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Bonnie Dumanis Says She Deserves Pension, Supports Eliminating Pensions For Future Workers

Bonnie Dumanis, San Diego Mayor's Race Loading...
Bonnie Dumanis Says She Deserves Pension, Supports Eliminating Pensions For Future Workers
GuestBonnie Dumanis is currently serving as San Diego County's District Attorney and is a candidate to be San Diego's next mayor.

CAVANAUGH: This morning, we're talking with each of the four major candidates for San Diego mayor. We started with FLETCHER and Fletcher, now in an order selected by random draw, we move on to the next two candidates. Bonnie Dumanis has been serving as San Diego County district attorney since 2003. And welcome to the show. DUMANIS: Thank you, Maureen. Good to be here. CAVANAUGH: Now, back in 2010, you were referred to in a public series on the DA's office as San Diego's most powerful politician. Now you're trailing in the polls behind the three other candidates. DUMANIS: Well, I don't think there's anything to explain. First of all, the campaign is just beginning, people are just beginning to focus, we're on the rise. Everything is going great. And I appreciate the support I'm getting on all areas. I've never considered myself the most powerful person here in San Diego County. That's somebody else's headline. CAVANAUGH: The polls do keep kind of going down for you. And I'm wondering and you think that you're having a hard time getting your message out. DUMANIS: No, I don't think so at all. The same polls showed me 20% behind a week before I won the DA's race. So polls are only good for a sliver of time, and they're not scientifically reliable most of the time anyway. So I'm in it to Quinn it, I'm going forward, and I'm excited. CAVANAUGH: Are you finding any problem in differentiating yourself from the other let us say more conservative, non- Democrats? I used to be able to say all Republicans, but of course Nathan Fletcher is not a Republican equal. DUMANIS: Well, that's debatable. CAVANAUGH: The other candidates who are not Democrats, are you having a hard time finding your own place in that crowd? DUMANIS: No, I think there's a clear choice here. I have experience,ive run a large organization, a troubled organization, and put it together. I have a thousand employees, a budget of $150 million, and three labor organizations that I deal with. And we're running it efficiently, effectively, and we have innovative programs. So I think I am clearly much different. I've been a leader in the San Diego County for twenty years as a judge, and as the elected district attorney. CAVANAUGH: Now, your plans for San Diego cutting red tape for business, no new taxes, they have been criticized as rather general. If I may, let me ask you a specific question about a recent neighborhood issue in San Diego. What for instance would you do as mayor about the neighborhood turmoil Creted by Walmart knocking down parts of the farmer's market in Sherman heights? DUMANIS: Well, are the first thing I would do is sit down with the community. My style of leadership is to get input, to get everybody to the table, to tell them what I think. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree. But I find that what Uflights us is far more important and better than what divides us. So I'd bring them together, I'd also wring Walmart together, and we'd talk about solutions, and how we might be able to accommodate everybody. And if we can't, how to make everybody feel comfortable with the decision. CAVANAUGH: Do you support the idea of these big box stores in San Diego? Do you like the idea of more Walmarts in San Diego? DUMANIS: Well, it depends on the neighborhood, I think. And clearly some of the neighborhoods have Walmarts and Costco together. So it doesn't necessarily mean anything. I think that should be a neighborhood to neighborhood kind of decision. In some areas, it provides a lot of jobs. And we need jobs here in San Diego right now. CAVANAUGH: On the topic of downtown development, you talk a lot on your website about the ambitious waterfront development plan that's promoted by the editors of UT San Diego. But on your website, it's not clear if you support that plan. Do you support it? DUMANIS: There's no plan that I've seen that I support. What I think is that we need to talk about all the different areas. Right now, there's a plan for a stadium downtown, and that is going forward with the Chargers and NFL. The mayor is working on that, we have to see where that goes. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Would you as mayor champion that plan? DUMANIS: Well, I'd have to see where it is at that point. I've been here I will not support anything that No. 1 doesn't have a vote of the people, and No. 2, doesn't fall on the backs of taxpayers. But I think creatively we can look at ways to do that, and I think we should look at different ways. I think we should look at what's the best for San Diego, and it's got to be a regional solution, whatever it is. So I knowledge the discussion is good. And we'll see where we are. This mayor is working until the last day of office, and he's doing lots of things, and he's done a great job, but there's a lot more to do, and I plan to get it done. CAVANAUGH: Now, in the years of your working for San Diego County, DA Dumanis, you've accumulated a county pension of more than $200,000 a year. How can you support prop B? DUMANIS: I started my career in 1974, worked my way up from a junior clerk typist to a prosecutor, deputy DA, an attorney, to superior court judge, and now to the elected district attorney. That's 38 years of public service. But in all of that time, I've never been in a position to make any change to a pension or to vote on my salary or anything else. So I think right now what we see is that there's are pension benefits that we live under, are unaffordable, and we have to do something about it. I've looked at the pension reform, talked to experts, I think it's reflecting what is happening in private sector now, and that is a 401K style with the option of an annuity. It's a contribution by the employee and the city, and it goes into a pooled fund where there is a solid income that will come of that, and it takes care of the abuses of the past, and it shifts the risk. It's a different time. And by the way, with respect to my pension, everybody knows I'm going to receive a generous pension, and it's just under $200,000. CAVANAUGH: Under. DUMANIS: Yes. But I have also said I'm going to donate my mayor's salary for the next four years, $400,000 to education programs, because I'm so passionate about that. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: But your support of prop B would take the pension away from a little clerk typist the way you used to be! DUMANIS: No, it wouldn't take it away from anybody. Of that's the miss understanding. Pension rights are vested. What it says is -- CAVANAUGH: Newly hired. DUMANIS: Newly hired. When newly hired people come to look for a job, they know what their options are, just like in private practice, and they make a choice, and things are different. Younger people are more mobile now. They can take that contribution, that defined contribution, and it's portable. So we need to reflect the community at large and we need to be realistic. And why I think I can implement that pension reform is because I am tough, but I am also fair, and I'm very pro employee. CAVANAUGH: Critics charge that you made a big mistake in choosing not to prosecute the estrangeded husband of Diana Gonzalez. And that man allegedly ended up killing her. Do you now think that that was a mistake? DUMANIS: Well, first of all, here's how we make our decisions. Our decision comes in from a police department, we review it based on our legal obligations, the facts, the evidence, and the law. Our prosecutors, a team of them, looked at the this and made a determination that there was not sufficient evidence, which is our legal obligation. There were things that were identified as a result of that case that were red flags everywhere, and since that time, we've actually reviewed things and put into a ply a high-risk response team for domestic violence. CAVANAUGH: I'm afraid I'm going to have to end that there. I have been speaking with Bonnie Dumanis, DA of San Diego County. Thank you very much. DUMANIS: You're welcome, thank you.

District Attorney and mayoral candidate Bonnie Dumanis says when she retires, she stands to earn just under $200,000 for her pension. She also supports Proposition B, which would put an end to pensions for new city employees and give them 401(k)-style plans instead.

Dumanis told KPBS that after her career in public service, she feels she earned her pension, but said as mayor she would vote to end pensions for new employees.


"I worked for 38 years from a junior typist to prosecutor to superior court judge and district attorney, breaking many glass ceilings along the way," she said. "But never was I in a position to make a decision about pensions or on my salary and as mayor I will be in that position."

She said if Proposition B passes, new city employees will know they aren't receiving pensions when they are hired.

"And the market has changed," she said. "We can't afford the benefits and we've got to look at the salaries in the private industry as well."

She added that younger workers are more mobile today, so they do not expect pensions.

Dumanis said reports in Voice of San Diego that she will receive at least $249,000 for her pension are incorrect.


Although Dumanis has consistently been last in the polls, she told KPBS she is not worried about the election on June 5.

"I'm not in fourth place," she said. "Campaigns are always in flux, polls are for the moment, and the same polls showed me 20 percent behind a week before I won district attorney in 2002."

She added her campaign was not showing television commercials when the last poll was taken, but they are now.

"We have been very aggressive," she said. "As I go out to talk to people I'm really humbled by the support I get about my plans, about my experience, and the difference about what I bring to the table, which is 38 years in San Diego, working in San Diego and giving back to the community."

Dumanis said she doesn't look at polls "because the only poll that counts is June 5."

"It's really just something the insiders look at," she said. "People really haven't started focusing yet, and now they're beginning to because the ballots have gone out."

"I'm in it to win it and I plan on being the next mayor of San Diego," she said.

A mayoral scorecard created by Voice of San Diego shows Dumanis largely holds the same positions as City Councilman Carl DeMaio and state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, and Dumanis agreed "we are similar on a lot of issues."

"But the difference is the three others are legislators," she said. "The type of experience you get as a Washington insider or a Sacramento politician or a city councilman doesn't prepare you for the job of mayor."

She said being mayor is like being CEO of a multi-billion-dollar organization with 10,000 employees.

"So I think I bring something different to the table," she said.

Dumanis said she has long supported same-sex marriage and stood with Mayor Jerry Sanders at a press conference to urge people to vote against Proposition 8 to ban gay marriage. She said she has been married to her partner Denise for three years.

She also said she has always been supportive of abortion rights.

Dumanis added if elected, she will donate her entire mayoral salary to education programs and would not enter the pension system "at all."