For the last several months, a fight with multi-million dollar implications has quietly been waged over fire safety requirements in San Jose’s tallest buildings. The clash—featuring a tangled array of alliances between elected officials, developers, lobbyists, a monopolistic breathing device manufacturer, a union spurned and an ambivalent fire department—will come to a head Thursday afternoon, when the Public Safety, Finance & Strategic Support Committee meets to discuss the city’s tri-annual review of its fire and building codes.
The city of San Jose should put a hold on hiring firefighters until the firefighter union accepts a lower cost, second-tier pension plan for new employees. This would achieve cost savings and keep the city on a fiscally responsible path. Doing so would allow us to dedicate more funds to hiring police officers.
Less than a month until the June 5 primary, labor unions fired off several accusations Tuesday that Councilmember Rose Herrera lied to voters during her 2008 campaign and may have even committed perjury in the mid-1990s. Herrera responded by calling the unions “bullies” using “misrepresentations and lies.”
Things have come a long way for the San Jose firefighters union Local 230 in the past 12 months, and union president Jeff Welch’s role can’t be overstated. A year ago, Local 230 was the lone bargaining group unable to agree on compensation concessions with the city. Forty-nine firefighters were laid off as a result. A year later, the firefighters union may be at the vanguard, leading the way for the city’s 10 other unions.
Forget Meg Whitman…San Jose’s police and fire unions were the biggest losers in this past election. Meg Whitman can take another $140 million out of petty cash, but San Jose’s police and fire departments may not soon be able to recover from the damage that they have done to their reputations. Frankly, I’m not sure that the rank and file have any idea how much damage they have done to their trust relationship with the San Jose public. The rhetoric employed to try and defeat Measures V and W will likely not be forgotten for quite some time.