Backed by incumbent Mayor Chuck Reed, the architect of Measure B, the city's pension reform charter amendment, Liccardo argued that San Jose needs to stick with its pension plan to control skyrocketing pension costs.
“I believe we cannot continue to spend our children’s money. We have a $3 billion unfunded liability with a pension retirement debt,” he said.
He attacked Cortese for saying that San Jose’s police officers are under-pensioned and underpaid while failing to say how he would pay them more money. Liccardo plans to use more civilians in the Police Department.
Cortese, who is supported by police and the unions, argued that fearful San Jose voters from Willow Glen to East San Jose are demanding more “cops with a badge and gun showing up at their door” when there are crime problems and their safety is at risk. He argues the city's aggressive pension reform measure has driven officers from the Police Department.
“The issue of pension reform is a deflection, a red herring to take us off the real issue of public safety and the loss of 400 police officers,” Cortese said.
But Liccardo shot back that more than 300 officers left the Police Department before pension reform.
The debate, sponsored by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and eBay and hosted by the online commerce giant, was moderated by Joshua Johnson of KQED. The panel included KQED Silicon Valley reporter Rachael Myrow, George Sampson of KLIV radio, Scott Herhold of the San Jose Mercury News and Scott Budman of NBC Bay Area.
Their questions also focused on affordable housing throughout San Jose and in the downtown area. Liccardo wants to impose an impact fee on developers as a source of funding for affordable housing. Cortese argued that a countywide revenue solution is needed, along with the creation of tax incentives for developers.
Affordable, high-rise housing also played into the question of how to lure tech startups and a younger workforce to San Jose instead of seeing them go to the Peninsula or San Francisco.
Liccardo said San Jose needs to create a vibrant, hip, urban option in downtown San Jose to keep 20-something workers from heading north with tech startups chasing them. He called it critical to San Jose’s future.
But Cortese argued that real job numbers tell the story. He noted that in August, 23,000 jobs were created in the South Bay, far more than in competing areas. The urban atmosphere in downtown San Jose, he said, is wonderful and vibrant.