Mayoral candidate Bob Filner has abandoned his signature financial reform plank, saying that borrowing money to fix the city’s pension system now is off the table.
Filner said that June’s passage of Proposition B, a pension initiative, made borrowing money through what are known as pension obligation bonds no longer necessary. Here’s the full statement from his campaign, which was released late Monday (emphasis added):
During the Prop B campaign, I suggested that pension obligation bonds be looked at as a way to reduce the city’s unfunded liability. San Diego County has utilized them several times, retains the highest bond rating in the state, and is widely considered to be the best-managed government entity in the region when it comes to finances.
However, voters have now approved Prop B and I have committed to implementing the will of the voters, so consideration of pension obligation bonds is no longer relevant. The most important issue now is realizing the nearly $1 billion in savings that results from successfully implementing a five-year freeze on pensionable pay for city workers, and I am the only candidate who can deliver on it.
During the primary, he said over and over again that the measure was a “fraud” and insisted it would save nothing. Now he’s choosing the $1 billion savings estimate used by Prop. B supporters.
His pension bond deal, he also said during the primary, was the only way the city could put $500 million into the day-to-day operating budget over the next 10 years, and put the money into roads and other needed services. (We’ve been critical of Filner’s figures.)
Over the weekend, a U-T San Diego editorial criticized Filner for keeping his pension bond plan on his website given his post-election take on Prop. B. This morning, I discovered Filner’s campaign had removed the plan from the “Issues” section of the site.
So when I interviewed Filner in early afternoon, less than three hours before his campaign issued the statement, I asked him if he still supported the bonds, which are also known as POBs.
LD: Do you still support the POB concept?
BF: Oh, yeah.
BF: Yeah. By the way, I still don’t understand. It’s so common-sense to me that if you have, I’ll just say, an 8-percent mortgage and you can get a 4-percent mortgage you don’t do it.
Filner also told me during the interview that he didn’t know that his website had switched.
“I gotta see what happened there, whether it was purposeful or accidental,” he said.
Apparently, it was purposeful.
Correction: This article originally misstated the time of day the interview with Filner occurred. We regret the error.
Liam Dillon is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. 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 email@example.com or 619.550.5663.
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