The San Diego Pension Reform Power Play: Is the Mayor a Lame Duck?

Greg Larkin Greg Larkin 7 Comments


Three weeks ago Mayor Jerry Sanders and his top staff were smug. They were sure they had the financial backing to get their pension reform measure on the ballot. They were sure they had the power to strong arm the Lincoln Club and the San Diego County Taxpayers Association into not backing a more stringent version of pension reform. The defeat of Proposition D…ahhh, that was a while ago…no lingering memories of betrayal. One insider literally said, “We have a million dollars committed and we are going to roll right over anyone who doesn’t back our version.”

It turns out they were wrong, humiliatingly wrong.

A week ago there was talk of compromise between the two measures, the version floated by Sanders and Councilman Kevin Faulconer and the one proposed by Councilman Carl DeMaio.  The process of compromise was awkward, however — Sanders has refused for some time to deal directly with his nemesis, DeMaio.

Yet, DeMaio is key to the financial muscle behind the more sweeping reform measure. If the Sanders people thought they might strike a deal with the Lincoln Club and Taxpayers Association, without including DeMaio, it meant one thing. The more stringent measure would still gather signatures and likely end up on the ballot — probable death to the Mayor’s more moderate version. Further, it became clearly apparent that the Lincoln Club and Taxpayers didn’t consider themselves lapdogs to Sanders on the pension reform issue. They would negotiate toughly.

Then the pro-Sanders forces are said to have tried a sneak attack. Hardly the way to begin negotiations, but inside sources say they believed they could totally discredit the more far reaching ballot measure and force it’s collapse.  Insiders even hint that a law firm was paid a hefty chunk of change to review the competing measure.  Surprise, surprise — the firm is said to have found the language illegal.

Yet, there might have been a problem. Did the Mayor’s team even have the actual language of the other pension reform measure? Credible sources say no, which — if true — meant a legal opinion that had no application to reality.

Additionally, this isn’t the old Union-Tribune that seemed to previously march in lockstep with Sanders. The news reporting has detailed the opinion of those calling into question the true impacts of the Sanders/Faulconer proposal.

The sneak attack failed and the Mayor’s credibility took another hit.

Then, at the end of last week, as the sides were still discussing a negotiating session, the Mayor’s team decided to play power politics again — announcing they would be submitting their version so as to start gathering signatures. The power play failed. It looked like the Mayor’s team was being disingenuous in discussing negotiations. It became readily apparent that the financial backing of the Mayor’s measure was weak, and that backing for what many see as the “real reform” version was strong. Faulconer further inflamed the situation by posting on Twitter what many viewed him labeling the Lincoln Club and Taxpayers Association as “far right.”

Back peddling from the Mayor’s office started early this week.

Private negotiations are rumored to have taken place on Wednesday.  Some of the discussion may be worth hearing, in a future post. The actual text of the DeMaio measure was reviewed and insiders say it was found — in actuality this time — to be legal and enforceable. The deal was no copy of the measure would leave the meeting, due to prior leaks.

Look for more back and forth in the next few days. The Mayor’s office may be divided, with some believing they should simply jump on board with the “real reform” measure and go for the ride. Others simply can’t get emotionally past the idea that the Mayor isn’t the only power in town any more, largely because he squandered good will from his own supporters on Proposition D.

The growing question: With elections a year and a half off, is the Mayor already a lame duck?


Comments 7

  1. Huh:

    The blog posts here are the opinions of the individual writers. There is no set Rostra opinion on any one matter. This is Larkin’s opinion. A legitimate one, but an opinion all the same. Feel free to share yours.

  2. The key difference between the Republican and the Democrat Party is we are willing to discuss our differences.

    That said, I think Larkin makes some good points. For a sitting Mayor to not be willing to discuss a major issue with a sitting councilman is just childish. For a Republican Mayor to collude with Labor to raise taxes is simply inexcusable.

  3. SD Rostra doesn’t enforce a stifling party conformity of Rs vs. Ds, and encourages discussion of Sanders’ ideas on their merits, good and bad.

    For that, it has this L’s gratitude.

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