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San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio called a press conference Thursday to announce his plans to put an end to a controversial element of the city’s pension system.

The mayoral candidate, a champion of pension reform ballot initiative Proposition B, said he’ll pursue all viable avenues to eliminate the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP), a program that allows employees to collect both a pension and salary while working for five years.

Employees in the program are able to remain active employees after retirement, collecting their salaries and pensions simultaneously, with pensions diverted to a frozen account with a set interest rate that unlocks when they stop working for the city. Employees can collect the DROP account as either a lump sum or an annuity.

An actuarial analysis of the program conducted last year by Buck Consultants for the city’s Independent Budget Analyst found it fit into the city’s technical definition of a cost neutral program because the cost of keeping it was within 2 percent of the cost without it.

The report pegged the cost of DROP at $148.7 million, or 1.6 percent, of the retirement system without the program, spread across several decades.

DeMaio will push the City Council to eliminate the program’s guaranteed interest rate, increase contribution rates for participants to the maximum allowed and reduce participant salaries by the amount of their pension payout.

“If we implement these reforms, no one in their right mind would enter DROP,” DeMaio said.

Though the Buck analysis found the program to be cost neutral, it specifically stated that it was not cost free. The IBA report of the Buck analysis specified five changes that could make the program cost free or potentially even produce cost savings: increasing the age of eligibility, begin requiring employee contributions within the program, reducing or eliminating city contributions, eliminating cost-of-living increases during DROP participation, and crediting reduced pension payments to the employee’s DROP account.

DeMaio said he had no interest in those changes, even if they are said to produce savings to the retirement system.

Deputy Sheriffs’ Association endorses Fletcher

Citing its work with him in crafting Chelsea’s Law, the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association announced Thursday it was endorsing Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher in his bid to become San Diego’s next mayor.

Dave Schaller, president of the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, said the association was influenced to support Fletcher after working with him to craft Chelsea’s Law, the law that ensured certain convicted sex offenders would get life in prison without parole.

“We’ve known Nathan to be someone who can work with differing groups in a non-divisive manner. He works well with others, and we think he is the best candidate for the mayor’s position in San Diego,” Schaller said.

Accepting the endorsement, Fletcher said he was proud to be the law enforcement choice in the election.

Fletcher was previously endorsed by the San Diego Police Officers Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California and its San Diego chapter, San Diego County Probation Officers Association, and the San Diego Lifeguards.

“As mayor, public safety will be my top priority,” he said.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore has endorsed District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, as has former Sheriff Bill Kolender.

The Deputy Sheriffs’ Association represents 2,200 members, patrols nine of 18 cities in the county, provides security to the county Superior Court and runs all county jails.

Matt Clay, vice president of the association, said the group parted ways with the sheriff on mayoral endorsement because it’s an independent body not beholden to anyone else’s opinion, and did what it thought was best.

“We’re separate from the department. We represent the rank-and-file members of the department for negotiating salaries, benefits and working conditions for them,” he said. “When we issue an endorsement, we do it for a candidate that’s going to best uphold the values of our members.”

The mayoral campaign for DeMaio issued a press release shortly after the endorsement announcement criticizing Fletcher for accepting endorsements from “yet another government employee union.”

Dumanis, Fletcher woo female voters

A back-and-forth between Dumanis and Fletcher erupted this week over attempts their respective campaigns made to reach out to female voters.

On Monday, Dumanis sent out a press release touting her 100 percent approval from Planned Parenthood of San Diego on abortion rights.

The next day, she announced having the support of more than 130 female leaders, including former Democratic Congresswoman Lynn Schenk; County Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Pam Slater-Price; and Barbara Bry, founder of Run Women Run, an abortion rights group that had already announced its support of her.

On Wednesday, Fletcher waded into the same territory, announcing his intention to form a mayoral advisory committee to integrate women into city government and inform Fletcher of issues important to women, along with the support of a 1,000-member coalition, Women for Fletcher.

Dumanis then accused Fletcher of changing his stance on abortion rights, citing his shift from a zero percent Planned Parenthood rating in 2009 to a 100 percent rating this year.

“I've been pro-choice my entire life. As the only woman in the field of candidates running for mayor, issues related to a woman's reproductive rights are close to my heart, and I have always been very clear where I stand,” Dumanis said in the press release.

Fletcher’s campaign said the 2009 rating was a result of procedural votes in Sacramento, and that he has never wavered in his support for abortion rights.

A response by the Fletcher campaign included a testimony from Vince Hall, vice president of Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, on Fletcher’s commitment to abortion rights, based on conversations with him since he entered the Legislature.

Dumanis also released a new TV spot Thursday that alluded to her being the only woman in the race. After reciting a list of her accomplishments as district attorney, she asks, “When was the last time you saw these other guys do that?”

Filner endorses Scott Peters for Congress, pushes for Port

Congressman Bob Filner, two days after releasing his much-anticipated pension reform plan, continued his call to expand the Port of San Diego while endorsing Port Commissioner Scott Peters in his bid for the 52nd Congressional District seat.

Turning San Diego into a maritime center by expanding the Port of San Diego is central to Filner’s economic plan.

“We can create thousands of good-paying, middle-class jobs by enhancing the Port’s regional and international stature, and do so in a way that is beneficial to the surrounding neighborhoods,” he said via press release, hitting on a major theme of his campaign.

A recent article by the Investigative Newsource showed Filner had misrepresented the lack of commerce already under way at the Port.

Filner has said his point is that he intends to greatly increase the Port’s scope, even if the specific numbers he cited weren’t accurate.

Fletcher released an online video this week that was primarily a series of clips from an interview Filner gave to KPBS following the publication of the story.

Peters opted not to endorse Filner, citing his close relationship with three of the four mayoral candidates.

Filner releases Prop. B alternative

After describing it in broad strokes at forums and debates throughout his campaign, Filner released Sunday the pension reform plan that he’s posed as an alternative to Proposition B.

The plan would reportedly save the city of San Diego $753 million over 15 years without forcing substantial sacrifice by city employees, according to his projections. Filner first promised the plan nearly a year ago, saying he’d produce it in about a month.

The plan restructures the city’s pension debt with pension obligation bonds. It also puts a $99,999 cap on pensions, eliminates offsets for employee pension contributions, and proposes a new five-year labor pact with city employees that would freeze salaries for the next two years and allow for 2 percent increases in the ensuing three.

The provisions of his plan would need to receive City Council approval and go through negotiations with labor, but Filner says he could enact them within the first 100 days of his administration.

DeMaio and Fletcher continue to trade blows

DeMaio called a press conference Tuesday demanding that Fletcher return campaign contributions he received from former City Manager Jack McGrory and former Mayor Dick Murphy.

Because of the roles the former leaders played in the city’s fiscal crisis, Fletcher owed it to his campaign’s rhetoric — calling for a new vision for San Diego — to return their donations, DeMaio alleged.

Fletcher’s campaign quickly hit back.

Fletcher campaign spokeswoman Amy Thoma on Twitter and through a press release produced an email from DeMaio dated March 29 soliciting McGrory for a political donation based on Fletcher’s then-poor performance in the polls.

DeMaio’s campaign then issued a statement saying the email had been sent by an intern as part of a normal financing program sent to thousands of people each week. DeMaio would have returned the donation if it had been received, the statement said.

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