Monday afternoon, the Republican Party of San Diego sent out a press release:
SAN DIEGO — Republican elected officials will appear before the Republican Party of San Diego County tonight in a show of unity behind a comprehensive pension reform ballot measure, expected to make the June 2012 ballot.
That’s not a big deal. Many local business and Republican leaders unified the other day when the proposal came out.
What got my attention was who would be there:
WHO: Mayor Sanders, Council president pro tem Faulconer, Councilmembers DeMaio, Zapf, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis
Note that last name. Dumanis?
Dumanis is one of two local politicians to declare her intention to run for mayor. And I, for one, am very interested in what she’ll do about this issue.
Why? Let’s count the reasons.
First, it’s going to be difficult for any Republican to go against the plan. They’ll be pummeled by DeMaio, Faulconer and the body of newly fired up Republican activism in San Diego.
However, Dumanis has said in the past she doesn’t think public safety employees should be on 401(k) style pensions. She’ll have to explain why it’s now OK.
Plus, her campaign is being run by the consultant Jennifer Tierney, whose clients include Democrats Councilman Todd Gloria and Councilwoman Sherri Lightner. Tierney has had few more important clients than the San Diego City Fire Fighters Local 145, a group that’s furious its future members may be denied a guaranteed pension in the ballot measure. I can’t imagine Tierney will think it’s a good idea to fight the firefighters. But Dumanis can certainly ignore advice.
On the other hand, Mayor Jerry Sanders is likely to endorse Dumanis. Would she still get that if she stood against his signature final push?
Finally, there’s this: Dumanis herself will eventually collect a guaranteed, and very large, pension from her three decades of service at the county and courts — at least 90 percent of her top salary, which last year was boosted to $240,000. That’s at least $216,000 per year at least until she dies. It will also include a set health care benefit and regular cost of living increases.
I don’t begrudge her that, congratulations. It reflects a long and successful career and there’s no doubt top lawyers can earn far more than that in the private sector. But if she signs on to the plan to eliminate pensions for all city workers, she’ll join that awkward group of public employees arguing both that future employee pensions are unaffordable and that theirs are just fine. Don’t touch them!
So, given all that, I think whether Dumanis supports this initiative will be very interesting. I asked her, via Tierney, the other day whether she had taken a stand.
When Dumanis showed up on Twitter talking about various other issues, I again asked whether she’d made a decision.
No: “Will weigh in soon. Under review,” she wrote.
That’s why I was somewhat shocked to see that she was joining a Republican Party event “in a show of unity behind a comprehensive pension reform ballot measure, expected to make the June 2012 ballot.”
Wouldn’t that imply that she was, um, supporting the ballot measure?
Apparently not, or maybe, or maybe not. Tierney hasn’t returned my call and when I asked the chairman of the Republican Party, Tony Krvaric, whether she did indeed show the unity he promised, he played coy.
“If you weren’t there…,” he wrote.
Who knew Republicans were so cute!
Cute games aside, stay tuned for a more obvious announcement. The introspection Dumanis is going through may parallel what Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher is dealing with. Most city observers assume he’s also going to run. But he hasn’t declared. He may have a shot at the endorsement of the police officers union and perhaps he sees a route to the mayor’s office somehow via the center.
Monday, Councilman DeMaio confirmed to our Liam Dillon that switching police to the 401(k) by 2013 was his plan, assuming he can get like minded council members and a mayor elected in 2012. Will Fletcher join with DeMaio, Faulconer and Krvaric, or pursue some other path?
Who knows? I haven’t bugged Fletcher as diligently about it because he has yet to officially acknowledge his run for mayor.
When he does, it should be the first question he answers.