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Should contract negotiations between the mayor and three City Hall labor unions fail to resume, Mayor Jerry Sanders will ask the City Council to put some form of a pension proposal on the November ballot. But if the council refuses to place the mayor’s pension plan in front of voters, Sanders’ current efforts at pension reform will have to stop there.

The mayor told the Union-Tribune on Monday he would collect the signatures necessary to put the pension proposal on the ballot should the City Council refuse to do so directly.

But should the mayor launch a petition drive, he would be “up against a very tight deadline,” City Clerk elections analyst Denise Jenkins said. Even if the mayor began the process to collect signatures today, he would have about a week — between June 4 and June 10 — to collect the required 60,418 signatures needed to place an initiative on the November ballot.

Furthermore, depending on the method of signature collection, the mayor would have to realistically obtain between 80,000 and 100,000 in make sure at least 60,418 are valid, Jenkins added.

The mayor himself has ruled out an initiative petition as an option, mayoral spokesman Fred Sainz said, and has not started on the paperwork for a petition drive so that he may collect signatures as a back-up plan.

What exactly the mayor’s pension proposal will look like remains to be seen. Although the mayor previously declared he would submit his original pension proposal to voters, he said yesterday the plan could look like his original plan, or the white-collar labor union’s pension proposal, or something else entirely.

For months, Sanders did not alter his pension proposal during negotiations with three local City Hall unions, but he amended his position during a council hearing Monday night, choosing instead to adopt the Municipal Employee’s Association’s pension plan. The City Council rejected his pension plan by a 4-4 vote. Today at a press conference, City Attorney Mike Aguirre said he favored for the MEA pension proposal.

“What’s important is for the council to step forward and back the mayor and to proceed as the MEA has suggested … which is to keep the defined benefits in place but keep the costs down,” he said.

Check out our full story today for more background.

— LEA YU

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