Pension reform measure that San Diegans overwhelmingly supported in 2012 stands
SAN DIEGO (April 11, 2017) --- A California appeal’s court ruled unanimously in favor today of two appeals challenging an employee relations board ruling that aimed to overturn a pension reform measure San Diego voters overwhelmingly supported five years ago.
“This is a victory for the citizens of San Diego and the state of California,” said April Boling, one of three proponents of the pension reform measure who also filed one of the court appeals in January 2016 following a decision by the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). “The court agreed citizens can take matters into their own hands through the initiative process and support of elected officials does not somehow trigger the requirement for union negotiations.”
PERB is charged with administering collective bargaining statutes covering California public employees. In this case, it said the City of San Diego erred by moving forward with the pension reform measure and bypassing negotiations between employee unions and the mayor at that time, Jerry Sanders.
The authors of the measure, Boling, T.J. Zane and Stephen Williams, argued it is their right under the state constitution to circulate a petition, gather signatures and place a citizens initiative on the ballot. They also asserted that support from elected officials, including Sanders, does not trigger the requirement for labor negotiations.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal sided with the proponents as well as with the City of San Diego, which filed a similar appeal challenging PERB’s ruling.
“PERB's fundamental premise – that under agency principles Sanders's support for the measure converted it from a citizens-sponsored initiative on which no meet-and-confer obligations were imposed into a City Council-sponsored ballot proposal to which meet-and-confer obligations became applicable – is legally erroneous,” the court wrote in its ruling.
Kenneth Lounsbery, the attorney who represented the proponents, said: "This ruling is very good news for San Diego taxpayers. Pension reform is sorely needed in every California city. Additionally, the finding that neither an administrative process nor bureaucrats can interfere with the citizens initiative process is really profoundly important and great news for voters."
San Diego City Attorney Mara W. Elliott said: “This case has statewide significance in affirming Californians’ constitutional right to direct democracy. In defending Proposition B, we protect the power of our citizens to participate in and guide their government.”
Mayor Kevin Faulconer said: "The taxpayer protections and savings Proposition B generates are critically important, so I'm glad to see it upheld as the law of the land. Today the court protected the clear will of the voters, reaffirming our ability to carry out the reforms in Prop B. This citizens initiative gave City Hall new tools to bring stability to San Diego's financial problems, and this ruling means we don't have to turn back the clock on pension reform. I would like to thank City Attorney Mara Elliott, the City Council which supported this appeal, former City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and the initiative's proponents for fighting to ensure the people's voice is heard."
Sanders said: “Today’s ruling upholds the voters’ decision keeping pension reform intact and saving San Diego taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. San Diego can now invest those funds in what our community needs most – road repairs, parks, libraries, more police officers and firefighters, and other critical City services.”
Councilmember Chris Cate said: “I am pleased with the recent upholding of Proposition B and reaffirming the will of the voters who overwhelmingly approved this measure in 2012. The protections and savings Prop B will generate are an important step in improving the quality of life for San Diegans and the fiscal health of the City.”
Haney Hong, President and CEO of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, said: “This decision is a reaffirmation of the right and power of citizens to participate in our democratic process to enact positive reforms when the systems in place are resistant to change. SDCTA supported Proposition B in 2012 as a sensible, responsible step toward addressing the City of San Diego’s increasing pension debt. We look forward to the long-term stability that this initiative will bring to San Diego and urge other cities in the region take similar steps to implement pension reform and pursue long-term fiscal stability.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Tony Manolatos