Pacific Grove City Initiative To Void Ordinance 02-18 Pension Increase (November 2014)

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A Pacific Grove City Initiative To Void Ordinance 02-18 ballot question was proposed for the November 5, 2013 ballot for voters in Pacific Grove in Monterey County. But when the valid initiative petition was presented to the City council for adoption or referral to the voters, the council voted 6-0, with one absentee, to seek judicial relief for investigation into the legality of the initiative, thus preventing the initiative from immediately going to the ballot.[1]

This initiative proposes that a pension increase to reverse an allegedly illegally enacted 3% at 50 pension benefit increase to public safety employees of Pacific Grove. Proponents of this measure say that the increase was approved based on false information and understated fiscal impact.[2] Specifically it looks the CalPERS actuarial forecast, which shows that state costs for pensions could rise to as much as $3.9 billion in 2010 under the new SB 400 pension increase. This report was was withheld from legislators in 2002, who instead were shown a 17-page CalPERS brochure saying that SB 400 would not increase state costs. The lawmakers were not shown a CalPERS actuarial forecast that accurately predicted how much costs would soar if investment earnings faltered.[3]

The initiative petition was first presented to the City Council on May 1st with 1,195 valid signatures, requiring the council to either enact the ordinance into law, present it to the public for voters to decide at the ballot or call for a report on the effects of the initiative. The council members voted 7-0 to commission a report on the initiative.[4]

After the results of the report were presented to the Pacific Grove council members in the May 15th meeting, there was a 6-0 vote to seek judicial relief postponing any decision on the adoption of this initiated ordinance until the courts have investigated its legality.[3][5]

Support

Supporters of this measure argue that the increase in pensions that happened over a decade ago was done illegally and in the midst of misinformation and understatement of fiscal effects. Daniel Davis, an initiative backer, said that the 2002 pension increase decision was "an issue of government corruption." He went on to say "that we just can't let it go."

Other supporters focus on the future and argue that escalating costs under the state Public Employees Retirement System are pushing Pacific Grove towards financial disaster.[4]

Opposition

Those who oppose the measure join with many city officials to voice conerns that this measure would result in extremely expensive litigation ending with the initiative being over-ruled in the courts much like Measure R of 2010.

Councilman Robert Huitt, who is the only current council member present for the 2002 pension increase decision, suggests discussion of whether the proposed measure is a "legitimate exercise of legislative powers" or if it belongs in the realm of the courts. "As far as I can tell it's silent on legislative intent," he said.

Councilman Ken Cuneo said that the city council needs a report and deliberation to decide if the measure "is going to be a turkey or if it will fly."[4]

Michael G. Colantuono, Esq. and Matthew T. Summers, Esq. were charged with preparing a report on this measure and based on the their findings they gave the opinion that the measure would cause harm to the city service work force and that it was very likely illegal. Based on these findings, the report suggested that the city council seek judicial relief from a decision on this measure or pass it on to the voters and strongly urge them to vote against it.[1]

See also

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