Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone has been a vocal proponent of pension reform and we relayed recently that he hit the road this month to host a town hall meeting on the costs of retirement benefits. We noted that high school students in attendance got to see first-hand the contentious nature of such a subject, as members of two of the county's largest unions were in attendance to counter many of the supervisor’s arguments about the need for concessions. In an update, Riverside Supervisors have just approved a statement on a 3-2 vote that says supervisors should avoid publicly discussing the details of ongoing labor talks. Was Supervisor Stone the target of such a position? Stone has said he believes that is the case and deemed the statement unfair and unconstructive. Stone stated, “We need to help people filter through the barrage of rhetoric and propaganda that is designed to discredit those who want to protect the public treasury and adopt a pension system that is commensurate with these economic times.”
The statement outlines that supervisors will only engage in talks on the issue through formal negotiations with the county's employee unions. The position also notes that officials are to avoid making “public demands that should occur at the negotiation table.” Supervisors Jeff Stone and Bob Buster voted no on the statement, as both have been vocal about the need for reforms. The Press Enterprise reports the following on the intentions from the position’s supporters:
“But supervisors John Tavaglione and John Benoit, who co-sponsored the statement, said there is no attempt to muzzle the board. ‘We sometimes comment on issues that should in fact be done at the table, be done through the collective bargaining process,’ Tavaglione said. ‘I am as guilty as anyone.’ Tavaglione said the statement sends a message that the county is working on the pension changes in a professional manner through the county's labor negotiator. ‘There is no intent here to muzzle the Board of Supervisors from making comments in general about where we need to go in terms of pension reform,’ Tavaglione said.”
County officials are reportedly working on an agreement for a two-tier plan. For more, see here.