SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Current and incoming members of the San Diego City Council said Thursday they have the votes to deny any attempt to block implementation of a critical component of a pension reform initiative passed by voters in June.
Proposition B, which was backed by two-thirds of voters, calls for new employees other than police officers to receive 401(k)-style retirement plans, instead of being enrolled in the debt-ridden pension system. City officials and union leaders are currently negotiating an interim benefits package.
In December, talks are scheduled to start on the other major plank of the ballot measure, which for five years will limit -- to base compensation -- the earnings employees can later use to calculate pension payouts. That component, however, can be overturned by a vote of six City Council members.
At a news conference, current council members Kevin Faulconer and Lorie Zapf, and incoming members Mark Kersey and Scott Sherman, all pledged support for the five-year freeze. If they keep their stance, opponents of the ballot measure would only be able to muster five votes, at most.
Faulconer said the voters "spoke very, very clearly" when they passed Proposition B.
"Now it's the law, and it must be put in action," he said. "I'm confident the City Council will lead by delivering results for taxpayers, and block any attempts to water down pension reform."
Councilman Carl DeMaio, who is giving up his seat to run for mayor, said voters "want an end to the pension crisis and want their services back."
The news conference was organized by his mayoral campaign.
Both DeMaio and city firefighters union head Frank DeClercq said negotiations on the interim benefits package for new employees were progressing well. The city is unable to hire new workers until an interim 401(k)-style plan is implemented.
DeClercq said the news conference showed a "total disregard for the meet-and-confer process that's going on right now" and called it a "publicity stunt" for DeMaio's campaign.
DeMaio's opponent in the mayoral race, Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, said the councilman is "selling voters a bill of goods."
"[DeMaio's] claiming that he only needs four council votes to implement the five-year freeze on pensionable pay, but Prop B does not override the state-mandated meet-and-confer process.
"As a result of [DeMaio's] initiative, the city could very well be left with a stalemate -- unable to reach agreement under Prop B, but also unable to impose its conditions," Filner said.
The proposition is the subject of several lawsuits and hearings before the state Public Employment Relations Board.
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