Tuesday night, I e-mailed San Diego City Councilwoman Donna Frye with some more specific questions about her ballot proposal that would link a half-cent sales tax increase to a series of nine cost-cutting reforms.

Many of the reforms, as I mentioned Tuesday, were nebulous, required the eventual approval of the city’s labor unions, or both. As written, Frye’s proposal says that if the city doesn’t accomplish the reforms by November 2012, then the sales tax would end. Otherwise, it would last for five years. A half-cent increase to 9.25 percent would raise an estimated $100 million annually.

So let’s examine some of Frye’s individual reform ideas.

• Frye said she wanted to end the city’s practice at picking up a share of employee pension contributions, something that has happened already for many of the city’s bargaining units. But the city still picks up employee pension contributions for one important class of employees not represented by any union: elected officials. Would Frye’s proposal force the city to stop picking up any part of elected officials’ pension contributions?

“Yes,” Frye wrote.

• City fire union President Frank De Clercq expressed some displeasure about a second aspect of Frye’s proposal, which requires the city to complete a study examining the city’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan to see if it costs the city money. De Clercq said the city hasn’t been cooperating with his union over the study, and it’s required to do that. I brought De Clercq’s complaint to Frye and she said a “completed study” meant one the city finished.

• Probably the most controversial aspect of Frye’s plan is that it forces the city to create a 401(k)-style pension plan, which is a stark departure from most of its current retirement system. I asked how that plan might work.

Frye said she didn’t have details because that provision would be subject to labor negotiations per state law.

• I wanted to know how the reform triggers worked. If the city failed to enact any of the nine reforms does that mean the sales tax would sunset after two years?

That aspect, Frye said, still was being negotiated. She said she could consider shortening the timeframe for reform to November 2011 instead of 2012.

In her e-mail to me, Frye called her plan “a starting point for public discussion.” Regardless, the end point must come soon. The timeframe for getting a measure on the November ballot is very tight.


Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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