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Goldsmith moves for quick Prop. B implementation

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Two days after Proposition B won overwhelming voter approval, San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith petitioned the California Courts of Appeal to immediately rule on all five lawsuits against the measure so the city can implement the pension reform plan right away.

The request would have the court bypass the state Public Employee Relations Board, or PERB, which filed the lawsuits on behalf of city unions, and issue a ruling on all five cases.

Goldsmith's petition includes a previous San Diego labor case settled by the rarely used direct appeal process, which Goldsmith said sets precedent for his request.

His petition is part of his five-point plan to expedite implementation and avoid the four-year delay that plagued managed competition after it won voter approval.

His plan also seeks a hiring freeze until the new 401(k)-style retirement plan is put in place, will implement the benefit plan for workers not represented by labor unions, and invites the affected unions to engage in labor negotiations and to discuss a settlement of all pension-related issues.

Prop. B calls for the city to put new city hires, except police officers, into defined contribution retirement plans and potentially freezes the salaries of city workers for five years.

Goldsmith’s implementation plan is supported by Prop. B proponents Mayor Jerry Sanders, Councilman Kevin Faulconer, mayoral candidate and Councilman Carl DeMaio, and Lani Lutar, president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association.

Council President Tony Young also said he has docketed Prop. B for discussion at Monday’s City Council meeting. The Council will talk over plans for implementing the measure’s various reforms.

“I believe it would be a disservice to delay or impede putting in place approved measures as soon as possible,” he said.

Young also said he would meet with “at least one” of the city’s union representatives to hear what they find important in implementing the plan, though he later backtracked, saying there was no specific agenda behind the plan.

DeMaio was not included in Goldsmith’s press conference, but said later that he had discussed the action plan for months and fully supported it as an attempt to get the measure in place quickly.

“It’s a thoughtful, sensible and legal way to move forward,” he said.

Prop. B is expected to go into effect in mid-July or early August, after its passage is certified by the Secretary of State. Non-police new employees hired after that point will be subject to the new retirement plan.

PERB filed on behalf of the city’s Municipal Employees Association -- the union that represents the city’s white-collar workers -- a complaint alleging that Sanders, DeMaio and Faulconer pushed Prop. B as a citizens’ initiative to avoid needing to negotiate a new pension system with labor representatives.

A spokesperson for the MEA said the organization hadn’t been made aware of Goldsmith’s implementation plan and wouldn’t comment until it knows more.

In April, MEA’s general manager Michael Zucchett told a group of union members that a legal fight against Prop. B was their best opportunity for success because the proposition itself was poorly written from a legal perspective.

DeMaio said proponents wrote legal protections from union lawsuits into the bill, a lesson learned from the managed competition delays. He said the group worked closely with Goldsmith while crafting the measure to ensure legality.

Goldsmith’s request for the state court to take up all five cases pending against the measure requests that the court issue a stay of proceedings until it makes a ruling on the matter.

Goldsmith says his litigation team is not impressed by the argument that the city must meet and confer with unions over the terms of Prop. B, which he called “the will of the people.”

“It’s very novel to say the least,” he said. “We think what it would accomplish is maybe some delay, but we’ll fight that, and attorneys fees."

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