April 5, 2012 - Appellate court issues temporary stay on San Jose pension reform ballot measure
Paper: Alameda Times-Star (CA)
Title: Appellate court issues temporary stay on San Jose pension reform ballot measure
Date: April 5, 2012
Author: Tracy Seipel
San Jose city workers on Thursday won a last-minute legal reprieve that stops the city's June 5 pension reform ballot measure from going to print -- for now.
In a two-paragraph order, three judges of the 6th District Court of Appeal based in San Jose put on hold Wednesday's decision by a Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge overruling the unions' objections to the measure's title and wording.
The unions appealed the decision by Judge Kevin McKenney, who had approved two minor revisions the unions had sought but kept the word "reform'' on the pension measure. He also ruled that the city could use the words, "To protect essential services'' at the beginning of the ballot description, words a union attorney said would mislead voters.
"We are pleased that the 6th District Court of Appeal will consider our emergency writ seeking to ensure that the ballot question for Measure B is impartial and complies with California election law," said Robin Johansen, lead attorney for the city's workers.
Thursday's appellate court decision to hear the case was issued by Acting Presiding Judge Franklin Elia and Judges Nathan Mihara and Wendy Duffy.
San Jose City Attorney Rick Doyle characterized the ruling as rare but took it in stride.
"We felt the ballot language was sufficient and legal,'' Doyle said. "That being said, the important thing is a decision so it gets to the ballot, and we can get on with the election.''
The city's outside counsel has until 10 a.m. Monday to submit its arguments against both the stay and the union's original claims; the unions' attorneys have until 10 a.m. Tuesday to reply. Doyle's office has recused itself from recent legal challenges over the measure because many on his staff are union members.
Doyle said the Registrar of Voters had asked for ballot language to be finalized and submitted by no later than Friday, in order for ballots to be available by May 7, the first day of early voting. But it now appears the registrar will have to wait.
Calls to the registrar were not returned by this paper's deadline.
Mayor Chuck Reed, who has led the fight for pension reform, was dismayed by the news but said he is confident the city will overcome this legal hurdle.
"I think we'll win,'' Reed said, adding that the unions don't want voters to know the city is pushing pension reform and will do whatever they can to obscure that in the ballot language.
"They don't want it to say 'pension reform' because people are very strongly in favor of pension reform,'' Reed said.
The ballot measure seeks to reduce pension benefits for new hires and require current workers to pay more toward their retirement unless they switch to a plan with reduced benefits and cost. Retirees could see 3 percent annual cost-of-living increases suspended if the city declares a fiscal emergency.
Employees contend the measure is illegal.
Record Number: 20336807
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