Former Mayor Riordan Drops Pension Reform Measure

Outspoken advocate of city pension reform changes tactics

Just before Thanksgiving, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan appeared before the City Council sounding determined to change the system he once oversaw.

He told elected officials that his pension reform ballot measure was the city's only hope to stay solvent.

"It will be a wreck of a city (without reform)," he said.

But on Monday, Riordan and his organization, "Save Los Angeles," pulled the plug on the ballot measure, which would have rolled back pension benefits and required more contribution from recipients.

"The ambitious and difficult goal of gathering more than 300,000 signatures of registered voters by a Dec. 28 deadline ... cannot be met," Save LA's John Schwada wrote in a statement.

The sudden announcement was a victory for organized labor.

Tyler Inez, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said the initiative was never needed.

"We're going to continue to work for the benefit of our members," said Inez. "And we don't have to fight over what I've thought from the beginning was an ill-conceived non-issue."

The plan would have required city workers to contribute more toward their pensions and converted all new employees to a 401K-type plan, similar to what most workers have in the private sector.

Similar measures have been approved by voters in San Jose and San Diego, but it was a tough fight in Los Angeles.

The powerful Service Employees International Union took the extraordinary step of assigning members to shadow signature-gatherers. SEIU leaders said it was important to inform potential signers what was involved in the issue.

“Before you sign an initiative or a petition to put something on the ballot, people have an obligation to look at that and decide if that's something that they want voted on," said Inez.

To thwart the effort, one labor organizer sent out an email asking members to sign fake names, which is illegal. He was later reprimanded by his union.

The former mayor made no mention of such efforts in his prepared statement. Or of billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad's decision to withhold financial support. But his statement said the fight is not over.

"Richard Riordan is asking unions and politicians to unflinchingly confront the fiscal problems that threaten the quality of life of all Angelenos," the statement read.

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