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Hilbert Morales
EL OBSERVADOR
At least 75% of the registered voters of the County of Santa Clara have opted to “Vote by Mail”. This has changed the traditional dynamics of ‘getting out the vote’ (GOTV) because those who have campaigns have to get their campaign message to the voters by October 9th. “Vote by Mail” materials and ballots are presently en route, mailed by the Registrar of Voters.

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Why should the Latino voter be concerned? In California Latinos make up 42% of the population. However, this large population does not get transformed into public policy influence nor political power if Latino citizens do not register to vote, learn about the public policy issues, and vote in their own interests. Also, no one knows how many mail-in votes were diverted from the polls by individuals who improperly posed as “couriers” for the Registrar of Voters. If anyone asks you for your mail-in ballot, which they promise to deliver to the local poll, do not participate in this scam. It would be advisable to phone 408-299-Vote to let the Registrar of Voters know that this unfair, illegal and unauthorized activity is being perpetrated. So, be aware and alert. This has been rumored to have happened in a San Jose City Council District race this past June 2012 election.

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Why bring this up? Because many factions have a self interest in delaying the resolution of the current pension plan agreements which were never fully defined nor funded back in the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. No actuarial analysis was conducted which would have informed San Jose administration and its elected officials of the set-aside funding needed in escrow funds which met future pension plan payment obligations. As a consequence, the most important public policy issue in San Jose today is the resolution and reconciliation of the pension plans.

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Mayor Chuck Reed correctly focused attention to the reality that soon some 75% or more of any and all San Jose City revenues would be used to pay for unfunded pension plans, which are coming due as city staff reach retirement age. Some union members end up getting 90% of their wages as ‘retirement funds’ after 20 years of service while still about 50 years old. There is a balloon payment for unused vacation and sick days. Unused vacation and ‘sick leave’ days should be lost if not used. These benefits are meant to permit the employee to have rest and recreation. Why should San Jose residents be asked to pay for city services which never benefited our families or businesses? And these compromise the ability of the City of San Jose to deliver all civic services required in the 10th largest metropolitan city in America today?

The fair thing to do is to renegotiate a reasonable modified retirement agreement. But that is not going to happen because no union executive will put forward reasonable planned adjustments for fear of losing the union membership support, and perhaps, their administrative position.

Already, the propaganda hit pieces have been sent. One email hit piece targeted City Council member Rose Herrera, who had the courage to support a reasonable pension plan settlement process even though she was elected with ‘union support’. If any reconciliation/resolution of those unfunded pension obligations is to be resolved, then the voters need to re-elect Rose Herrera and elect others who will support a reasonable pension plan settlement. And the threat to ‘take this matter to court’ will only add to the expense and the many disputes which benefit only the lawyers/courts. Prior mayors and city councils did not do their jobs, so in a way, there was no ‘complete pension plan package’ because its actuarial requirements were never calculated nor funded. Hence, one can argue that no pension agreement exists since it was not fully described in detail with accountability and responsibility defined for all stakeholders.
If local special interest groups demand that their support means that, without fail, an elected official is beholden to vote in a manner that benefits that special interest, then representative democracy is thwarted from the beginning. It is these sorts of actions and expectations which have paralyzed democratic governance at local, county, state, and federal levels. The predictable outcome is the future bankruptcy of all levels of our democratic governance because of a lack of moral and ethical standards which ensure ‘common sense fairness’ to all stakeholders. We must let democracy work for the benefit of all.

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