Pension reform signature drive nearing finish line

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The people behind San Diego's pension reform efforts are wrapping up their signature drive. They're hoping to get the measure on the June ballot, and organizers feel they're close to having what they need.

In this final stage of gathering signatures you run into a diminishing pool of potential signers. Many have already signed, and many others never sign anything. The forum is to get the word out.

“It's an opportunity for San Diegans to come down, learn about the measure and sign the petition,” said Councilmember Kevin Faulconer.

“The forum tonight is about raising awareness that we need your signature,” said Councilmember Carl DeMaio. “If you want to be part of the solution, you've got to sign this ballot measure.”

Ninety-five thousand valid signatures are needed, and they have to be collected by October 14th.

DeMaio says the drive has gathered about 100,000 raw signatures, which equates to about 70,000 quality signatures. “We need to make sure that we get those last 25,000 signatures,” said DeMaio. “They're always the hardest to get.”

According to DeMaio, about a third of the signatures have come from Democrats, a third from Republicans and a third from Independents. He says this measure has broad-based, bipartisan support to get pension reform done in San Diego. The message of this campaign hasn't changed.

“We should not have a system in place where you have public employees getting a more generous retirement system than the taxpayers who are paying for it,” said Faulconer. “That is our very clear message… that is resonating with the citizens out here. They know we need to change this dynamic.”

DeMaio says the unions are attempting to keep this measure from going to the ballot by interfering with the signature gathering process.

“They send teams of blockers to stand in front of our volunteers and campaign staff to block people physically from getting close to the petitions and signing them,” said DeMaio.

Reforming public employee pensions is a statewide and national priority in this economic downturn. San Diego's pension debt is over $2 billion, and the state's is approaching $5 billion. Backers of reform say San Diego has to lead the way.

“San Diego's taken the lead here and then we've got to take it statewide based on San Diego's example,” said Tom Del Beccaro, California Republican Party Chairman. “We need a big town like San Diego to lead and then maybe (Governor) Jerry Brown will pay attention up north.”

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