What if someone held an election and one side didn’t show up?
Well, that is happening in the ill-advised pension reform campaign called Measure B. While proponents are raising money to pay for the Mayor’s under-employed—yet now overpaid—political consultant, organized opposition to the measure has evaporated.
The reason is simple and economical. It doesn’t matter whether the measure passes or not, it is illegal and unconstitutional and nearly everyone knows it. The measure itself acknowledges the thin legal argument prepared by outside lawyers and the City Attorney has advised the City Council it is illegal.
So the opposition, including labor, police, and municipal employees, has decided not to waste precious campaign resources on this political contest. It is the fiscally responsible decision for them. Yet, it is unfortunate that San Jose residents will vote without critical information regarding the measure, as they will ultimately pick up the tab for this political folly.
Everyone recognizes pension reform must be addressed in the long term, though the immediacy of the problem has been clearly overstated for political reasons. The Mayor and many advocates of pension reform, while sincere, have simply proposed an untenable solution, and their insistence on moving the measure forward defies logic.
Both Chuck Reed and Sam Liccardo are good lawyers. They did not check their BAR credentials at the door when they took office. Neither can truly believe, from a legal standpoint, this is a good idea. The Meyers-Nave legal memo that notes the city has an “argument” is self-serving and nuanced solely to permit the ballot language to go forward, as the law firm has also been retained to make the legal “argument” upon passage of the measure. I don’t know a single attorney, myself included, who believes that argument can prevail based on precedent and merit. But the Meyers-Nave lawyers get paid either way.
Thus, the voters and taxpayers will be on the hook for all legal costs moving forward. If voters had this information, they might well avoid the inevitable waste of taxpayer dollars by defeating the measure. However, the current mantra of “pension reform” without context is an alluring message for an electorate that understands the problem needs a solution.
A defeat of Measure B would avoid a waste of taxpayer dollars and allow a real solution to be forged through collective bargaining. What’s more—the irony is that the leaders who are proposing the fix are many of the same people who helped cause the problem.
Reed has acknowledged he made a mistake in supporting exorbitant pensions in the past. Of course, when he was supporting the increases he was considered a champion of law enforcement.
In addition, Councilmember Pete Constant, a former cop who is leading the charge for pension reform, receives a disability pension along with his City Council salary. Double dipping?
And political consultant Vic Ajlouny, who has to date, siphoned over $40,000 from the “Yes on B” coffers was a lobbyist for the Deputy Sheriff’s Association and other law enforcement unions in his previous service. He championed the alleged outrageous benefit packages he now seeks to annul.
All good information for the San Jose voter. But alas, unless they all read this blog—highly improbably–Measure B will pass, the voters will be disappointed and ultimately fleeced by the ensuing legal bills.
Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley.