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What’s Next For Pension Reform After Passage Of Proposition B?

Michael Zucchet, general manager of the San Diego Municipal Employees Association, and San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith talk to KPBS about Proposition B.

Michael Zucchet, General Manager of the San Diego Municipal Employees Association

Jan Goldsmith, San Diego City Attorney


San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the "Comprehensive Pension Reform" initiative, Proposition B, which was overwhelmingly approved yesterday by voters, is legal and that the city has an obligation to implement it.

"How you implement it has to be in a legal manner," he said. "We're going to be working on some options and will discuss that later in the week."

The measure would provide most new city hires, excluding police officers, with a 401(k) instead of a pension. To hold down future pension costs, Proposition B would also seek to impose a five-year pay freeze on current employees.

Changing that freeze would require a two-thirds vote of the City Council.

"We're going to defend it, we're going to implement it, and we're going to implement it in a legal manner," Goldsmith said.

Michael Zucchet, the general manager of the San Diego Municipal Employees Association, which opposed the measure, said the city's determination that the measure is legal is "news to us."

"Up until yesterday they were saying it wasn't their initiative and made no legal determination about the initiative," he said. "Apparently, something changed overnight."

Zucchet's white collar union is already in litigation with the city of San Diego over the measure.

Five cases are pending over Proposition B, four in front of the Public Employees Relations Board, or PERB, Goldsmith said. PERB is suing the city of San Diego on behalf of the white collar union.

SDMEA first filed a complaint with PERB in February, contending the ballot initiative should be disqualified because city leaders engaged in unfair labor practices. A judge refused to issue a temporary restraining order that could have kept the measure off the June ballot.

Goldsmith said his office doesn't "think very much of" the basis for that litigation.

"Let's keep our eye on the ball," he said. "The voters said very clearly that they want pension reform, and they want it in this manner and they want us to implement it."

Goldsmith said he has 320 people in his office who work for the city, and he does not want to lose them to cities with better employment benefits.

"We want to find a way to implement this legally, which we think we can do, we want to implement it in a way that allows us to attract and retain good employees and is not harmful to our employees," he said.

Goldsmith said that will happen at the bargaining table.

He said he expects the proposition will take effect in mid-July or early August.

Zucchet said the most likely outcome is that a court will determine what's legal.

"That's anyone's guess as to how long that might take," he said.

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