The San Jose Environmental Innovation Center (EIC) has been in the news a lot recently, due to the fact that it is $1.6 million over budget and six months behind schedule. This project was always risky, as it utilized complicated tax credits that expose the general fund—the guarantor of the project—to future risk. So, being in the position to avoid future financial risk, why would I support yet another project such as the EIC, which could imperil our general fund? When this issue came to the council, I voted “no” several times, where was I often the only “no” vote. When there is a single dissenting vote, this automatically means that any substitute motion would die for a lack of a second. This is true in all cases.
A citizens signature drive is underway to secure a certain percentage of the budget for our libraries. This would replace the library parcel tax set to expire in 2014. If enough signatures are collected, the measure could be placed on the ballot in November. Last month, I proposed examining and collecting data for setting a certain percentage of the budget—higher than today’s percentage—for the police department. Perhaps we could combine the ideas and set a percentage of the budget for police and libraries.
I had some calls last week on the topic of pensions and the June ballot measure. Several people were under the impression that San Jose will eliminate pensions altogether, which is not the case. Other callers wanted to replace the current system with a 401K-type benefit. I think there are other options to pension reform that would save San Jose money. For one thing, we should eliminate spending on all items not in the City Charter.
The city charter sets out some basic tenants for public employee retirement, and Mayor Chuck Reed is often touted as a stickler for adhering to the charter. The question many ask is: What exactly does the charter say?