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Bob Filner: Standing Up for City Employees

MEA-endorsed mayoral candidate Bob Filner spoke the following words at a recent event. Unlike other mayoral candidates who have blamed, vilified and/or attributed the City’s financial woes to public employees, it is refreshing to know that not only does Bob not blame you, but he actually recognizes and values the public services that you provide on a daily basis!

This, along with his impressive resume and voting record of supporting public employees, is why MEA has endorsed Bob. We look forward to working with him when he is elected mayor of San Diego!

If you would like to join MEA and your City colleagues and volunteer on Bob’s campaign, please contact MEA at 619-264-6632.

“Unlike all the other candidates, I want to thank you for your service to the City of San Diego. I am honored to have your endorsement; I am truly honored. You know, public employees are taking a beating around the nation and in San Diego. Yet these are the people who give us our daily services. Our quality of life depends on them. We should be honoring them, respecting them, making sure their morale is high because then their service is better to us. That is what we need to do in the City of San Diego.

Let’s get one thing straight about our pension mess, and it is a mess, but these guys didn’t cause it. These guys didn’t cause it. The value of our pension stocks went down, why? Because of Wall Street, not them. We got a big debt because of the criminality on Wall Street and we’ve had past mayors, like Ms. Golding and Mr. Murphy who raided the pension fund for their own projects when they said, “We’re not going to spend any public money on the Padre stadium. We’re not going to spend any public money on the Republican Convention.” So they raided the pension fund. That’s why we’re in this mess—not because of these guys. Yet we have people rallying people up against them. They have taken, as Mr. Zucchet said, a beating in the last half dozen years. They have paid the price for the mess we’re in. But they were the only ones willing to make some sacrifices but now we all have to be in it and we’ve asked enough of them.

There is a so-called pension “reform” initiative on the ballot, the DeMaio-Dumanis- Fletcher measure. It is a fraud, and it does nothing to help this city but it uses these public employees for the political benefit of those politicians. What it says is that we will put all new employees on a 401k which means that you are subject to the stock market. The stock market goes up and down hundreds of points. I think what is really behind this is that with a 401k, you won’t need a pension because you’ll have a heart attack just watching it go up and down! But remember that these folks do not have Social Security.

People come up to me and say, “What’s wrong with a 401k, I have a 401K?” Yeah, but you have Social Security too, they do not. So it’s completely unfair and it doesn’t do anything in terms of saving money. In fact, because of state and federal laws to set up a new system, there is almost a $100 million dollar transfer from the old system to the new system in the first 6 years. It takes money away from our pension system and makes the debt even more which makes our payments even higher. The only savings in this initiative is from them agreeing to a zero salary increase over the next 5 years. Yet they can’t legally do that in the initiative because this is a collective bargaining right. So the initiative doesn’t do anything, it is a fraud.

I have a plan which places a cap on management pensions. Remember all of the horror stories you hear by the way of the $200,000- 250,000 pensions are paid to the management folks who get bonuses in their last few years which raises their pensions. So let’s put a cap on those people. In fact, I could do it on my first day of mayor because it is not collective bargaining. As a matter of fact, I challenge Mayor Sanders to put a cap on those salaries today. Put a cap on those pensions today! He could do that, he doesn’t need to wait. He’s the mayor and I’m going to be the mayor in a year. Why wait for a year? Put the pension cap on now. It won’t affect 98% of our employees, by the way. However, it will get rid of the horror stories that these guys are running on. Let’s do it today.

I’ve talked to Mr. Zucchet and some of the others who run the collective bargaining units. They would like a 5-year labor peace in a contract that has to be negotiated but, if we did that, it would bring down our debt and our payment just by having a 5-year contract because our debt and our payments are based on projections of a presumed salary increase of 4%. Well, what if we negotiated something less? Whatever we negotiate is then fixed and it brings down the actual payment and the actual liability. We can refinance our debt with bonds that will bring down our payments [our annual payments over the next decade] to $500 million dollars. Let us put $500 million in our general fund without new taxes, without throwing these guys under the bus and fix the potholes, keep the libraries open, keep the fire stations open without new taxes. That’s what we can do. That’s what I think these guys would appreciate. Let’s negotiate a fair contract with them. Our quality of life depends a lot on our public employees. If the citizens of San Diego want better services, want a higher quality of life, then let’s treat our public employees with respect and with dignity and not throw them under the bus.

Let’s get this pension mess off the table; we have been concerned about it for 6, 8, almost 10 years now. Let’s pivot to the real issues of this city. Let’s create the jobs that we have lost when the defense industry had to almost shut down. Let’s create livability and a sustainable lifestyle in this city. Let us give power back to the neighborhoods—away from the downtown private developers and fix the infrastructure in our neighborhoods.

Those are the issues that people really want to hear about. We can fix this pension mess without throwing employees under the bus. But let’s use our incredible potential, our incredible resources, our incredible assets as a city and really move forward. We could create thousands of jobs right at the Port by becoming a maritime center. We could become the solar energy capital of the United States. Not only do we create the jobs, but the mayor, the president of the school board and other public officials can say that all of our public buildings will be solar powered. What does that do? That creates a tremendous demand that the private sector will meet. That brings down the cost for private home owners and business owners to use solar panels and photovoltaic cells on their properties. We can change this city. We can talk about affordable housing and public transit in a whole different way and we can bring power back to the neighborhoods. That’s what we want to do.

I am honored to have the endorsement of the Municipal Employees Association and we look forward to working throughout this city. We’re going to walk every house in this town in order to counter the money that the other guys have. So let us finally say that the Dumanis-Fletcher- DeMaio plan is a fraud and let us give respect to our public employees and really move this city forward”.