The pension initiative will remain on the Menlo Park ballot, despite a lawsuit filed to stop it, a judge ruled on Aug. 27.
San Mateo County Superior Court Judge George Miram said in his decision that the government code that allows voter input on pension systems "raises serious doubt as to whether the Legislature intended to foreclose voter involvement in pensions as the petitioners argue."
City Council candidate Chuck Bernstein, who helped organize a grassroots campaign to put the pension initiative on the ballot, said he was happy but not surprised by the decision.
"It allows us to re-energize volunteers. The hold was hard, with the uncertainty," he said.
Citizens for Fair and Responsible Pension Reform gathered enough signatures to have the initiative, Measure L, placed on the ballot. Measure L seeks to raise the retirement age for new, non-police public employees five years to 60, and also decrease their pension payments.
Two unions, Service Employees International Union Local 521 (SEIU) and American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 829 (AFSCME), filed the lawsuit to argue that only the City Council has the authority to change pension compensation.
Judge Miram rejected that argument, stating that they did not prove that voters are not allowed to "instruct their city representatives."
Noting the costs of the city appealing a loss would exceed the $18,000 cost of the election, Judge Miram said the "wiser course" would be a post-election review.
The Aug. 27 ruling doesn't address whether the initiative is a legal route to pension reform -- which means another lawsuit could be filed post-election.
Mr. Bernstein said that if the initiative passes with 60 to 70 percent of the vote, that he would expect the unions to be reasonable. "It would be a very bad public relations ploy on their part to oppose it."
Judge Miram had 90 days to make a decision after the Aug. 12 hearing. Attorney Richard Miadich, who represents one of the plaintiffs, said the ultimate validity of the measure would not be decided until after the election.