L.A. pension reform referendum fails to make ballot

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan failed to secure support for pension reform referendum

Richard Riordan
Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan supported a referendum to reform the city's retirement plans

An effort to hold a referendum on replacing Los Angeles' three city pension plans with a defined contribution plan for new employees, proposed by former Mayor Richard Riordan, was temporarily put on hold, said John Schwada, spokesman for the campaign.

Mr. Riordan could not be reached immediately.

The campaign collected more than 100,000 signatures — far short of the targeted 400,000, or the 265,000 valid voter signatures required to get the measure on the May 21 ballot, Mr. Schwada said. Campaign officials decided they would not be able to gather enough valid voter signatures by the Dec. 28 deadline. Mr. Riordan is “reviewing all of his options,” which include attempting to qualify the measure for a later ballot, Mr. Schwada said.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League Board of Directors, which represents the city's police officers, said on Monday it wasn't surprised by Mr. Riordan's decision.

In a statement, the board said that if the measure would have passed, it would have cost the city an additional “hundreds of millions of dollars” in pension contributions and other costs.

“We appreciate Mr. Riordan's concern for the city's financial status, we just disagree that this charter change was a viable option. As I have said from day one, thoughtful analysis and real solutions are needed to address pension issues, and the league will continue to work toward those solutions with the city or anyone else who wants to roll up their sleeves and help,” Tyler Izen, president of the league, said in a news release.

League officials do not know whether Mr. Riordan or another group will try other methods that would place new employees in defined contribution plans instead of the city's current defined benefit plans: the $11.2 billion Los Angeles City Employees' Retirement System; $7.7 billion Los Angeles Water & Power Employees' Retirement Plan; and $15 billion Los Angeles Fire & Police Pension System.

William S. Raggio, interim general manager of the fire and police system, declined to comment. He said in an e-mail that staff had issued a report on the proposal for the board but did not to take a position on it.

Officials of the other two pension plans could not be reached by deadline.