News - October 13, 2010

Election 2010: Unions say 'no thanks' to endorsements

by Sandy Brundage

They invited, they interviewed, and they conferred, but in the end, three unions decided to endorse — no one running for Menlo Park City Council.

It seems the unions have bigger fish to fry on Nov. 2. "Our focus in Menlo Park is on the defeat of Measure L," said Julie Lind, political director for the San Mateo County Central Labor Council (SMCLC).

None of the six candidates got the stamp of approval from the Service Employees International Union Local 521 (SEIU), the SMCLC, or the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 827 (AFSCME).

Measure L seeks to raise the minimum retirement age for new public employees, excluding police officers, by five years to 60, and also decrease their maximum pension benefits by 0.7 percentage points to 2 percent of their highest annual salary averaged over three years, multiplied by the number of years employed by Menlo Park. This formula was used in 2007, but revised in 2009.

Under this measure, a new hire who retired at age 60 after working for 30 years would receive 60 percent of that average salary. Current employees could retire at age 55, and get 81 percent.

Incumbents Rich Cline and Heyward Robinson stand alone in the pack of six by not endorsing Measure L, but apparently that wasn't enough to earn an endorsement this year. In 2006 both had the support of the SEIU and SMCLC.

Their four challengers — Chuck Bernstein, Kirsten Keith, Peter Ohtaki, and Russell Peterson — support the ballot measure.

A city-wide telephone poll conducted on Sept. 27 and Sept. 28 attempted to discredit Measure L, according to Henry Riggs, one of the organizers of the grassroots coalition that gathered enough signatures to put the pension initiative on the ballot.


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