San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s promising ballot initiative to fix California’s municipal pension problems went down in flames this weekend, before it even had a chance to come up for a vote. The initiative would have amended the state constitution to allow cash-strapped municipalities to restructure pension promises.The San Jose Mercury News reports that few think the initiative will make a comeback:
Many doubt the initiative will be any more viable in two years. Reed struggled to raise the millions of dollars needed to hire signature gatherers, while unions mounted an aggressive campaign to defeat it, even enlisting dozens of other California mayors to line up against it. […]He blamed an unfavorable ballot summary from the attorney general and the upcoming mid-April deadline for qualifying a November initiative for the delay.
Reed still says he will push the measure again in 2016, but his difficulties this time and his diminished public profile once he leaves the San Jose Mayor’s office suggest that he may have just taken his best shot.If so, that’s a shame. This bill was one of the few bright spots for California’s municipal pension situation and the growing list of cities teetering on the edge of bankruptcy due to unsustainable promises.This defeat is also a reminder that, notwithstanding the election of more centrist Democrats like Chuck Reed and Governor Jerry Brown, California’s left-wing, pro-union Democrats are still a force to be reckoned with. California’s cities need pension reform more than most American cities, but reform faces an uphill battle.