San Luis Obispo City Charter Language about Retirement Benefits, Measure A (August 2011)
Measure A amends the San Luis Obispo City Charter to eliminate the requirement that the City Council hold an election and obtain voter approval before it can terminate its contract with the state's retirement system (CalPERS) or negotiate another contract with reduced employee benefits. Specifically, Measure A amends Section 1105 of the city charter to say, "The City Council may terminate or amend its contract or negotiate another contract to provide improved or reduced employee benefits only in accordance with state law and as permitted by the Board of Administration of PERS." The amended Section 1105 keeps the language that acknowledges the obligation of the City of San Luis Obispo to comply with PERL and other existing and future state laws, but final authority over approval of all contracts between the City and CalPERS is vested in the city council, rather than in the electorate.
The official voter guide arguments supporting Measure A were signed by:
- Jan Marx, Mayor of San Luis Obispo
- Andrew Carter, San Luis Obispo City Council Member
- Lauren Brown
- April Strong
- Dan Hinz
- Amy Kardel
- Russ Levanway
Arguments in favor
Arguments in favor of Measure A included:
- "Pension costs are out of control. Five years ago, San Luis Obispo spent $4.9 million on pensions. Last year, we spent $7.9 million. In five years, without corrective action, the City will spend at least $10.5 million, 20% of our General Fund. That’s more than we currently spend on our Fire Department, Public Works, or Parks & Recreation."
- "Why are pension costs so high? Because pension formulas are too high. Police officers and firefighters can retire at age 50 with pensions that equal up to 90% of their highest year of earnings. Other employees can retire at age 55. A 30-year police officer retiring today receives a pension of at least $93,000. A 30-year firefighter, at least $70,000. A 30-year administrative assistant, $44,000. There are currently fifteen retired City employees receiving pensions worth over $100,000 a year."
- "Can you retire at age 50 with an annual pension worth up to 90% of your highest year of earnings? San Luis Obispo police and firefighters can. If not 50, can you retire at 55? All other city employees can. Can you retire with a pension over $100,000 a year? Fifteen city employees already have. In the past seven years, pension costs have quadrupled – rising from $1.7 to $7.9 million. The city needs pension reform. Without it, pension costs will continue to skyrocket and bleed the city budget, requiring additional cuts in basic services."
"Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility," which supported Measures A and B, raised $35,108 through August 15.
The official voter guide arguments opposing Measure A were signed by:
- Jack O’Connell
- Erik S. Baskin, President, IAFF L3523 San Luis Obispo City Firefighters
- Sherri Stoddard, RN, Director Region 3, California Nurses Association/National Nurses United
- "Measure A is a mean-spirited political maneuver to potentially restrict benefits to our public safety workers. The SLO City Council wants sole authority to dictate and change pension benefits and take away your right to vote on retirement benefits available to our first responders, firefighters, police officers and city employees. By changing current law in which voters decide on future pension policy changes, the city will be gambling with its ability to be competitive and able to attract, train, and retain the critical public safety officers and other personnel that makes our community such a remarkable place to live and work. Moreover, giving the City Council sole authority to dictate changes in pension policies and taking away voters’ rights to decide issues which will affect our city’s future budgetary health sets a dangerous precedent."
- "Measure A, if approved, will take away your right to vote on the public employee pensions negotiated with all city employees. Current law requires that when City Council proposes changes to pensions that voters have the right to democratically approve or deny their proposal. Now the city council wants to take away your voice and rights to approve their spending plans, including first responders and firefighters."
- According to Erik Baskin, the president of the San Luis Obispo firefighters union, "people will die" if Measures A and B are approved.
The San Luis Obispo Police and Fire Association Political Action Committee, which opposed Measures A and B, raised $59,170 through August 15.
Text of measure
The question on the ballot:
|MEASURE A: "Shall Section 1105 (Retirement) of the San Luis Obispo Charter, which authorizes the City Council to enter into a contract with the Board of Administration of the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS), be amended to provide that the City Council may terminate or amend its contract or negotiate another contract to provide improved or reduced employee benefits only in accordance with state law and as permitted by the Board of Administration of PERS?"|
Path to the ballot
The measure was referred to the ballot by the City Council of San Luis Obispo in a 4-1 vote cast on May 17. Councilman John Ashbaugh is the one city council member who voted against putting the measure on the August 30 ballot.
A lawsuit was filed on May 3 by the San Luis Obispo Police Officers Association in a bid to keep the measure from going to a vote.
San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall ruled that sufficient grounds do not exist to keep the ballot measure off the ballot.
- Voter Information Guide to Measures A and B (dead link)
- Full text of Measure A
- Citizens for SLO, website advocating for a "yes" vote
- SLO Truth, website advocating for a "no" vote
- San Luis Obispo Tribune, "SLO voters to decide on union pay issues in August," May 18, 2011
- 920 KVEC, "SLO Election Reveals Big Defeat for Police and Fire Unions," August 31, 2011 (dead link)
- San Luis Obispo Tribune, "Opposing campaigns come out slinging on Measures A and B," August 14, 2011
- San Luis Obispo Tribune, "Police union wants to cuff SLO’s hands," May 11, 2011
- Voter Guide, "Arguments for and against Measure A" (dead link)
- San Luis Obispo Tribune, "SLO unions raising more than opponents in campaign against measures A and B," August 20, 2011
- CalCoastNews, "Baskin: “People will die” if SLO measures pass," July 10, 2011
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- San Luis Obispo New Times, "SLO police file suit against SLO City," May 4, 2011