SAN JOSE, CA With the election over, it might be a new, perhaps calmer day in San Jose City Hall for the city’s most heated political feud.
The City Council, led by likely mayor-elect Sam Liccardo, voted unanimously Friday not to investigate the police union for allegedly telling cop recruits to quit as part of a political campaign against the city. The allegation, which the police union strongly denies, was the latest flash point in the ongoing war between the rank-and-file cops and city leaders — and surfaced just before Tuesday’s election.
The vote was an olive branch of sorts from Liccardo and his allies to their biggest political foe.
Mayor Chuck Reed, who is termed out of office at the end of the year, proposed two weeks ago to hire an independent investigator after a former cop recruit wrote an op-ed in this newspaper claiming police union president Jim Unland told her to quit during the academy. The union, which strongly opposes the voter-approved pension reforms championed by Reed and Liccardo, has given officers and recruits information about better-paying cities as part of a drive to highlight San Jose’s police staffing shortage in pushing to elect a new mayor and council members. But it has always denied pushing cops out the door.
Now, a lot has changed in the last week. Liccardo, whom Reed endorsed, was holding a steady 3-percentage-point lead in Tuesday’s mayor’s race and has declared victory over police union pick Dave Cortese, a county supervisor who indicated he may concede Friday.
With Liccardo trying to mend postelection fences with the police union, he proposed Friday to put off the investigation indefinitely and instead ask a human resources contractor to do exit interviews with recruits who quit. The move, Liccardo said, would help the council “better understand” the “politically divisive battles” between them and the cops without inflaming the tension between the two sides.
It’s unclear whether the move will be the first step toward peace, as each side remains firmly entrenched in opposing political beliefs. But on Friday, at least, no one from the public spoke at the meeting, and council members on both sides of the spat not only held their tongues but even voted in favor of the same thing — and the session was all over within a few minutes. It comes after the clash between the council and the cops has dominated City Hall politics over the last two years, with long, heated arguments and split votes over the issue becoming routine.