Two separate cases to block initiative from June ballot fail
By Anthony King | Downtown News
Two separate rulings in San Diego courts reaffirmed the Comprehensive Pension Reform (CPR) ballot measure would go to voters on June 5. In a seven to one vote on Jan. 30, the City Council allowed the measure to be voted on in June.
On Feb. 21, a San Diego judge refused a request from the public employee unions to block the measure from appearing on the June ballot. Filed by the Public Employee Relations Board, the suit claimed Mayor Jerry Sanders and the City Council engaged in unfair labor practices by refusing to negotiate with union groups over before placing the measure on the ballot.
District 5 Councilmember and 2012 mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio spearheaded the campaign to gather enough signatures from registered voters in San Diego to instate a measure regarding the city’s pension system that would go to public vote. The initiative, which was drafted by DeMaio, Mayor Jerry Sanders and Council President Pro Tem Kevin Faulconer, would end pensions for new hires, replacing them with a 401(K) investment plan, among other stipulations.
Superior Court Judge William Dato said in the Feb. 21 hearing that the issue of alleged illegal labor practice is not clear-cut enough to keep the measure off the ballot. Dato also said the issue could be brought back to court by the labor unions after the June vote, in an effort to invalidate the measure if it passes.
In a press release following the announcement, DeMaio said, “I am thrilled that today’s court ruling will uphold the people’s right to vote on Pension Reform in June. However, given how desperate the government labor union and their lawyers have been thus far, we can expect a major battle over pension reform leading up to Election Day.”
Following the public employees suit, on Feb. 22 Superior Court Judge Steven Denton rejected a lawsuit brought by 2012 mayoral candidate Hud Collins alleging the CPR was improperly drafted as a charter revision and not as a charter amendment. Under California law, a charter revision must be initiated by a government body and not as a people’s initiative. Denton’s decision reaffirmed the initiative as a valid amendment.
“Two legal wins in the span of one week demonstrate the legal rigor of the pension reform initiative,” DeMaio said in a separate press release. “I cannot prevent the government union and their friends from filing frivolous lawsuits, but I can assure San Diegans that this pension reform initiative will withstand these baseless challenges.”
District 3 Councilmember Todd Gloria commented on the recent judicial decisions.“The judge’s decision is important, but it does not resolve the many lingering questions about the 401(K) initiative,” Gloria said.
“As a San Diego voter, I believe the proponents [of the ballot measure] must answer as many of those questions as possible before we are asked to vote on the measure, which will increase the City’s pension costs in the short term and invite years of costly litigation,” Gloria said.
In a videotaped interview on Tuesday, Feb. 28 for XETV, San Diego 6 – The CW news station, DeMaio faced off with San Diego and Imperial County Labor Council CEO Lorena Gonzalez over issues surrounding the CPR.
“We have to close it; this pension system is unsustainable,” DeMaio said in the interview. “We are going to have an insolvency hit the city of San Diego if we continue to keep city employees rolling into this pension system.”
In the interview, Gonzalez answered, saying, “In the long run, there are no savings from closing down that system. The system changes have to be done to the existing work force,” she said. “We need to cap pensions and we need to work with our unions.”