It’s looking more and more like local Republicans’ plan to shift most new city of San Diego employees 401(k)s instead of pensions is not just about fixing San Diego’s budget mess.

“Are you ready to make San Diego the Wisconsin of the West?” City Councilman Carl DeMaio asked a crowd Monday evening at a local Republican Party event, according to an account on conservative website SDRostra.Com.

DeMaio’s comments, of course, referred to the recent protracted battle over collective bargaining rights for public employees in Wisconsin. America’s Dairyland became the center of the ideological fight between conservatives and liberals over public employee unions.

That the local debate over public sector 401(k)s would turn toward larger ideology also could explain why boosters here keep calling their proposed June 2012 ballot measure a “national model” for pension reform.

Keep this idea in mind as the campaign moves forward: How much of the ballot measure is about cost savings and shifting investment risk and how much is about trying to brand San Diego with a national reputation for busting public employees? Certainly, that’s a different status than being known as Enron By The Sea because of your shoddy finances.

Already, the 401(k) proposal has attracted broad media attention, most recently in Bloomberg Businessweek through an article written by the same reporter who authored the book on San Diego’s pension scandal.

Please contact Liam Dillon directly at or 619.550.5663 and follow him on Twitter:

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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