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Smart Voter
San Mateo County, CA November 2, 2010 Election
Measure L
Retirement Benefits
City of Menlo Park

Majority Approval Required

Pass: 8,238 / 71.3% Yes votes ...... 3,311 / 28.7% No votes

See Also: Index of all Measures

Results as of Jan 6 3:01pm, 100.0% of Precincts Reporting (21/21)
65.3% Voter Turnout (226,259/346,516)
Information shown below: Official Information | Arguments |

Shall the ordinance entitled "Measure to limit retirement benefits for new City of Menlo Park employees (Except Sworn Police Officers) and to restrict City Council from increasing benefits in the future without voter approval", be adopted?

Official Sources of Information


video - debate
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Arguments For Measure L Arguments Against Measure L
Dear Menlo Park Voter,

Vote YES on Measure L, if you agree we must protect the future health of our city by reining in the pensions for new Menlo Park City (non-police) employees.

Every major newspaper has reported on the "pension tsunami" - how public pension benefits are unsustainable, are drowning out government services, and creating unfundable future debt. Measure L addresses the problem while still providing generous pensions for our employees.

Measure L:

  • changes full retirement age from 55 to 60 (Social Security is 67)

  • no longer allows pensions of up to 81% of best salary. (Instead returns to last year's formula with lifetime benefits of approximately 60%.)

  • prevents retroactive retirement benefit increases - preventing the unprecedented increases awarded in 2007 (a 35% pension increase retroactive to first day on job.)

  • requires voter approval for future pension increases above these limits, because those at the negotiating table now - staff, council members, and unions - all can benefit when pensions go up.

Until recently, municipal workers accepted lower salaries than their private-sector counterparts in exchange for better benefits and absolute job security. Now salaries AND benefits are higher. A 30-year Menlo Park employee earning $89,000/year can retire at 55 with an annual pension of $72,090 plus inflation. Based on average life expectancy, that's a pension payout of more than $1.9 million!

Pension costs to California cities are skyrocketing because of huge salary increase, retroactive pension increases, and longer life-spans. Worse, if CalPERS, which manages employee pensions for Menlo Park and most California cities falters, we are legally obliged to make up the shortfall. CalPERS is notoriously underfunded. We must start reducing our pension obligations and protect the future fiscal health of our city.

It's fair. It's prudent. It's time. Vote YES for reform!

/s/ Henry L. Riggs, Co-Chair

/s/ John C. Boyle, Council Member

/s/ Andrew Cohen, Council Member

/s/ Charles M. Kinney, Former Mayor

/s/ Alice Hom

Rebuttal to Arguments For
We agree that California's pension system needs reform. Unfortunately, Measure L does not achieve its stated goals and could cause irreparable harm. The Almanac said it best, "Initiative Not Real Pension Reform" (

Measure L threatens Menlo Park's finances and services:

  • read the impartial analysis. Menlo Park could be dropped by the state retirement plan and thus incur lower investment returns and higher administrative costs. It's reckless to take such a gamble with our finances.

  • The great services - libraries, parks, recreation faiclities, and youth and senior programs - that help make Menlo Park unique could be in jeopardy if the talented employees that Menlo Park historically attracts go elsewhere.

  • Legal costs will be borne by Menlo Park taxpayers.

Measure L is misleading and does not achieve promised savings:

  • Measure L does nothing to reduce current expenditures sinced it would only apply to future hires. Savings would not begin to accrue for fourteen years; the full benefit would take thirty of more. ( In contrast, City Council's solution created immediate savings: it requires all non-safety employees to share health care costs and, if contribution levels rise, pension costs increase.

  • By changing the pension rate instead of raising pay in 2007, City Council saved Menlo Park approximately $200,000 ( Measure L proponents take that rate increase out of context, ignoring other components of compensation.

  • Measure L does not address rapidly escalating police salaries and benefits.

Don't be fooled. Measure L is not the solution. Get the facts:

Vote NO on Measure L

/s/ Gail L. Slocum, Esq. Former Mayor

/s/ Jim Tooley, Chair, MP Parks and Recreation Commission

/s/ Carolyn Clarke, MP Housing Commission

/s/ Michelle Wanberg, MP Library Commissioner

/s/ Kelly Fergusson, PhD, MP City Councilwoman, Former MP Mayor

We're all concerned about rising employee costs. But Measure L threatens Menlo Park's high quality services to residents by micro-managing city finances and ultimately our ability to attract top quality employees and management. Measure L is not a responsible approach to employee compensation, including retirement benefits.

City council has put a better, more fiscally sound approach in place. City council imposed 2%@60 on regular employees, yes, but in addition requires cost sharing of both the city's portion of retirement contributions (beyond a cap) as well as health care contributions by all employees -- innovations that save taxpayer dollars now, not just in the long term. Measure L passage may negate this progress.

Measure L's flaws could have even further costs:

1) The 2%@60 retirement formula wording in Measure L is flawed, differing significantly from wording under the statewide retirement plan. This means Menlo Park would have to seek judicial interpretation that could force Menlo Park out of the statewide plan for new employees, causing higher administrative costs and lower investment yields.

2) The cost for this judge's decision will be borne by Menlo Park taxpayers.

3) Costs of defending lawsuits challenging the initiative also will be borne by Menlo Park taxpayers. If Measure L passes, city council will vigorously defend the voters' choice, of course. But there are legal arguments that Measure L is both illegal and unconstitutional. These lawsuits will be expensive.

Educated Californians know "ballot box budgeting" harms civic finances. Menlo Park is one of just a handful of California cities with the top AAA credit rating as well as excellent services - let's keep it that way.

Don't be fooled by Measure L's easy sound bites and slogans. It isn't a responsible approach, and in the end, taxpayers will be left holding the bag.

Vote NO on Measure L.

/s/ Kelly Fergusson, PhD Menlo Park City Councilwoman (Former Mayor)

Rebuttal to Arguments Against
The Argument Against is misleading and intellectually dishonest. The status quo wants to protect itself and will attack any change but there is no down side to Measure L.

How can one brag of the 2%@60 as imposed on the SEIU by the Council and then claim Measure L, which does the same thing, will hurt our ability to hire?

How can one overlook the many cities that have adopted similar pension limits? Or overlook the highly qualified public and private-sector job seekers who would appreciate the salaries and notoriously generous benefits offered here - even after Measure L passes?

How can one suggest that having citizens vote on pension increases is bad? Council recently increased pensions - retroactively - by 35%, instantly creating decades and decades of debt. This was "Wall Street's fault." Huge debt creation should be voted on - not announced from behind closed doors by the people who stand to benefit from the increase.

Why would anyone suggest that Menlo Park voters would be intimidated by the threat of a union lawsuit - which we're told has little merit - when the future annual cost savings are enormous: 56% of current costs after 14 years?

It's past time for some pension regulation! Measure L will protect our credit rating by restraining future liabilities; it will protect City employees by ensuring promised pensions can in fact be paid; and it will reduce the burden on our children. Vote YES!

(For full rebuttal, see:

/s/ Roy Thiele-Sardina, Co-Chair/W. Menlo resident

/s/ Katherine A. Strehl, Willows Resident

/s/ Leonor Ayyangar, Sharon Heights Resident

/s/ Mary N. Gilles, Allied Arts Resident

/s/ Dan Nelson, Lorelei/Suburban Park Resident

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Created: January 6, 2011 15:01 PST
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