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Monday, Jan 30, 2023
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Union Fires Off Message to Mayor

The 6,000-member San Diego Municipal Employees Association is unhappy that they were not given the chance to read or comment on Mayor Jerry Sanders’ two proposed ballot measures that would directly impact the union.

In an open letter to Sanders, posted on the MEA Web site Feb. 3, MEA President Judie Italiano said that the mayor’s assistant had “assured us that we would get the ballot language prior to any announcement. That never happened.”

On Feb. 2, Sanders had proposed two measures for the Nov. 7 ballot that would give voters a say in pension benefit raises, and allow the city to open up services to competitive bidding.

The pension measure, which would amend the city charter, would require a majority of the voters to approve any increase in benefits.

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The measure also requires that:

– Any change to the employee retiree benefits , other than those resulting in an increase in benefits , must be approved by a majority of the current members of the system.

– Any change to the system that impacts the vested defined benefits of a retired member of the system must be approved by a majority of the affected retirees.

– When a benefit increase is placed before the voters, an actuarial study of the cost or savings must be completed ahead of time, and a summary of that study would be published in the ballot pamphlet.

– City officials still will be able to negotiate tentative agreements with employee organizations that include retirement benefit changes. However, those changes would not be binding until approved by voters.

The second measure, opening up city services to outside vendors, also would require an amendment to the city charter. Under the proposal:

– City employees in affected departments will have the right to compete.

– All proposals would be evaluated by an independent review board, made up of individuals with expertise in the service area being considered. The board members may not have had a previous or current financial relationship with any of the service providers under consideration; and will be prohibited from having a future financial relationship with a winning contractor.

If an outside contractor is recommended by the mayor, the City Council may either accept or reject the proposal. Once approved, the mayor will be responsible for monitoring the progress of the service, and provide updates to the City Council.

The measure doesn’t apply to uniformed officers, including police, fire or lifeguards, unless the service is currently being performed under contract.

Sanders intends to ask the City Council rules committee to review his proposals and forward them to the full City Council, which is expected to consider them at its meeting Feb. 27.

If the City Council declines to approve the measures, Sanders said that he will lead a signature drive to have them placed on the ballot.

But Italiano on Feb. 3 insisted that “City employees are not afraid of competing for their jobs. They have been doing that for many years with the highly successful Competition and Bid to Goal Programs.

“However, when you share your new ideas and proposals for charter changes with the press, the public, and your private sector friends and advisors, without the courtesy of notifying those who are most impacted by your actions, employees have no choice but to assume you have something to hide and whatever the proposal is, it must be something bad.”

Referencing Sanders’ earlier remarks about putting together a new team to turn the troubled city around, Italiano observed, “My impression of what you said is that you needed city employees and their unions to be on your team. How can we be part of a team that acts without letting the rest of the team know what is going on?”

Sanders was not immediately available to comment on the letter.

Meanwhile, on Feb. 2, the Performance Institute, a San Diego-based government reform think tank that had endorsed Sanders’ financial reform package during the mayoral campaign, pledged its support for the measures.

“By requiring all future pension deals to be put to a public vote, the mayor is providing taxpayers with an insurance policy against politicians and special interests negotiating any more sweetheart pension deals like the ones that have pushed the city to the brink of bankruptcy,” said Carl DeMaio, the group’s president.

“By opening city services to competitive restructuring, the mayor will create an accountable and efficient city government that delivers better services for our residents at lower cost to the taxpayer.”

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