By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County Taxpayers Association officials say they will withdraw their opposition ballot argument to a proposed change in Santa Rosa bylaws heading to voters this fall, saying they misunderstood the measure.
The group on Aug. 20 filed a ballot argument against Measure T, which contains several tweaks to the city charter so non-controversial they were lumped together into a “clean-up” ballot measure.
The group nevertheless took issue with one portion of the measure dealing with pensions. The language removes a section of the charter restricting pension plans for city workers to federal Social Security or the state pension system.
City workers receive pension benefits through the California Public Employees Retirement System, and therefore do not pay into Social Security.
The change was proposed as a way to give future city councils flexibility in dealing with pension issues, such as converting to hybrid pension programs.
But association officials misinterpreted the proposed changes, and believed the measure would allow the city to grant workers social security benefits on top of state pension benefits, something it already can do but doesn’t.
“Adding Social Security benefits to the current retirement plans would further increase the city’s financial problems,” the group declared, urging voters to reject the measure.
But after learning that the changes have nothing to do with the city’s ability to offer workers Social Security benefits, Dan Drummond, the association’s executive director, said the group no longer opposed the measure.
“We are going to withdraw our opposition to Measure T,” Drummond said. “The last thing I ever want to do is to put something out there that is false or misleading.”
Drummond said the group made the decision after conferring with Mike Lavin, a director of the association and the author of the argument.
Bob Andrews, a member of the city’s Charter Review Committee, said he also informed Lavin that the group’s opposition was off-base.
Drummond said he is still exploring how to go about withdrawing the argument.
State election law allows “any or all of the materials” in a ballot argument “to be amended or deleted” during a 10-day public review period if a judge finds “clear and convincing proof that the material in question is false (or) misleading.”
“I think at this point their only option would be to have a judge order us not to put it on the ballot,” said Elizabeth Acosta, Sonoma County elections manager.
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org.