PERB ruling reignites DeMaio's credibility problem
A new twist in the saga of the 2012 election cycle came down yesterday when California's Public Employment Relations Board came down in favor of a complaint by San Diego's Municipal Employees Union, saying that Mayor Sanders ran afoul of state labor laws in his work to compose and promote Carl DeMaio's pension intiative. The issue will go to court and could knock the CPR measure off the June ballot.
The prospect of the initiative not being on the ballot presents several big problems for DeMaio. For one, this would be twice in a row that he fumbled high-profile ballot measures (his outsourcing initiative failed to gather enough signatures in 2010). For another, turnout driven by the pension measure is important to boost DeMaio's mayoral numbers in a close and crowded field. But even more broadly, it once again raises questions of basic credibility.
Those are questions that have dogged DeMaio for years, because while his drive and personal ambition have never been in doubt, his actual product hasn't always been able to keep up with the rhetoric:
DeMaio's 2004 Citizens Budget Project was initially met on the right with considerable fanfare. But the numbers were steadily discredited, and backers like the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, San Diego County Taxpayers Association, and Mayor Dick Murphy withdrew support citing "wrong information...and inaccurate budget totals" that challenged DeMaio's credibility.
Also in 2004, the state's California Performance Review, modeled on a DeMaio proposal, relied on faulty math and ended up wildly overstating potential savings. The entire effort was dropped by the Governor, who then distanced himself from DeMaio.
In 2009, DeMaio released a pension proposal citing inaccurate data, and even his current Roadmap to Recovery is centered on dramatically outdated finances that overstate the city's pension obligation by more than half.
And that's just a slice of the historical perspective. DeMaio is also no stranger to mixing personal projects and public responsibilities, at the center of yesterday's PERB decision. He's funded the reports and proposals used by his campaign through his council office using taxpayer money, and in just his first year in office sent 45 times as much mail to constituents as the rest of the council combined. As election season has geared up, the line between campaign events and council events has been getting even more blurry.
Yet DeMaio was particularly confident in late January's city council hearing to finalize placement of his initiative on the June ballot. Then, he called the PERB complaint "patently laughable." But this week's decision by PERB to grant MEA's request suggests that, at the least, it wasn't laughable.
Instead of taking a premature victory lap, maybe the problem could have been avoided if DeMaio, Councilman Faulconer, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, and Mayor Sanders had managed to resist the urge to combine their campaign work with city obligations. After all, the Mayor all but admitted what he was doing to CityBeat and in his 2011 state of the city address:
"Councilman Kevin Faulconer, the city attorney and I will soon bring to voters an initiative to enact a 401(k)-style plan that is similar to the private sector’s and reflects the reality of our times."
That's your right. If you think you have a case, you have ways to adjudicate and remedy your issues."