More Blows for Reed and DeMaio as Pension Efforts Ring in the New Year

Steven Maviglio
Principal of Forza Communications, a Sacramento-based public affairs/campaign firm

A holiday blizzard of bad news has hit former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and former San Diego City Council member Carl DeMaio, undermining their efforts on two state ballot measures to reduce retirement security for public workers.

In early December, the long-running battle between the City of San Jose and the city’s police department came to an end. Both sides tentatively agreed on a benefits deal which effectively kills what Reed proposed in the city. Reed’s measure had already lost in court; the deal is expected to save the city millions in litigation and, more importantly, bring back police officers to the city.  Adding insult to injury, San Jose’s new mayor Sam Liccardo, suggested on KQED Forum, that Reed’s tactics were harmful to the city, and that negotiating in good faith would have been a better option.

A week later, an independent poll conducted by the web news service Capital & Main by Binder Research found that the Reed/DeMaio measures would fail if put before voters. According to their report, “The first measure, which would move new state and local employees from traditional defined benefit pensions into 401(k)-style retirement savings plans, tested at 42 percent in support and 42 percent opposed; its sibling measure, which would cap the amount of money government employers could pay for most new hires’ retirement benefits at no more than 11 percent of wages, or a maximum of 13 percent for public safety workers, found 40 percent support and 40 percent opposed. The poll, conducted between December 10-13, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.”

This poll tested only the title and summary of the measures – nothing else. In an interview with theSacramento Bee in mid-December, Reed said the measures would need to have 60 percent support to go forward. They fell far short of that yardstick.

Veteran political guru Sherry Bebitch Jaffe of the USC Price School of Public Policy, noted in that report that “The general electorate in November is usually far more Democratic than Republican,” Bebitch Jeffe said. “In November, that’s when Democrats turn out in force.”

Reed acknowledged as much. “This is California,” he told Capital & Main. “If you want to run a statewide campaign you need a lot of money. We’ve always operated under the premise that we need to raise and spend a lot of money in order to win.”

But even money may not buy Reed and DeMaio love. Last week, The state Public Employment Relations Board ruled that the city of San Diego violated state law by not negotiating with employee unions over a 2012 ballot measure that eliminated guaranteed pension benefits for most city employees.

DeMaio had a major hand in that effort. In an email effort today, DeMaio dismissed the legal problems with his work. Instead, he wrote “The govt (sic) union bosses and politicians are working together” to invalidate his failed plan.

The San Diego ruling ultimately may be appealed. But in any case, it’s another example of the failed track record of Reed and DeMaio on restructuring pensions. It’s no wonder their plan to replicate their efforts on a statewide basis have failed to attract donor — or public — support.

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