Ben Field Executive Officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council Blames Mayor Reed as Cause of San Jose’s Problems

Published by on February 8, 2013

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A top local labor chief today blasted San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed for being divisive and the cause of major problems in San Jose but the mayor replied that the city is on strong footing with $1 billion in private projects on the way. Ben Field, executive officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council that represents 100,000 union members in Santa Clara and San Benito counties, blamed Reed for higher crime, income inequality, lack of private development and higher city labor costs.

“The mayor’s divisive leadership has created major problems for San Jose,” Field said. Field issued a prepared statement this morning to criticize Reed hours before the mayor was to deliver his annual State of the City speech tonight at City Hall in San Jose. Meanwhile, the mayor’s staff members characterized Field’s comments as part of the labor leader’s strategy to influence candidates who run for mayor in 2014 when Reed is termed out and leaves office. In his statement, Field said the city had seen a rise in crime due to Reed’s “repeated attacks on the police force,” a reference to the city’s 10 percent salary cut for officers in 2011 and city employee pension reform that led about 80 officers to resign.

“Crime is on the rise because of the mayor’s policies, and he has no plans to turn things around,” Field said. “The number of police is at a 20-year low, but the city can’t fill openings on the police force because every other city in the area treats cops better,” he said. Field also held Reed responsible for a “decline” in middle class households in San Jose “while the number of households earning less than $10,000 a year doubled.” On the city’s economy, Field complained that “instead of a plan to bring business to the city to raise revenues, Mayor Reed chose an economic austerity plan that has undermined city services and killed the desire for business to locate here.” He also chided the mayor for what Field termed a “shortsighted policy toward city employees” that makes the city have to “contract out hundreds of services at a cost far higher than keeping full time city employees on the job.”

In response, Reed said that San Jose had recovered from the tax revenue fall sparked by a major national recession that began several years ago. “Our economic outlook is strong and opportunities abound,” Reed said in an emailed statement. Reed cited significant private developments coming up in the city, one being Samsung Semiconductor’s world headquarters for research and development in North San Jose. The airline Virgin America announced a new service to Mineta San Jose International Airport and Bass Pro Shops said Wednesday it would locate a 145,000 square foot retail store in South San Jose, he said. “Private sector projects already under construction will generate nearly $10 million in new tax revenues once they are completed,” Reed said. “And we have more than a billion dollars of investments moving through our permitting process which will create thousands of jobs and generate another $10 million in annual tax revenues,” he said

“Now it’s up to us to stay the course to solve our fiscal problems, to remain mindful of what got us into the mess in the first place, and to keep our eyes on the long-term goal — a future in which we are fiscally strong and can afford to open all our libraries and community centers full time, repair our streets,” he said, “and restore capacity in our police department.” The drop in city funds during the recession caused city retirement costs to spike from $73 million to $245 million a year and the city’s two retirement plans still have an unfunded liability of $3 billion, Reed said.

City ballot Measure B containing his pension reform package — that among other things makes city employees pay up to 16 percent toward their pensions or accept a modified plan – passed with almost 70 percent of the vote last June, Reed said. The savings generated from the pension reforms will go toward hiring “more officers to patrol our neighborhoods and solve and prevent crimes,” Reed said.

JeffBurbank0608p02/07/13 CONTACT: South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council (408) 966-4098 San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed (408) 535-4840

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