San Jose Council Advances Alternative to Measure B

City leaders OK ballot measure that would essentially bolster police staffing and recruitment

San Jose city leaders are putting the fate of the police department, and possibly the city's economic future, in the hands of voters.

The City Council on Tuesday approved an alternative pension reform proposal for the November ballot to replace the controversial Measure B approved four years ago.

The main impact from Measure B has been a massive staffing problem in the police department, which has seen a steady decline in its number of officers.

But Tuesday, all the former political enemies seemed to be on the same page with a new proposal to repair some of the damage.

Now all they need to do is sell it to taxpayers.

"This is at the same time we are seeing homicides and violent crime rise," said James Gonzales, vice president of the Police Officers Association. "This really is a critical piece."

The new proposal restores some pay and benefits, which the officials hope will help the department recruit.

The City Council approved the new proposal Tuesday, with Mayor Sam Liccardo basically saying what is bound to be the message to voters if it doesn't pass.

"We'll be in litigation for several years more, and frankly we're going to have a very difficult time hiring a police officer in this city," Liccardo said.

The lone dissenter, Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio, said the proposal gives too much back, including a pension bump for 1,100 employees. He said new employees should be on a lower, revamped benefits level.

"I believe the original measure passed by nearly 70 percent of the vote was the right thing to do," Oliverio said.

The Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association agrees, saying retroactive pension benefits will drive up costs of pensions for new hires and also creates higher than average pensions for managers and department heads, compared with neighboring cities.

Both sides are encouraging voters to extensively examine the new proposed measure.

The measure will need a simple majority by voters to pass.

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