San Jose city leaders to discuss budget crisis

June 24, 2011 11:52:53 AM PDT
San Jose city leaders will hold a special meeting today. It is so controversial that people camped out at city hall overnight in protest. The mayor and city council will talk about what to do about San Jose's budget crisis and how much public employees unions would be affected.

The city council's special meeting starts at 1:30 p.m., but before that there is supposed to be a blessing service outside city hall in support of collective bargaining. Overnight, several people camped out on the steps of city hall. The group of labor activists want to avoid declaring a fiscal emergency, which Mayor Chuck Reed suggested last month to deal with rising pension costs and to avoid deeper service cuts and additional layoffs. At this afternoon's meeting, the council and mayor will get more information on the cost of solving the budget problem and the possibility of a fiscal reform ballot measure that's now been put off until early August.

"Whatever solution they come to should be done at the bargaining table with a voice at the workplace through the unions. They should be able to have a voice and together they should be able to come to a resolution," said demonstrator Jamie Chen.

"Well, I'm hoping the people who camped out got a good night's sleep and that'll help them get engaged in the negotiations. We have five unions that have agreed to help us solve this problem through negotiations. Unfortunately, AFSCME, who are doing the demonstrating, have refused to have these negotiations take place," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

The mayor's plan includes limits on retirement benefits for new and current employees and those who have already retired. The budget just approved calls for about 100 police officers to be laid off and city officials are trying to prevent that number from growing.

The layoffs are forcing the police department to come up with new ways to fight crime. The San Jose Police Department has signed an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security by which two agents from the Federal Immigration and Customs Department will be assigned to San Jose on gang violence. They will not be engaged in deportation issues, but will be working on crimes like drugs, weapons and human trafficking as they related to gang problems in the South Bay.


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