Supporters of the city of San Diego pension reform initiative turned in signatures Friday from voters, getting one step closer to qualifying the measure for the June 2012 ballot.

The measure will replace pensions with 401(k)s for most new city employees and attempt to impose a five-year pay freeze on current workers. Savings estimates top $1 billion over the next 27 years.

To understand what happened today, and what’s coming next, here are some important numbers and dates.

145,027: The number of signatures turned in by supporters of the initiative, according to its primary backer, City Councilman Carl DeMaio.

94,346: The number of valid signatures needed for the initiative to qualify. The kind of changes that initiative backers want requires 15 percent of San Diego voters to sign petitions saying they want it on the ballot. Supporters turned in 50,000 more signatures than they needed.

120,000: In the past two years, two high-profile city initiatives unexpectedly failed because they didn’t have enough valid signatures. Signature drives that pushed for greater outsourcing of city services and school board changes had too many duplicate or otherwise invalid signatures to qualify even though they turned in many more raw signatures than they needed.

Pension initiative supporters insist they’ve learned their lesson. They paid a company to check signatures for their validity before they submitted them to the city. Their data shows they have 120,000 valid signatures, about 25,000 more than they need.

“It’s been a very thorough effort,” DeMaio said. “It’s an added expense to the campaign, but I think that expense was well worth it to make sure that the signatures are quality.”

More than $1 million: Signature verification costs money. So does dealing with a coordinated campaign from local labor unions to keep people from signing petitions. The signature drive resulted in bitter fights in front of city supermarkets and other petition hot spots. DeMaio estimated it cost more than $1 million to qualify the measure. A labor leader declined to say how much union efforts cost.

17: Initiative supporters turned in the signatures 17 days before an Oct. 17 deadline. Turning the signatures in this early shows that supporters are confident the initiative will qualify.

Nov. 14: The deadline for the San Diego County Registrar of Voters to determine if the initiative has enough valid signatures. The registrar examines a random sample of the signatures to see if they’re valid. If enough are, the measure qualifies. If not enough are, the measure doesn’t. If the numbers are close, it would require a more thorough count and take more time.

3: The number of cars it took city clerk employees to transport 39 boxes of petitions to the registrar’s office. City Clerk Liz Maland put on her coat soon after the signatures arrived in her office.

“We gotta be so careful,” Maland said. “No car accidents.”

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for He covers San Diego City Hall, the 2012 mayor’s race and big building projects. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5663.

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Liam Dillon

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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