. William Smoke – not his / her real name – probably fire fighter get it ” smoke “

    Many blogs have title, name and emails but San Jose Inside has many people use a single anonymous name like your “William Smoke” that are meaningless

    Some people use their own name, some use many different anonymous names not their own and some prefer to use titles to show that their comments are rather than meaningless names

    By the way, Mr Smoke – you did not answer the questions – what no answers or solutions, only snarky comments

    • @Some Prefer Titles is Anonymous

      I was pointing out that if you cannot follow the directions on a simple blog, you obviously missed that there was more to Oliverio survey then pensions.

      And I’m using my real name and not hiding behind Anonymous like you.

      Both police and fire and other city unionsnhave list numerous ways for the city to save money…. Oliverio like you want to focus on employee benefits

      William Smoke
      33 years in city government

  12. William Smoke

    No, I did not miss Oliverio’s survey had more than pensions questions

    I don’t necessarily want to focus on pensions but based on available budget information seems to be the largest city budget problem with $3.5 billion unfunded

    Are you aware of any other $ billion + unfunded obligations or large costs that can be cut, or other solutions?

    To ignore $3.5 billions in unfunded pension or other obligations, take no action or hope pension problem will solve itself as occurred for years would be very foolish but then again City Hall has made many foolish political and financial decisions  

    The solutions offered to date by labor are either not sufficient, past cost already spent, one time costs, push budget problems into the future, borrow more bond money or raise already high taxes higher repeating past Council mistakes that drive more jobs, businesses and tax revenue out of San Jose

    As 33 year city employee, you may know more that public about city budgets, costs and possible budget and pension solutions  

    Maybe not or are you reluctant to tell us your budget solutions since you are using your real name  

    You can always post an anonymous comments, s many city employees do, to avoid City Hall harassment, negative actions or being put on layoff list as has happened

  13. thanks Dr. Beeper, who ever you are you must still work for city and know any anti city talk will be not tolerated by management,,,,,and your career in jeopardy for speaking out,,,,,
    Never said 33 years with SJ just 33 years in city government and this Mayor and city manager along with Oliverio, Constant, Liccardo are the worse I’ve seen. They lie by misinformation.  Oliverio knows my name because I’ve been calling him out to answer for the theft of signs, that the city swept under the rug. This incident is extremely noteworthy as if the city can cover a theft by a peer what else can they cover up. I’ve asked for a city attorney investigation.  If anyone want to see the city’s tactics watch this you tube video from MNBC,,,,,
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/40902120#40902120

    • And for those that watched the MNBC video. The Mercury printed this today:

      Who would have thought that a dry and dense subject that comes with terms like “actuarial studies” and “unfunded liabilities” would be such a sizzling topic?

      Public pensions. Everybody has an opinion, but, I fear, very few of the facts. Or rather, some selected facts and not others. And a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
      A recent front-page article in this newspaper looks at city employee benefits throughout San Mateo County and concludes: Costs of employee benefits tripled over the past decade. Serious-looking pie charts reiterated the premise. But had the investigation covered a broader range of years, the headline would have said: Cities are paying the same amount for pensions as a percentage of payroll as they were in 1980.
      Before I explain why that is, I’d like to use this analogy: If you were looking for data on the safety of cross-Atlantic travel, and you looked only at 1912, you would never set foot on an ocean liner. That was the year the Titanic sank.
      Looking at pension costs from just the past decade is exactly like that: That was the decade our economy went from boom to bust, big time. In the terrific years that stock portfolios got fatter and fatter—early 1990s—local governments took a pension holiday. Rising stock values meant cities didn’t have to pay into the pension system because the funds went up so dramatically. At the same time that employers had their “holiday,” it should be noted, workers continued to pay into their future retirement funds.
      The responsible thing would have been to take that money and store it for a rainy day. But many cities didn’t go that route, opting instead to fund high-priced consultants and special projects. Then came the 100-year flood.
      We can learn from the past, but what do we do now about the pension problem?
      San Mateo County can start with reforming the system more equitably, by looking at the top. Let’s start with managers, all of whom receive a whopping 75 percent discount on their contribution to their pension plans, at taxpayers’ expense. This is a perk not extended to general employees, who pay their full share.
      And why do we allow travel expenses and cash-out paid leave to be counted as salary, further fattening managers’ pension paychecks? Maybe an investigative newspaper would ask these tough questions, hold up our public policies to real scrutiny, and maybe, just maybe, working families will have a fighting chance in a fairer economy.
      Wall Street and loose banking regulations brought our economy to the brink of collapse, but it’s just too easy to target public employees who maintain our roads and answer our 911 calls. From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent. And yet today, 1 in 6 Americans has no job and every 20 seconds another working family files for bankruptcy.
      Let’s fix our system. Let’s start at the top.

      CYNTHIA HOWARD, legal office specialist, is Chapter President of SEIU Local 521 San Mateo County. She wrote this article for this newspaper.
      OR
      Keep believing the Mayor and Figone.

    • Good job Will, Oliverio needs to be called out. I have already left 2 posts on this subject calling him out and he had blocked them out. Im sure he will block this also!

      • “Bugsy,”

        I sent a personal note to the email address you used when you registered to post comments here.

        Pierluigi has no say in what comments get approved for posting. I am the editor of San Jose Inside and the comments moderator. I spike comments that I judge to be off topic or uncivil.

        As I said in the email to your fake address: If you want to resubmit your comments about police/fire/council pensions, that’s fair game and will get posted to the site.

        • While I agree that “uncivil” posts should be deleted, I would caution you to keep a wide latitude for what you would consider to be “off-topic”. Since the determination of what could be considered “off-topic” would vary from person to person. I would, if I were you, be very wary of making a personal statement of posts by blocking them based on your opinion alone.

          My two cents obviously.

  14. Mr. No Name, Your very paranoid.  Why would you stay working for the City 33 yrs? that’s insane.  You don’t make anymore money staying that long and have topped out your retirement and are working for about $5 an hour after 30 years.  Is this really Dan Fenton?  Because it sure sounds like him.  By the way this is my real name but have never worked for the City of San Jose.

    • I worked with Will Smoke and that is his true name and he is a straight shooting hard working person. So let’s look at the facts.  Why is there media explosion about police and fire pensions?  All other city employees have similar pensions.  That’s right it would be mean to pick on the city payroll clerk. What about our city counsel?  My understanding is they have a CalPers Pension plan. Why don’t they lead by example and give it up? Police and Fire are an escape goat.  The city wants to save money to put in their own politically or personally motivated projects, not what is best for the city.  You can argue the fact the San Jose PD is the LOWEST staffed department in the ENTIRE nation.  SJPD puts 22% into their benefit plans which is also one of if not the highest monetary contribution. This is not about public service this is about the mismanagement of the city elected officials. What kind of rational person will lay off police and fire in an economic downturn when the are already grossly/irresponsibly understaffed. The city too look no further then themselves for the mess they have gotten themselves into.  By the way go open another library. Lame

  15. Pier,
    I know one of your favorite doom and gloom tactics to pit the public against San Jose police officers and their pension plan was using the figure of how much it was worth a few years ago after the economic crash. Why not be fair and use the updated figure of how much it is worth after the stock market is now at it’s highest point in 2 1/2 years as it has gone up hundreds of millions of dollars.

  16. Mr. Smoke,

    I miss read Mr. No Names post and owe you an apology.  But 33 years that’s way too long to work for the City, and yes that is insane. 

    We have acquaintances who we share, so I know what you are saying.  I agree with your views on the City of San Jose “Circle of Trust” that is going on up on the 18th floor of City Hall. 

    The City of San Jose Mayor and Council ARE very CORRUPT.  I attend every Council meeting and am very tired of Mayor Greed and his Chia Pet Constant spouting untruths.  Constant needs to be investigated for Workers Comp. Disability Fraud.

    Mr. Smoke did you know Constant gets shots and meds to make him lose weight… That plan he is on cost the taxpayers $30K for 9 months of treatment.

    Triple dipping and taxpayer paid weight loss program.

    This guy has Armand Tiano beat,at least Tiano admitted he was wrong, the wrong guy is in prison…

    • I’ve seen city government people come and go. And these people will also go. But the city employees, are not only your librarians, and those who maintain the streets, but your neighbors, coaches, they go to your church.  City employees care about the city.  The Mayor and City Manager have vilified all employees.  Still goes on today.  New chief introduced and Figone says we have to repair damage with the people.  Well before she came to San Jose. San Jose was the safest city in US.  SJPD was a model police department for police all over the world.  Fig one and Reed gave a voice to 30 people who complain about everything. 

      Want to save money? Mr. no name. Cut the city council in half. 5 council instead of 10.  You can cut police and fire in half why not city government.  Get rid of city manager style of city government. DUMP Figone. Let Mayor and council decide. Save $$$

    • Frank,

      Hope you are well.
      I look for you in the audience each Council meeting for the last year but have not seen you, as often the chamber is empty. Next time please say hello and introduce yourself.

      • Pierluigi Oliverio,

        I’m there usually,unless I have better things to do that day, like Bingo,Checkers or taking a nap. I’m an old(Sicilian)guy, Korean War Vet.  I have seen you at the (SOS) functions.  Frank Mangione was one hell of a member for many years, I was sorry to hear of his passing last month.  Maybe you can make the Crab Feed?  I’ll be looking for you there…  Just don’t bring Dan Fenton. 

        Old Frank

    • did you know Constant gets shots and meds to make him lose weight…That plan he is on cost the taxpayers $30K for 9 months of treatment.

      It didn’t work, so that was a big waste of taxpayer’s money. I would think that if they looked deep down into that vast hole of wastefulness, they would find a LOT of money to help solve the budget crises. The easy target is the employee, instead of looking at all that they have done to cause the waste.

  17. “All other city employees have similar pensions.  That’s right it would be mean to pick on the city payroll clerk. What about our city counsel?  My understanding is they have a CalPers Pension plan.”

    Correction:  San Jose has 2 city managed not CalPers retirement plans and they are not the same   Police and Fire up to 90% at 30 years while other city employees 75% at 30 years Different pension Boards, plans, vesting by years and contributions

    “this is not about public service this is about the mismanagement of the city elected officials. What kind of rational person will lay off police and fire in an economic downturn when the are already grossly/irresponsibly understaffed. The city too look no further then themselves for the mess they have gotten themselves into. ”

    Agree: the harm they are doing to city will last years after they leave the sooner the better or don’t get reelected

    ” this Mayor and city manager along with Oliverio, Constant, Liccardo are the worse I’ve seen. They lie by misinformation. ” 

    Agree:  plus they misrepresent budget, spending and # layoffs and labor contract negotiation offers   Yea, but Oliverio, Constant, Liccardo want to run for Mayor or other political office and will brag about how they saved city budget

    “This incident is extremely noteworthy as if the city can cover a theft by a peer what else can they cover up. I’ve asked for a city attorney investigation. ”

    Agree: they are covering up much more that a thief of a few signs and don’t expect city attorney to do anything except help them No one seem willing to do the work to expose them and their hidden deals or

  18. Officer Z,

    I agree with your observations.  Yet it appears that some who “run” things always seem to view things differently than us seemingly “umedjumecated” fools that respond to these blogs. 

    The blog masters like to treat US as if we are school children, I’m surprised they don’t use a red ball point pen to point out grammatical errors. 

    Well I think you know what I’m going to say.  By doing the delete and censoring thing it mirrors the type of “lack of transparency” that the City says they have, Ha! 

    As I have said before, when I directed a question to the Mayor during a council meeting about where my tax money was going and waited at the podium for a response, the Mayor had the stones to say to me ” This is not a question and answer session… Thus censoring my request for an answer. 

    Eric, Please ease up on the delete key and please leave the sarcasm off official responses as the editor and moderator as it’s very unprofessional.

    Thanks,

    Old Frank Signing Off.

    Old Frank

  19. Thank you – CYNTHIA HOWARD

    Finally a factual answer that informs public and brings forth facts that the public who are unaware of what is going on except for what politicians and city administrators are not telling them

    “Public pensions. Everybody has an opinion, but, I fear, very few of the facts.”

    ” Cities are paying the same amount for pensions as a percentage of payroll as they were in 1980.”

    “That was the decade our economy went from boom to bust, big time. In the terrific years that stock portfolios got fatter and fatter—early 1990s—local governments took a pension holiday. Rising stock values meant cities didn’t have to pay into the pension system because the funds went up so dramatically. At the same time that employers had their “holiday,” it should be noted, workers continued to pay into their future retirement funds.”

    Proposed Solution: ” We can learn from the past, but what do we do now about the pension problem?

    San Mateo County can start with reforming the system more equitably, by looking at the top. Let’s start with managers, all of whom receive a whopping 75 percent discount on their contribution to their pension plans, at taxpayers’ expense. This is a perk not extended to general employees, who pay their full share.

    And why do we allow travel expenses and cash-out paid leave to be counted as salary, further fattening managers’ pension paychecks?

    ——- GO back and read my questions.——-  Not everyone who asks for factual answers and solutions is your enemy

    Come up with factual answers and reasonable solutions that public will accept where budget and pension cuts can be made ( hint: economic development, city admin staffing, ratio of managers to workers now workers reduced, Council & city management pay, pensions and numbers ) or city employees will continue to be beat up again and again by City Hall and Mercury

    PS ” Want to save money? Mr. no name. Cut the city council in half. 5 council instead of 10. ”

    NOT a good solution because (a) very little cost savings unlike cutting excess city management / consolidating 3-4 + departments would save many millions and b) legal minority representation issues like at large vs district elections

  20. Give it up, No Name whoever you are, nothing will change in San Jose  

    City government is controlled by dozen or so developers, ex politicians and wealthy insiders, bought and paid politicians, ex city government lobbyists and city / RDA managers who hide many millions given out each year from tax funded city / RDA piggy bank with no accountability

    Community either doesn’t care, gave up or not bright enough to get facts, and organize to throw out corrupt insiders

  21. Pier,
    The time has come for a part time city council and mayor. The time has come to get rid of bloated council members salaries and staffs. The time has come for the council members and mayor to serve out of a sense of duty and a stipend like all the surrounding cities. Are you willing to put this forth with the mayor and city council members? If not, I really hope there is a grass roots effort to get something on the ballot.

    • They are already part time. They get a full time salary for that part time work. What needs to be done is a call for them to be paid part time wages for part time work. I’m assuming that the reason their senior assistants have a top step salary of $93K, is because they have to be there and handle things when the council member is absent. I’m thinking the assistant’s $93K salary is more than the council member’s salary, which I thought to be $86K, but I may be mistaken. Something to look into.

  22. The bottom line in this pension debate is that there won’t be a bottom line or any reasonable agreement.  Those in the private sector suffering will never ever accept that public sector employees earned what they presently have.  Private sector people will bitch and moan non-stop until the politicians slash and burn their way through the public pension system.  Then, when times improve, the whole subject will be long forgotten.

    The economy will rebound, private sector people will start making money again, perks will come back, stocks will go up, and all of a sudden public pensions will be of no interest to anyone.  Well, except the public employees who are now back behind the curve once again.  The drastic measures used now to curb costs will put public sector employees dramatically behind the private sector as was the case several years ago. 

    Unions will once again fight hard to get their cities and counties to try and be competitive with the private sector.  Over the course of several years they might manage to bring some parity between public and private employment and just about that time that happens, the economy will tank again and private sector people will pull old jealousies out of the closet to employ against public sector employees.  This thing is cyclical people and we need to overcome our economical ADD. The real reason behind the insolvency of cities like San Jose does not entirely lie with the pension system but an overall fiscal mismanagement by present and former elected officials.

    All these suggestions appear to have merit on the surface.  Changing retirement ages, percentages of pensions, pension contributions, etc. all seem reasonable when times are tough.  However, the down side to all of these processes is the decimation of a public sector work force.  There has been a traditional balance between private and public sector employment.  The private sector is a roller coaster with much higher and lower variations. Private sector employees have unlimited earning potential restricted only by themselves.  Public sector employment was steady but without any possibility of hitting it rich. The trade offs were clear and the choice of public versus private career paths were distinctly different.

    Now so many want to level the playing field completely.  Does anybody really believe that any city, especially San Jose, can compete with the private sector for good quality employees when times get good again?  Why in the world would anyone choose public service if both have a 401k retirement system, working conditions are identical and both are managed internally like a corporation. San Jose isn’t going to offer stock options to employees in the good times.  San Jose won’t send people on paid trips for “team bonding” or to retreats designed to increase productivity.  San Jose won’t give bonuses out during the holidays, provide take home vehicles or free food, or hand out all of the other perks that a private business does when the economy is robust. There are no “start up” cities where a person early in the door might become a millionaire should the company really take off.

    This means that the best and brightest certainly won’t seek public service as a career, why should they?  Anybody with half a brain will compete to be hired by those companies that provide the best salaries, perks, benefits, and bigger 401k contributions.  San Jose and other cities certainly won’t be in a position to lure anybody over to public service.  The old paradigm will be gone putting public service dead last in desirability for a long-term career.  Only the most inept or rejects from the private sector will gravitate towards public service as a last resort.

    If you think customer service is bad now at the DMV or any city or county agency, you are in for a real treat when the ranks are filled with underachievers unable to find better employment elsewhere.  While public service isn’t necessarily filled with the cream of the crop, there are many fine dedicated people who have chosen public service as a career accepting that the benefits have historically been different but somewhat equal depending on one’s preference of stability versus unrestricted financial gain. 

    Although I feel sorry for public sector employees the real victims in this scorched earth policy that San Jose leaders are pursuing are actually the citizens.  San Jose will soon be down to 1,000 police officers or less.  Fire stations will continue to close. Streets will continue to deteriorate, parks will not be cleaned, hours will be cut down in every department, response times for public safety will increase, crime will go up eventually, and what few services remain will be provided by demoralized existing employees and under qualified new employees.  Good luck San Jose, I am glad I moved out long ago.  Chuck Reed and his minions are making a very uncomfortable bed for all of you to sleep while they pat the pillow with feigned concern and quietly slip out of the room to find a new abode.

    • Anyone want to disagree with the above statement. Mr. Oliverio, you been in city government for couple years; you always have an opinion.  All the people that think that those police/fire make to much after they risked their lives for you want to disagree. 

      Well said, Mr. Star Trek

    • Resistance is futile,

      Your name aptly conveys the attitude projected on the citizens by the relentless government juggernaut. Well chosen. The City has indeed come to resemble the Borg as it cuts it’s destructive swath across the valley, assimilating citizens, and wreaking mayhem across the private sector, with it’s insatiable appetite for power and it’s need to grow- always grow.
      I agree with you that our budgetary problems can be traced back to stupid and irresponsible decisions by elected officials. But I didn’t vote for them. Many if not most of these public officials rose to power with the support of those already within the system. Public employees and their unions have become an integral part of the juggernaut. We citizens have no option but to fight the thing as a whole. We don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing which parts we like and which parts we don’t like. The only way I know to fight this thing is, as Greg Howe puts it, to “starve the beast”. I think Mr. Oliverio and Mr. Reed understand this too and that’s why they’ve got my support.

      • I couldn’t agree more that local, state, and the federal government have become bloated black holes gobbling up tax dollars and expanding like some kind of bureaucratic Andromeda Strain.  However, government does serve a very important role and one of its principle responsibilities is to protect its citizens.  We have a city government in San Jose that views public safety as an option.  Reed and his cronies consider police and fire services to be on the same level as parks, libraries, social programs designed to hold the hands of those who can’t control themselves and for other optional services that quite frankly should be round filed first.

        I do disagree that the unions are somehow complicit in this.  Each union simply fights for better working conditions for its members.  The police or fire union isn’t down at City Hall demanding another turd sculpture in a public park.  Each union will support whichever councilperson they feel will best represent their interests at negotiation time.  However, just because a union throws their backing behind a candidate does not guarantee their success nor does it preclude that councilperson from voting as their larger constituency demands.

        I also think you do have the luxury of picking and choosing which services you cut and which ones you support.  One thing is for sure, like private industry public servants can shop around for an employer that places a priority on whichever service or skill set that employee provides if they end up with a transferable 401k.  In law enforcement San Jose has a very good reputation for training and professionalism.  There are agencies lining up to hire the projected 150 or more police officers soon to be laid off.  It will only get worse as highly skilled officers migrate to better working conditions even though they have the seniority to stay put if they wanted to.  Same goes for firefighters.  As for Reed and Oliverio, the only thing they understand is making themselves look good in the short term.  They will term out and move on to another job.  When the devastating effects of their malfeasance take hold, they will point the finger at those that follow them and deny any culpability.

      • @John Galt

        Three problems with your statement John. Oliverio and Reed lack integrity; proven by the half truths they tell and Oliverio questionable behavior documented here on this blog.

        Secondly you said ” employees and their unions”?????  Employees are the Union.. It’s the same. The union is not a machine or a hired gun, or the teamsters leading ,,, unions are people… Government officials have done great job of saying we love our employees but not their union.  It’s the same. 

        Third it not a beast, it men and women who are your neighbors, who serve to protect you and your family. What is that worth?

        And to add a fourth you do have a way to decide which part you want. City held special election to dump part of binding arbitration. So if you did not know who to believe the Mayor or 3000 fire and polce people then a third party could come in and look at all books and see who telling truth.  Why would city want to get rid of that first?

  23. Pier,
    Obviously, if the police are fire department are being laid off from the airport, then obviously we are so desperate that nothing is off the table. If 20% of the police department is going to be laid off in June as is being reported, then 20% of the city council should be laid off as well. Nothing is sacred. Get rid of 3 council members and their bloated staff to save millions.

    The time has come for the city council to be an unpaid position that is done solely out of a sense of duty. No benefits, no retirement, maybe just a stipend to cover the basic costs.

    This should have been a question on your survey. Maybe the POA and fire department could hire a company to conduct such a survey.

  24. What will be done with the information gathered in the budget survey?  Seems the community would like the city to be run as profitable company would be rather than the way the City of San Jose is currently doing it.

    Thank you,
    Mary