Mercury News editorial: Attacks on Rose Herrera are scarier than crime in San Jose
Mercury News Editorial
Posted: 10/03/2012 04:48:21 PM PDT
It's tempting to dismiss the cutthroat campaign against San Jose Councilwoman Rose Herrera in District 8 as business-as-usual politics. But when misleading information is presented in a sensational fashion by police officers, it's different.
The police union has a right to get involved in politics. But actions that might be all right for other unions are troubling for officers who need the public's trust to do the job. If Herrera loses this election, Evergreen and San Jose will lose. Regardless, the police union is losing something in this campaign.
The police union hates Herrera. There's no other way to put it. We hope voters see through the scare tactics that imply she is single-handedly to blame for the uptick in crime, particularly burglaries, in San Jose. The fact that burglaries are up everywhere along the Highway 101 corridor -- even in Palo Alto -- has not yet been laid at Herrera's door, but give it time.
Herrera is flustered by the attacks, which say she "rolled out the red carpet for criminals," and she isn't always as clear as she should be when discussing statistics. She and a majority of council members are doing the right thing, even though, in her case, it may not be politically expedient. Herrera is a key vote for responsible budgets and public safety policies.
For example, if the city had not negotiated a 10 percent pay cut for police -- money the officers now want back -- the force would have been cut to 950 back in 2011. Today there are still 1,054 officers on the job, and the city is hiring to get back to the authorized level of 1,100. That's not enough, but prudent budgeting supported by Herrera has kept it from being worse.
A favorite theme of the police is hammering Herrera for voting against increased staffing in the police burglary unit. But police Chief Chris Moore and his assistant strongly opposed this, arguing that it would take officers off patrol and was not the best use of manpower. Evergreen and San Jose need a council member smart enough to know when to listen to the experts and strong enough to vote in the public interest even when she knows it will be used against her.
Perhaps most disingenuous, the officers are holding meetings in Evergreen ostensibly to help people guard against crime, when the sessions are part of their campaign strategy. One was scheduled the same night as a City Council study session on police staffing. They are also blocking Chief Chris Moore, who is retiring in January, from having civilian investigators do background checks on new recruits, which would free up 17 officers for patrol.
Herrera has been critical to the single most important step to balance the city budget and rebuild the police force: She has supported pension reform -- and so has District 8, where more than 70 percent of voters approved Measure B in June. The police budget is ballooning largely because of retirement costs, which shot up from $150 million to $245 million in just the past few years.
Voters who feel themselves swayed by those scary mailers need to look a little deeper.