LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Former Mayor Richard Riordan today accepted a challenge from the city's police officers' union to a series of debates about the merits of his proposed pension overhaul, which could go before voters in May. Riordan's plan would shift newly hired city workers from taxpayer-backed pensions to 401(k)-style retirement plans and apply to police, firefighters and Department of Water and Power employees.
It would require workers to contribute more of their salaries toward their retirements and also freeze employees' salaries until the city's contribution to their pensions drops below a certain level -- 15 percent of an employee's salary for civilian workers and 25 percent for police officers and firefighters. Riordan agreed to three debates with Los Angeles Police Protective League President Tyler Izen before Dec. 7, when the former mayor plans to submit the nearly 255,000 petition signatures required to get the measure on the ballot.
"Dick Riordan looks forward to the opportunity to share his views with the public about the dangerous path the city is going down when it fails to deal responsibly with its pension costs,'' Riordan spokesman John Schwada said.
Izen issued his challenge Tuesday, accusing the former mayor of deceptively marketing his plan to voters. "I am challenging Richard Riordan to three debates between now and Dec. 7 because he has yet to offer any independent analysis that supports his wild claims,'' Izen said then. "Riordan has chosen to hide behind carefully orchestrated radio talk show appearances where no challenging or insightful questions are asked, appearances before groups where he knows his ideas won't be challenged, and well-crafted media releases that lack any pretense of substance.'
Riordan's plan would cost the city money, rather than save money, for at least the first decade the plan is in place, according to the police union. "Riordan repeatedly claims that rising city costs will lead to bankruptcy. It therefore makes no sense for voters to adopt a pension scheme that immediately and for a lengthy period of time increases city costs,'' Izen said, citing the decision by nine states and New York City not to close their pension systems and move new employees to new 401(k) or other accounts.