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San Diego's Pension Reform & The Next Mayor: Implementing Prop B

by Cassidy Noblejas Bartolomei, published

KUSI’s mayoral debate on Monday covered a diverse range of issues that either Bob Filner or Carl DeMaio must work to resolve; among these issues, the implementation of Prop B. In order for the proposition to benefit San Diego, cooperation between the mayor, council members, and community members will be of the utmost importance.

Unsurprisingly, Filner and DeMaio have vastly different histories with Prop B. Regardless of previous opinions on the pension reform initiative, however, San Diego’s next mayor must implement Prop B, which voters passed with 65.81 percent in June.

Without constructive compromise in City Hall and with labor unions, San Diego is at risk of prolonging the current hiring freeze, which has halted the addition of firefighters, librarians, and other key city positions since June.

San Diego’s pension reform process is also subject to state intervention if local resolutions are not agreed upon. Assembly Bill 1248, approved by Governor Jerry Brown on September 30, requires that San Diego provide federal social security coverage for employees who are not covered by a defined benefit plan.

The approval of an interim 401(k) plan was celebrated as “a milestone in the implementation of Prop B,” by members of City Hall earlier this month. The temporary plan was agreed upon by the city and labor unions in mid-August, and was approved unanimously by City Council and labor unions on October 2.

This milestone, however, is but one step in the pension reform process. Mayor Jerry Sanders thanked city staff and city labor unions for agreeing on the terms of the temporary plan, which allows the city to move forward with the implementation of Prop B.

The bipartisan, cross-community consensus reached in order to approve the interim 401(k), left Mayor Sanders feeling optimistic about San Diego’s road to reform and he stated, “I am hopeful that this spirit of cooperation will continue as both sides hammer out a permanent 401-K plan.”

If elected mayor, DeMaio may be a step ahead of Filner in continuing the implementation process that is already underway, due to his involvement in the initiative since its inception. Filner argued, however, that if he were to become mayor, his relationship with city workers will allow him to negotiate a better five year pay freeze, and that DeMaio can’t get the negotiating done. DeMaio rebutted, “We are getting it done,” highlighting the progress he and City Hall have already made.

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