City pension initiative officially makes ballot

2013-09-03T17:15:00Z 2013-09-04T10:14:26Z City pension initiative officially makes ballotBy Darren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Tucsonans will decide the fate of the city’s pension system after all.

A Pima County Superior Court judge ordered a measure to overhaul the pension system be placed on the November ballot after a new random sample showed the Committee for Sustainable Retirement Benefits still had enough signatures to meet the minimum requirement.

Last month, Judge James Marner disqualified more than 5,500 signatures and ordered city and county election officials to recalculate the remaining ones.

Even with the discarded signatures, the committee still had more than 1,000 valid signatures over the required minimum.

On Tuesday morning, City Clerk Roger Randolph submitted 13,777 valid signatures to Marner — 12,730 were needed to qualify for the ballot.

Committee Chairman Art Flagg said with the measure officially on the ballot, it’s time for his group to convince people why they should support an initiative city officials have warned could bankrupt the city.

“We’re working feverishly now to get the word out to people about the value of this proposition,” Flagg said. “The city can get ahead of the curve on this whole issue of retirement systems and how to” get them under control.

Attorneys for the two city employees who sued to have the initiative disqualified couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

But during a hearing last week, plaintiff’s attorney Roopali Desai said they intended to appeal Marner’s decision .

If the initiative remains on the ballot, a committee led by former Mayor Bob Walkup is set to lead the campaign against it.

Walkup said residents need to grasp how the measure would create a “grave financial situation” for the city by requiring it to pay off around $340 million in unfunded pension costs within approximately 15 years.

“We will need to explain how much this is going to cost the city upfront,” said Walkup, who chairs the Tucsonans 4 Truth Committee. “And get them to understand the urgency of the situation.”

The initiative would transform the city’s current retirement system and convert it to a 401(k)-style plan.

In July, two employees sued asking for the removal of more than 10,000 signatures because either felons or unregistered out-of-state circulators collected many of them.

Marner discarded some, allowed others to stay and then ordered the city clerk and Pima County recorder to run the numbers again based on the new figures.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com. Follow on Twitter @DarrenDaRonco

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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