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Legal Hearing To Begin On San Diego’s Pension Measure

Aired 7/17/12 on KPBS News.

San Diego and its largest labor union will battle it out over pension reform today. A hearing will begin later this morning about whether city officials violated labor law in campaigning for Proposition B.

— Representatives from the city and the Municipal Employees Association will present their cases regarding the legality of Proposition B to an administrative law judge as part of the Public Employment Relations Board process. The MEA filed a complaint with PERB alleging Mayor Jerry Sanders used his office improperly when campaigning for Proposition B. The voter-approved measure replaces pensions with 401(k)s for most new hires.

Attorney Ricardo Ochoa, a professor at California Western School of Law, has argued several cases in front of PERB. He said the organization is independent and neutral. San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith had called PERB the city's adversary at one point. Ochoa disagrees with that assessment.

"Never before have there been accusations or insinuations that it is beholden to any one side or another," he said. "Its members are confirmed by the Senate and appointed by the governor just like all other appointees. And it is definitely a neutral agency."

The hearing for the case is scheduled to last four days. But Ochoa said it could take six months to a year to work through the administrative process. That does not include any potential court appeals. City leaders have said they want a quick implementation of Proposition B. But Ochoa said this case is especially complicated because it’s about an issue PERB hasn’t considered before.

"At what point do city officials, who are promoting a citizens initiative, but which they are using their office as elected officials to promote it in the public eye -- at what point does that become an official city action?" he asked.

The hearing is being held in Glendale. Mayor Sanders is expected to testify on Wednesday.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | July 17, 2012 at 9:18 a.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

Unfortunately pensions are becoming a thing of the past... people will now instead need to plan for their own financial future, save for it, and invest in it. Even if pensions were available, I would not take one for fear of funds running out during my retirement. It has happened in the past and it is tragic.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | July 17, 2012 at 10:46 a.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

Why do you find this unfortunate? Self reliance is a good thing. It rewards savers and careful investors who limit their expenses while punishing the frivolous. That is how a balanced economy SHOULD work. What is the down side?

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | July 17, 2012 at 12:03 p.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

Sorry, that could be misconstrued. I am glad pensions are ending as I do not believe in the premise of pensions (or unions, we have OSHA now) I just meant it is unfortunate for the people that would like to live on the dole and let someone else manage their finances for them. It was with a pinch of sarcasm that I said it is unfortunate.

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | July 17, 2012 at 2:26 p.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

It's ridiculous that government, city employees and the like can believe they deserve pensions we (the taxpayer) cannot afford. This is an example of people taking care of their own. I don't like the idea of seeing anyone lose out on retirement, but when I am forced to pay taxes that cover pensions, well, yeah, I have a problem with that. I never would've agreed to this when city leaders put these pensions in place considering their longterm effect.

And what's up with police being out of this? Their pension plans should be switched to 401k too! After all, they're part of the problem.

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