Kevin Faulconer set the tone last night, telling a crowd of civic leaders, “This is not about Republicans and Democrats. This is about what is good for San Diego neighborhoods.” Faulconer gestured to a chart showing that, if left unchanged, local residents will one day pay $500 million-a-year for a “defined benefit” pension system. “If we act now, we can save $1 to $2 Billion in the next 25 years, and that will go instead to libraries, parks & recreation, repairing roads and public safety.” Carl DeMaio pinpointed a 65% rise in local water rates since 2007, and said “Pension Costs are fully charged into those stunning increases.” Noting harassment of reform petitioners at local shopping centers, Mayor Jerry Sanders got laughs saying, “I’m actually ‘proud’ of the people doing that because it means they’ve finally gotten off their #$%*&+#* and done something.” (A helicopter passed overhead at this moment, and I could not make out just what the word #$%*&+#* was.) The Lincoln Club’s T.J. Zane emphasized polling shows 70% public support to end abuses like “pension spiking”.
Mayor Sanders said he was at the US Conference of Mayors meeting in Baltimore recently, and that “Republican or Democrat” the Mayors’ biggest concern is the crushing cost of benefits and pensions. The Mayor looked and sounded relaxed and quietly optimistic about this project’s chances for success. He affirmed minimum savings from the petition reform measure will be $1 Billion, and may go much higher.
Zane characterized harassment of reform petitioners as “the last best hope” of certain union leaders, who know they will get it “handed to them” on election day. He added a Pension Reform measure will be a “defining issue” for 2012 city council and mayoral races.
Faulconer was adamant on the situation’s seriousness, saying “Our City’s future solvency is at stake.” Faulconer praised the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, SDCTA head Lani Lutar and actuary Bill Sheffler for documenting the impact of future pension costs if changes aren’t made NOW.
DeMaio remembered two city council candidates who in 2008 talked “pablum” about containing pension costs, but have done little since in office. Qualifying the Pension Reform initiative will force 2012 candidates to say “Yes or No” to this specific proposal, and SD voters will be watching their answers closely.
Also attending were County Supervisor Ron Roberts , Carlsbad Councilwoman Farrah Douglas, Oceanside Councilman Gary Felien, and San Diego Councilwoman Lorie Zapf.
The mood of the meeting combined (1) realization of a big job still ahead, but (2) a strong belief the Pension Reform Initiative will make the ballot, and be approved by voters next year. If you want to help qualify the measure, please visit the Reform committee’s website at this handy link: http://realpensionreform.com/home/