Pension Reform Is Here to Stay - Voice of San Diego

Opinion UNVEILING THE UNSEEN

Pension Reform Is Here to Stay

I voted for Proposition B, supported the City Council’s decision to appeal the PERB ruling against it and continue to support its implementation.

Proposition B reformed San Diego’s municipal employee pension system and provided a pathway out of financial turmoil caused by the city’s underfunding of that system. I supported that measure and was glad to see it pass in 2012 to replace pensions for new city employees with 401(k) retirement programs, while it retained a defined benefit pension for police officers only.

Last year, the Public Employees Review Board issued a ruling to invalidate Proposition B, finding that former Mayor Jerry Sanders put it on the ballot illegally because he never met and conferred with labor groups. In January, the City Council unanimously voted to appeal the decision, and I spoke out in support of the Council’s appeal.

My opponent, Ray Ellis, told the Union-Tribune editorial board that I did not support the appeal, and he continues to misstate my position on Proposition B. To be clear, I voted for Proposition B, supported the City Council’s decision to appeal the PERB ruling against it and continue to support its implementation.

Ellis claimed in a Voice of San Diego op-ed that he met with municipal unions and sought their support, “but they chose Bry because they know she is open to weakening pension reform.”

That, too, is a misrepresentation.

I met with municipal unions and told them directly that I voted for Proposition B, support the city’s appeal of the PERB ruling and continue to support the implementation of Proposition B. They endorsed me not because they think I will compromise on Proposition B, but because they believe my plan for growing the city’s innovation economy to strengthen our tax base, providing more resources to improve neighborhood services is better than my opponent’s. They also believe that I want to ensure that they have the management support, technology and tools to perform their jobs and serve our city. Those same municipal unions have endorsed Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Councilman Mark Kersey, both of whom also support Proposition B.

There has been recent media coverage exposing abuses in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan that allows retired city employees (hired before 2005) to re-enter the workforce and receive pay while also receiving a pension. There is a five-year cap on that program, although that cap was lifted for firefighters in 2002, allowing them to extend their participation in DROP by using accrued annual leave. The system was developed as a stopgap to address recruitment and retention problems, but we need to find a better solution because the plan retains the most senior (and expensive) employees rather than investing resources in hiring, training and retaining younger employees.

As someone who has spent 30 years helping to build companies and ensure their financial success, I’ve had to balance a budget to make payroll. I want to bring my business experience to City Hall to help keep us on the right fiscal track.

Barbara Bry is a high-tech entrepreneur and candidate for San Diego City Council District 1. Bry’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

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