Is Tom Shepard Blocking Complete Pension Reform?

Aynd Rand Aynd Rand 7 Comments

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As everyone in San Diego (and probably the nation) knows, the big issue coming down the political pipeline is pension reform. Locally, everyone is talking about the prospect of two ballot measures simultaneously on the street collecting signatures to “fix the pension system.” On one side are the Lincoln Club, Councilmember Carl DeMaio and others looking to manage pension levels for all current employees while placing future employees in a 401(K) style plan. On the other side is Mayor Jerry Sanders, who’s plan merely looks to place future non-public safety employees into a 401(k) style plan.

The major dispute between the two groups is whether a new 401(K) only plan should include public safety or not. According to the City website, in FY’10 Police staffing totaled $398,258,568 (http://www.sandiego.gov/fm/annual/pdf/fy10/54v2police.pdf) and the Fire Department totaled $191,092,571 (http://www.sandiego.gov/fm/annual/pdf/fy10/52v2fire.pdf). Obviously, deciding whether to include these employees in pension reform will make a huge difference on the effectiveness of the reform. Furthermore, prospective funders continue to worry about possibly funding both initiatives.

The Mayor has Tom Shepard, his longtime general consultant, running the limited pension reform initiative. San Diego insiders have always know that Shepard has a lot of influence on the Mayor and how he takes positions on issues. In addition to being a general consultant, Shepard has a lobbying group representing various clients including the SD Police Union. http://www.pps.us.com/

This leads to the obvious question: How could Shepard ever reasonably be asked to run a campaign reforming pension benefits which Police Officers will obviously oppose. He would almost surely suffer the loss of a major client from his PR/Lobbying firm if the Mayor were to include all employees in his pension reform plan.

This also provides some interesting background explaining why Shepard recently purchased a legal opinion against the Lincoln Club/DeMaio initiative, claiming its terms are illegal. A one page draft summary has been going around with the purpose of trying to influence groups against supporting Lincoln Club. The “legal opinion” is highly suspect in my opinion because I’ve been told the Lincoln Club/DeMaio language has yet to be released and therefore can’t have been properly analyzed by the Sanders/Shepard lawyer.

Shepard’s competing interests also may help explain the lack of willingness by Sanders/Shepard to talk about joining forces with Lincoln Club/DeMaio.

What does all this mean to us? It means many groups who want to see pension reforms in San Diego will either have to choose between initiatives or at least give less money to each initiative. The only winner in this scenario is the Labor Unions who have been obstinate in fixing the problem.

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Comments 7

  1. The posting is obviously an opinion. But, why not at least tell readers the major inaccuracies, if not all of the “flesh”? Then they can conclude for themselves whether any of the post has merit.

  2. I followed the link Aynd Rand provided to the Public Policy Strategies page, but it shows NO MENTION of the SD Police Officers Association.

    However, It DOES show the firm has clients like the LINCOLN CLUB of San Diego and the San Diego County TAXPAYERS Assn … neither of which sound very sinister.

    Like all campaign consultants, Tom Shepard assists his clients in achieving THEIR goals, not his own. That is one reason he has been so successful here for so long.

  3. Jim: as an FYI, the Taxpayers Association is NOT a CLIENT of Public Policy Strategies, but rather, Public Policy Strategies is involved in SDCTA.

  4. For what it’s worth, the Club is not a client of PPS, nor are any individuals associated with PPS active as members of the Club, as the PPS website claims. If either were true, the Club would probably be listed by it’s proper name, The Lincoln Club of San Diego County.

  5. This post is ill-informed. Those familiar with these negotiations know Shepard’s point of view to be quite different from that fabricated by Rand.

    The truth is, Rand’s post is a desperate effort by Carl DeMaio and his surrogates to salvage his fatally-flawed approach to pension reform. Pension law experts who have analyzed DeMaio’s approach report it violates state law and an existing court settlement. Were it to be adopted, it would be tossed out, leaving taxpayers with higher pension costs and no progress in reforming pensions. Major donors have recognized these flaws in DeMaio’s approach and made the determination to support Mayor Sanders’ approach. That’s why DeMaio is now attacking Shepard.

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