San Jose council candidate goes to bat for workers' pensions

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Like many cities, San Jose is struggling with finances. And, like many cities, mayors and the establishment want workers to pay the price. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, together with several council members, has put forward a ballot measure aimed at depriving city workers of their pensions.

But this move is not going unchallenged. Steve Kline, a workers compensation lawyer and longtime community activist, is challenging City Council member Pierluigi Oliverio, one of the most enthusiastic backers of the pension-bashing measure, for the seat in the June 5 municipal elections.

Kline has won the endorsement of elected officials, community activists, police and firefighters unions, the South Bay Labor Council AFL-CIO, and, most recently, the county Democratic Central Committee of which Oliverio has been an active member for several years.

Kline says city unions have made a number of proposals to resolve the financial problems regarding pensions, but the mayor and council have dismissed them, opting for the controversial ballot measure instead. Kline says that the union proposals offer at least a basis for negotiations-but serious negotiations are impossible when the mayor keeps putting forth wildly different figures for the extent to which the city is in arrears on its pension obligations.

Pensions and fair treatment for city workers aren't the only issue on which Kline is running. He and his husband moved to San Jose, located in the heart of the famed Silicon Valley, because it offered an ethnically and culturally diverse community, was among the safest large cities in the country, and had open and transparent government.

Today, Kline says, only the first of the reasons still holds true. Massive layoffs in the police department have greatly increased police response times and left crime victims helpless. (San Jose's police force, though certainly not free of incidents of racist and other mistreatment of citizens, has a better record in that regard than those in most other large urban areas.)

Kline detailed at a meeting with district residents the difficulties he has had in getting even the most basic information on municipal expenditures.

The incumbent Oliverio has accumulated a substantial campaign chest, mostly from Chamber of Commerce members and real estate developers. Kline is running a grassroots campaign, relying on community people doing door-to-door canvassing in the district to point up the differences between him and Oliverio.

Judging from the discussion and enthusiasm of a recent community meeting this writer attended, Kline stands a strong chance of beating the corporate-friendly incumbent and turning the politics of this formerly fairly progressive city around.


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  • This article hits many of the issues affecting San Jose's political climate right on the head. Anyone who's been paying attention in recent years knows that the highest levels of city government have been lurching to the right with the accession of Chuck Reed to the office of mayor, and the election of Pierluigi Oliverio in District 6, not to mention the presence of far-right Pete Constant in District 1. Reed, Constant and Oliverio frequently vote together on issues and take pro-corporation, anti-worker, and socially conservative positions. They want to strip ordinary workers of rights and benefits, and take away workers' ability to bargain, à la Scott Walker in Wisconsin. In addition, Chuck Reed will not step up to the plate for same-sex couples who wish to marry. Of the ten largest cities in the United States, only San Jose and Dallas have mayors who have not signed the mayors' pledge supporting the freedom to marry. Reed believes that the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage should be accorded to him and his wife Paula, but should be denied to other couples, like Steve Kline and his husband Layne, or me and my husband Rick.

    This is a very pernicious shift for San Jose residents who value diversity, fairness, and equal rights for all. One of Reed's closest advisors is Larry Pegram of the so-called Values Advocacy Council, and someone who makes no secret of his belief that Christian "values" have a place in our secular government. (Although when Pegram recently ran for the District 9 council seat, he temporarily dissociated himself from the VAC, and toned down the rhetoric, as he knew his extremist views could not get him elected. San Jose's voters weren't fooled -- they squarely rejected Pegram in favor of Donald Rocha.) Reed is also close to Victor Ajlouny, who acts as a political consultant for both Reed and Pegram. Interesting how this guy consults for both Pegram, a far-right Republican, and Reed, a "Democrat." Reed's positions are so far removed from the Democratic Party's platform that it's amazing how no one ever calls him on it.

    Reed, Pegram, Oliverio, Constant and Ajlouny are just a few -- albeit a very powerful few -- who are leading San Jose down a path that few in progressive California would like to see it taken. That's why it's important that we elect Steve Kline to the city council. We need more progressive voices in city government who will speak up for the plight of ordinary workers, senior citizens, racial and sexual minorities, and many others who deserve and need to be represented.

    Please vote for Steve Kline for San Jose City Council, District 6!

    Posted by Dean, 04/27/2012 2:16am (4 years ago)

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