Petition Drive Stirs Pension-Reform Pot

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    NEWSLETTERS

    There are new accusations about a petition drive for a pension-reform initative aimed at future San Diego city employees.
     
    While opponents say signature gatherers are using "bait and switch" methods to get people to sign petitions, the measure's backers are accusing opponents from local labor unions of intimidating signature gatherers.

      The labor folks deny the accusation, saying they're just truth-squadding misinformation about the initiative.
     
    Now they've come across a Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less petition drive to promote lower gas prices, followed by what they say are dubious pitches for pension reform and other city issues.
     
    In a stealth video recorded outside a WalMart outlet in Kearny Mesa, a petition gatherer is heard telling a prospective signer: "This is a petition, OK?  And we're trying to put it on the ballot so it can go to Congress.  We're proposing that they stop going to other countries for the gas supply ... 'Drill Here' -- not necessary right here -- but in this country."
     
    The video was recorded by Kyle Haverback, a spokesman for  the Just Say No San Diego campaign, which opposes the Comprehensive Pension Reform intiatitive to put all new city hires -- except police officers -- into 401(k)-style retirement plans.
     
    Haverback declined to sign the Drill Here, Drill Now petition, at which point the signature gatherer offered up the pension reform measure, with this explanation: "This one is about city employees, that they need to have their pension plan hopefully restructured, to be better ... and to better define what they're giving employees as well."
     
    Haverback says that characterization of the pension measure is vague at best, misleading at worst.
     
    As for the earlier Drill Here, Drill Now pitch, says Haverback: "It's just a hook to get people to come over and talk to you -- talk to the signature gatherers -- so they can have you sign something for which they are paid to collect."
     
    Pension reform activists acknowledge that while Drill Here, Drill Now isn't a ballot measure, they point out that it is an actual petition campaign sponsored by American Solutions and is aimed at influencing Congress on the issue of expanding U.S. oil production. American Solutions' website says more than 118,000 Californians have signed it.
     
    "It's pure poppycock that the [Comprehensive Pension Reform campaign] would train signature gatherers to lure folks in with this kind of stuff," says T.J. Zane, president of the Lincoln Club of San Diego County, a major fund-contributing supporter of the initiative.
     
    "They're grasping at straws," Zane added, referring to the "just say no" forces. "'Pension reform' in and of itself gets people to sign. There's no need for cheap gimmicks."
     
    The measure's backers are required to turn in the valid signaturees of at least 94,346 San Diego voters by mid-October in order to qualify it for the city's June 2012 primary election ballot.