Councilman: Pension reform opponents might manipulate ballot mea - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Councilman: Pension reform opponents might manipulate ballot measure

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Opponents of an initiative to reform the city of San Diego's ailing pension system might try to delay a public vote or "manipulate" its ballot language, a councilman said Friday.

The Comprehensive Pension Reform measure qualified for a public vote, and is scheduled to be considered by the City Council on Monday. The council, in a formality, needs to place the measure on an upcoming election ballot.

The city will have opportunities to hold elections next year in June and November.

Councilman Carl DeMaio said he has heard "rumblings" that there will be an attempt to delay the measure until the November 2012 general election.

At a news conference, the mayoral candidate also said he was concerned that opponents will try to change the measure's title, summary, legal analysis and financial details.

DeMaio said he wants his council colleagues to place the measure on the June primary ballot, provide an "unbiased" description for voters and give objective financial information vetted by Mayor Jerry Sanders' financial staff and the city's Independent Budget Analyst.

He said a council move to place the measure on the ballot without protections would leave an opportunity for opponents to fiddle with the wording that voters review before casting their votes.

The measure, which gained 145,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot, calls for most newly hired workers -- except police officers -- to be enrolled in 401(k) programs instead of being entered in the debt-ridden employee pension system.

The bigger savings would result in a five-year freeze on pay that could be used to compute a worker's pension when he or she retires. Employees would still be eligible for raises or bonuses during the time period, but that extra money would be ignored when figuring their pension.

The San Diego County Taxpayers Association believes the reforms contained in the initiative would save at least $1.2 billion through 2040.

Sanders said Monday's action by council members will be another critical step for the reform effort.

"Their choice is clear -- they can be reformers or they can be road blocks," Sanders said.

DeMaio said that while the council is legally obligated to place the initiative on the ballot, the opportunity to change details is strong because he and colleagues Kevin Faulconer and Lorie Zapf are the measure's only strong backers, leaving five others who offer lukewarm support or are in opposition.

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