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Pension Reform Backers To Make Big Push For Petition Signatures

The fight over pension reform in San Diego hits the airwaves tonight: A local news station is airing a special that’s already drawing controversy.

KUSI will air a 90-minute special report tonight on the effort to get a pension reform measure on the June ballot. San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio has touted the KUSI special in e-mails to supporters, telling them to come sign petitions on live television. DeMaio is a primary backer of the measure, which would replace city pensions with 401(k) plans for most new hires. He said the pension reform campaign was asked to provide a panelist for tonight’s show.

“In response to that request we identified panelist. My understanding is that KUSI was offering the same privilege or opportunity to the labor unions,” he said. “The labor unions apparently don’t want to present their case.”

DeMaio said about 30,000 additional valid signatures are needed to reach the necessary total of 95,000 by the deadline to qualify the initiative for the June 2012 election, which is 29 days away. He said he would like to take 105,000 signatures to the city clerk's office to provide a cushion in case some of them are invalid.

Supporters say the pension system would save at least $1.2 billion through 2040 by giving new employees other than police officers 401(k) plans and, among other things, imposing a five-year freeze on current worker pay used later to calculate pension amounts. The workers would still receive raises and bonuses, but the extra money wouldn't be used in retirement calculations.

The plan is fiercely opposed by the city's labor unions.

DeMaio said the unions are engaging in political theater rather than discussing the issue.

Lorena Gonzalez is with the San Diego Imperial Counties Labor Council. She said she was invited to do a pre-taped interview, but said her request to appear live on air was denied. Gonzalez maintains the show is a glorified campaign ad for the measure.

“We had our election law attorney in Los Angeles look at the issues and they came back to us and said that they think this actually qualifies as an extended campaign commercial,” she said. Gonzalez said KUSI needs to disclose to its viewers that it’s donating the airtime to the campaign.

Dean Nelson directs the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University. He said the distinction between news and campaigning will come down to the content on the show.

“The definition of a news program would be that you get as many versions of the truth in there as you can at the time,” he said. “So if you don’t have more than one dominate voice in there, that seems to me like a news release.”

Calls to KUSI’s general manager about the content of the special were not returned.

In addition to collecting signatures live during the televised report, signature gatherers plan to be at the Wal-Mart at 4840 Shawline St. between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m.

From 5-8 p.m., they will also be at:

-- Whole Foods, 8825 Villa La Jolla Drive;

-- Target, 3245 Sports Arena Blvd.;

-- Trader Joe's, 1092 University Ave.;

-- Food 4 Less, 312 Euclid Ave.;

-- Albertsons, 14340 Penasquitos Drive;

-- Kiels, 7403 Jackson Drive; and

-- Vons, 620 Dennery Road.

James R. Riffel with City News Service contributed to this article.

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | September 16, 2011 at 7:40 a.m. ― 5 years, 6 months ago

We need to vote for pension reform and stop these ridiculous pay and pensions that are bleeding us dry. How it could've reached this point is beyond reason. I don't want to see anyone lose a retirement, but to depend on taxpayer dollars to provide a pension that increases with the cost of living, allows you to double-dip pensions (earning two), not to mention acquire overtime that your pension will be based on your last 3 years of work instead of current salary is simply not feasible. Police, firefighters and lifeguards should've seen this coming years ago. I appreciate what they do, but what they are charging us for their service to the community is highway robbery.

I suggest they each talk with a financial advisor and learn about growth funds, 401k, and Roth IRAs. I've been in those for years and seen the benefit grow for me so that when I retire I'll have a decent living. This is the way of the future for all of us. The sooner they get on board, the sooner they'll benefit.

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Avatar for user 'Truthsquad'

Truthsquad | September 16, 2011 at 9:32 a.m. ― 5 years, 6 months ago

Is this too a paid promotion for this attempt to take away retirement security for thousands of families? Why is lobs posting locations of petitioners in a news article?

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Avatar for user 'Ackmatty'

Ackmatty | September 16, 2011 at 10:50 a.m. ― 5 years, 6 months ago

David, I only wish you would actually seek the truth instead of regurgitating the lies you buy into from people like Carl Demaio. The dude has his agenda and will stop at nothing to promote it. He lies through his teeth and too many citizens just eat it up. The fact is that police, fire, and lifeguards are underpaid AND understaffed in this City. Public safety receives similar pensions nationwide. But here in San Diego, where City officials have admittedly mismanaged public funds, public safety has become the scapegoat. You certainly do not support nor appreciate your police, fire, and lifeguards. But don't worry. We will always be here to keep you and yours safe.

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Avatar for user 'Jeff92122'

Jeff92122 | September 18, 2011 at 8:46 a.m. ― 5 years, 6 months ago

I wish the people of San Diego new the kind of very competent selfless heroes they have working for the San Diego fire department. If they did they would not be taking away the pension benefits for new employees. I had the privledge of attending an award ceremony a few years ago where fire employees and some citizens were being awarded for saving lives that year. I was amazed at the stories where our firefighters put their lives on the line. Some of the stories seemed like they were straight out of a Hollywood movie. I will admit to you that my Dad retired from the fire department so I know I'm somewhat biased. I work for lawenforcement and of course I know of the heroes we have protecting us from the bad guys. People never think they'll need a firefighter to help them, but they are always worried about the criminals. Please don't vote to take away pensions from our firefighter heroes.

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