San Diego County Democratic Party Chair Steps Aside Amid Assault Allegations

Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party, announced Friday that he is taking a leave of absence as the San Diego County District Attorney and Democratic party officials review potential criminal allegations against him.

“The allegations against me are completely false and I will work vigorously to clear my name and prove my innocence, but that takes time and in the meantime our Party has critical work that must continue on,” he stated. 

Rodriguez-Kennedy didn’t state the nature of the accusations against him, but his announcement came after Democratic activist Tasha Williamson posted a Facebook message Thursday suggesting that he had been accused of assault.

“The Chair of the San Diego Democratic Party needs to tell the Party about the allegations against him!” she stated on Facebook. “

Officials did not say whether the reports were related, but did confirm a potential criminal case. Tanya Sierra, public affairs officer for the District Attorney, said the office is reviewing police reports on Rodriguez-Kennedy.

“We are reviewing the police investigation for potential criminal charges,” she said. “There is no timeframe for how long that will take.”

Sierra did not say what the possible criminal charges are or confirm which police department submitted the investigation. San Diego Police officials would not confirm whether they investigated the complaint, and said they are unable to comment on any case after it is submitted to the district attorney.

Democratic Party official Lauren Bier confirmed that the party’s ethics committee has been informed of the allegations and is reviewing them.

“It will be going to the committee’s formal process and will be investigated per our procedures,” she said. “The Chair will not be involved outside of the testimony he provides. Our Chair Pro Tem will step in to observe the process and take the tiebreaker slot, should we need one.”

The limited information available about the allegations Friday shrouded the situation with confusion, as social media and political commentators weighed in on the matter. 

Williamson said in a phone interview that she believes the Democratic Party is dismissive of members’ safety and protective of top officials’ privacy and status, comparing it to police departments defending officers against misconduct allegations.

On his Linkedin profile, Rodriguez-Kennedy describes himself as a Marine veteran and Democratic organizer, with experience leading the Democratic Party’s millennial and LGBT community organizing efforts.

Click here to read the full article at the San Diego Union Tribune

Report: Violent Crime in the Region Up in 2021

Violent crime rose 8 percent in the San Diego region last year, and property crimes rose by 9 percent, when compared to 2020, a newly released report found.

In particular, reports of rape and aggravated assault were up, according to the San Diego Association of Governments which tracks local crime data.

And even though reports of robbery and burglary hit a 42-year low last year, thefts were up overall, according to SANDAG. The number of cars stolen jumped 20 percent. And people swiped the parts off cars in surprisingly higher numbers, with such thefts skyrocketing 71 percent. The most commonly stolen parts: catalytic converters.

The agency releases an annual report comparing crime numbers year over year. It has been tracking the data since 1980.

SANDAG Senior Director of Data Science Cynthia Burke noted that while the overall 2021 crime rates are at “historic lows for our region, violent and property crimes were up last year.”

Crime has steadily declined for the last three decades, but some has started to tick back up in recent years, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Countywide last year, rapes and aggravated assaults were up 11 and 12 percent respectively in 2021 compared to the previous year.

Homicides rose slightly last year, from 115 to 118 — an increase of 3 percent. That’s far less of an increase than in 2020, when homicides spiked 35 percent.

In the homicides last year in which investigators determined a motive, nearly a third of the killings followed an argument. Another 18 percent of the deaths were gang-related.

Click here to read the full article at the San Diego Union Tribune

Nearly All Major Crimes Increased Last Year In San Diego, Police Say

Biggest increases seen in hate crimes, which saw a 77 percent spike, and vehicle thefts, which increased 25 percent. The increases mirror those seen across the country.

SAN DIEGO — 

The city of San Diego saw increases in nearly every category of major crime in 2021, police officials said, mirroring a trend seen in other large cities across the nation.

Police leaders presented the findings at a San Diego City Council meeting on Tuesday.

Across the city, crime increased about 13 percent, according to the latest figures. The year’s violent crime rate of 4.2 crimes per thousand residents was the highest the city had seen in nearly a decade, and the property crime rate of 19.6 crimes per thousand residents was the highest since 2016, department officials said.

Vehicle thefts spiked 25 percent when compared with 2020 figures, and rapes increased by 18 percent. Aggravated assaults and thefts also saw double-digit jumps, while burglary and homicides rose a couple of percentage points each. Many of the increases persisted when comparing 2021 and 2019 — the year before the coronavirus pandemic prompted widespread lockdowns.

Hate crimes also saw a 77 percent increase last year, a surge that alarmed council members.

Robbery was the only major crime to see a decrease, falling about 10 percent when compared with 2020.

San Diego police Chief David Nisleit said the havoc wrought by the pandemic likely fueled some of last year’s increases — both locally and nationally.

“It’s COVID. It’s people being out of work, kids being out of school, just the anger and the frustration levels of everything over the last two years,” Nisleit said. “I think we need to acknowledge the last two years have been difficult on everybody.”

Still, experts say crime in San Diego remains at near-historic lows when compared with the rates seen in the 1980s and 1990s. Both violent and property crime rates have held fairly steady over the last decade, and, despite the increases seen in 2021, current crime rates are comparable to the late 1950s, when the city’s population was much smaller, police officials said.

Click here to read the full article at the San Diego Union Tribune

Masks Won’t Be Required In Many Places Starting Wednesday 

Two months after it was put in place to handle the Omicron surge, California’s mask mandate falls at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, though face coverings will still be required in many settings, including schools, hospitals and public transit.

San Diego County’s coronavirus numbers continue to make the case that the pandemic is receding. The daily number of new case notifications received by the county health department dipped below 1,000 Saturday for the first time since Dec. 20, coming in at 933 followed by 787 Sunday.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, state secretary of health and human services, said in a news conference Monday that falling trends in the number of new cases and hospitalizations provide confidence that pulling back on the mask mandate makes sense.

But, he added that while it’s no longer a requirement, wearing a mask indoors, especially in crowded locations, is a good idea given that transmission rates remain high relative to previous quiet periods such as the spring and early summer of 2021.

“We are still strongly recommending that people wear them in public indoor places,” Ghaly said.

The public, though, has largely been ignoring indoor masking rules in many locations, especially restaurants. Generally, enforcement of mask requirements outside health care and education has recently been nearly nonexistent. The point was illustrated at SoFi Stadium Sunday when cameras panning more than 70,000 Superbowl attendees showed that the vast majority had their faces uncovered. 

Maintaining the mandate in schools, but ignoring it in stadiums, drew continued fire from many in the public Monday. Ghaly did not address the dichotomy when asked to comment Monday.

He did stress that the virus continues to exact a toll even though case rates have fallen more than 70 percent over the past month.

“People have lost their lives to this nasty virus, and that continues,” Ghaly said. “That said, we understand a little better where it’s headed, and what’s happened over the last many weeks, and that is why we are prepared, after tomorrow, to allow the guidance for public indoor settings.”

By far the biggest continuing mask requirement remains in K-12 schools. Ghaly said that masks will continue to be required in schools, though a reassessment is set for Feb. 28.

Dr. Davey Smith, chief of infectious disease research at UC San Diego, said he trusts the state’s public health apparatus to react to trends in disease data by adjusting the responses it asks for, and sometimes demands, from the public.

Click here to read the full article at the San Diego Union Tribune

Hundreds of San Diego Police Officers Unvaccinated as City prepares To Impose Mandate

The city plans to send notices of termination to employees who are not in compliance

SAN DIEGO — Brandon Gibson knows just how serious COVID-19 is. He beat back the disease two months ago.

“It kicked my butt,” he said. Yet he quit the San Diego police force earlier this month after 10 years because he is not ready to get the vaccine, an imminent condition of employment for city workers.

“I am not an anti-vaxer,” Gibson, 45, said in a recent interview.

He appreciates science, he said, but he has concerns about serious side effects — which health officials say are rare — and doesn’t agree with the city’s mandate.

People rallied against a vaccine mandate for law enforcement officers and firefighters at San Diego’s Civic Center Plaza on Oct. 22.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“It’s really infringing on our freedoms,” he said. “It’s my body; it’s my choice.”

So he quit.

Whether Gibson will be an outlier among the San Diego Police Department’s 1,982 rank-and-file officers will soon be evident. Wednesday is the deadline for all city employees to show proof of vaccination or request a religious or medical exemption.

According to city figures, around 60 percent of officers were vaccinated as of Nov. 17.

Mayor Todd Gloria on Monday will ask the City Council to move forward with the mandate, which the city announced in late August, despite an impasse with the San Diego Police Officers Association over the requirements.

Click here to read the full article at the San Diego-Union Tribune

San Diego council votes to require gun owners to lock away firearms at home

The San Diego City Council voted 6-2 on Monday in the first of two votes to approve a new gun storage ordinance aimed at preventing accidental shootings and other firearm-related injuries and deaths.

City Attorney Mara Elliott introduced the Safe Storage of Firearms Ordinance last month. It would require all firearms in a residence be stored in a locked container, or disabled by a trigger lock, unless they are being carried by or are under control of the owner.

Monday’s vote was the first of two required for the ordinance to become law, and came after about 90 minutes of public comment, with about two-thirds of those who spoke urging the council to pass the ordinance. Those who opposed the proposed regulations told the council the ordinance infringes on their Second Amendment rights. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Diego Union-Tribune

A tale of two cities and blocked pension reforms


san diegoA San Diego city attorney urged an appeals court last week to order talks with unions on repaying 4,000 employees for pensions illegally replaced by 401(k)-style plans under an initiative, a cost some estimate could reach $100 million.

If the talks result in agreement, the city attorney suggested the pact could go back to voters for approval. Though not mentioned by the attorney, that’s what happened to another cost-cutting pension reform in San Jose also approved by two-thirds of voters in June 2012.

The two reforms had different cost-cutting curbs. But both had trouble in the courts. The San Diego reform was overturned. The San Jose reform lost a key provision. Both also were found by a powerful state labor board to have failed to bargain with unions in good faith.

In the end, San Diego seems likely to have increased pension costs, not cut them. San Jose got some cuts in pension costs, but not the big one. The winner, for better or worse, seems to be the status quo in pension protection.

Last August the state Supreme Court ruled that former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, the city’s designated bargaining agent, violated state labor law when he did not bargain or “meet and confer” with unions before pushing the reform initiative.

“He consistently invoked his position as mayor and used city resources and employees to draft, promote, and support the Initiative,” the ruling said. “The city’s assertion that his support was merely that of a private citizen does not withstand objective scrutiny.”

The Supreme Court ordered a three-justice appeals court panel, which upheld the San Diego reform two years ago, to “address the appropriate judicial remedy.” The appellate court had not done so previously because of its ruling of no violation.

At the hearing last week, Travis Phelps, a city attorney, urged the court to order city bargaining with the unions on the reform initiative and any repayment for losses, possibly resulting in an alternative to the reform initiative that could be placed before voters.

An attorney for four city unions, Ann Smith, urged the court to adopt the state Public Employment Relations Board traditional order to “make employees whole for any losses” with an interest rate of 7 percent, the pension fund earnings forecast at the time.

“In every instance the status quo ante must be restored in full or otherwise employers are encouraged to violate the act” that requires bargaining, Smith said, because they could keep some of the gain.

Estimates of complying with the board order have ranged from $20 million to $100 million, depending on a variety of factors, the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper reported last week.

Smith said the court had not received a compelling argument that the labor board abused its discretion in ordering a make whole remedy. She said the state Supreme Court ruling noted that labor board rulings have received high court deference in the past

In a suggestion apparently not mentioned in the briefs, Smith said the make whole remedy could be applied to city employees represented by unions, but not to managers and other city employees who are not members of unions.

The Proposition B pension reform initiative approved by voters in 2012 has not been invalidated. New city hires are still receiving a 401(k)-style retirement plan rather than a pension.

The state labor board said it lacks the authority to invalidate the initiative. What the state Supreme Court said about invalidating the initiative resulted in a clash of metaphors at the hearing.

Smith said the Supreme Court did not tell the appeals court to invalidate Proposition B but “they dropped all the bread crumbs on that trail.” Justice Richard Huffman said he was “long past reading Supreme Court tea leaves.”

The city attorney, Phelps, argued that a voter-approved initiative can only be overturned through a separate “quo warranto” process filed in superior court. He said citizen backers of the initiative, barred from labor board proceedings, presumably could testify.

Phelps said problems would be created if the appeals court, as the union attorney urged, made a straight invalidation of the initiative without modification or ordering bargaining to seek a solution.

About 4,000 employees hired since the reform have individual vested rights to the matching employer contributions to their 401(k)-style retirement plan, 9.2 percent of pay for miscellaneous employees and 11 percent of pay for firefighters and lifeguards.

“You can’t simply take that away,” Phelps said.

Retroactively enrolling employees in the city pension plan who have been in the 401(k)-style plan would require approval of the IRS, he said, which is not a given. He said tax exemption for the city and its employees could be at risk.

Smith said a quo warranto hearing is not needed because of the Supreme Court ruling of a procedural error and that hearing from the citizen proponents doesn’t matter at this point, drawing a rebuke from Justice Huffman.

“The notion that we can invalidate their measure, based on PERB’s facts without the participation of the proponents, strikes me as not the kind of process I’m used to,” Huffman said.

Smith said the state Supreme Court has reiterated that local initiative rights are not absolute. They must be “harmonized” with statewide rights, she said, which proponents had the opportunity to do before and after the initiative passed.

An attorney for the citizen proponents of the initiative, Alena Shamos, said a make whole remedy would gut the intent of the initiative, a response to the “crisis” of high pension costs, and would be the same as invalidation.

“We would agree with the city that meet and confer would be the proper remedy,” Shamos said, which could result in fines and penalties for the city.

A PERB attorney, Joseph Eckhart, said allowing initiative rights to override state bargaining law would undermine the case as much as if there had been no violation. He said any remaining dispute after city and union bargaining would go back to the labor board.

The San Diego reform excluded police and was limited to new hires, avoiding the San Jose reform’s clash with police and the “California Rule,” a series of state court rulings that prevents cuts in the pension offered at hire unless offset with a new benefit.

A key part of the San Jose measure pushed by former Mayor Chuck Reed gave current employees an option: pay more for a pension or begin earning a smaller pension in the future.

The option for current employees who have vested rights, unlike new hires, was overturned by a superior court judge citing the California Rule. But much of the measure placed on the ballot by the city council was allowed.

Reed and other reformers thought the option for current workers might get a long-sought review of the California Rule by the state supreme court. But the superior court ruling was not appealed as the reform battle continued for three more years.

In November 2014 Councilman Sam Liccardo was elected mayor, defeating a union-backed candidate reportedly supported by an $800,000 campaign. A day later two PERB rulings said the reform measure was not bargained in good faith.

Liccardo announced a settlement in 2015 that dropped an appeal of the superior court ruling and avoided a long and costly battle over nine union lawsuits. Reed endorsed the settlement expected to save the city $3 billion over 30 years and aid police retention.

In March 2016 the city used a quo warranto procedure to repeal Measure B in superior court, allowing a more generous pension plan to attract police to a long-depleted force working mandatory overtime.

In November of that year 61 percent of San Jose voters approved Measure F, a replacement for the original reform backed by a coalition of labor and business leaders, including Liccardo and police and firefighter union officials.

Supporters said Measure F would lock in pension savings and end years of bitter union-management fighting and litigation. Opponents said it was a capitulation to unions that allowed retroactive pension increases and other cost increases.

As San Diego awaits the appeals court ruling on a Proposition B remedy, the U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it will not review the city’s appeal based on the state Supreme Court ignoring Sanders’ First Amendment free speech rights.

Click here for video of the appeals court hearing, March 11 beginning at 2:30.

Reporter Ed Mendel covered the Capitol in Sacramento for nearly three decades, most recently for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

This article was originally published by CalPensions.com

California Businessowners Take the Homelessness Crisis to Court


Homeless hungry foodLast month, the downtown San Diego franchise of the Burgerim restaurant chain closed its doors, contending that chaotic conditions caused by large numbers of homeless people in and around nearby Horton Plaza Park had driven customers away and made it impossible to operate, even during the Christmas season. The shuttering of the Burgerim location, which had been open for little over a year, was a warning signal to the San Diego business community—and to city hall, too. Burgerim would not be leaving quietly. The franchisee, backed by parent company Burgerim USA, intended to sue in state court, claiming that neither its landlord nor the City of San Diego had lived up to their responsibilities to keep the city’s historic Gaslamp Quarter clean and suitable for business.

Burgerim’s legal action will be of special interest to members of the multi-billion-dollar homelessness industry nationwide. (In Seattle alone, $1 billion a year gets spent on the city’s 11,500 homeless people). San Diego County’s homeless number about 8,500, which means this beautiful Southern Californian region has the nation’s fourth-largest homeless population (after New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle), a rank it has held for several years. The San Jose area is fifth.

Despite the many billions spent on homelessness, however, the problem is getting worse, especially in California. Along with homeless encampments come deadly outbreaks of hepatis A, typhus, and other communicable diseases, driven by attending drug addiction. Some parts of the city are littered with syringes. A desperate San Diego now steam-cleans its streets and sidewalks. Even in expensive neighborhoods, unguarded greenery is often strewn with trash and toilet paper, revealing where homeless people have spent the night. The city tries to keep the squalor at bay with improved shelter programs. It even plans to provide 500 bins, where the homeless can stash their belongings, but that effort alone will cost the city about $2 million a year in overtime for the cops who guard the lockers. Advocates suggest that these overtime millions could be better spent placing hundreds of homeless in their own studio apartments.

Will Burgerim’s lawsuit have any effect on this complex, expensive, and apparently intractable social issue? Can retail and restaurant tenants really use the courts to force landlords and municipal governments to protect them against a problem that no one seems able to solve?

Absolutely, says Niv Davidovich, a lawyer for Burgerim. “There is ample case law that will allow the Burgerim lawsuit to move forward,” he maintains. “Landlords and the city are responsible for reasonably maintaining the common areas of any commercial property. If they fail to do so, they are violating the lease terms, violating their covenant of good faith and fair dealing with the tenant, which is implied into the lease by operation of law, and are acting negligently, thus subjecting themselves to liability both in tort and contract.”

Whatever the fate of Burgerim’s lawsuit, it’s difficult to foresee how legal action will affect the homelessness crisis long-term. If held liable for problems caused by people over whom they have no control, private landlords at least have the option of going out of business—a nightmare scenario that has already destroyed large sections of urban America. But what about municipal government? Can the law force cities to end or control homelessness?

For decades it’s been an open secret that “homeless” is, for the most part, a euphemism for chronic afflictions that have proven very difficult to treat. The overwhelming majority of homeless people end up on the streets either because they are mentally ill, or because they engage in self-destructive behaviors, or because they live in a cruelly compassionate “non-judgmental” society that no longer grants itself the moral authority to distinguish between illness and health.

In the mid-1980s, when I worked in New York’s City Hall, Mayor Ed Koch commissioned a detailed study of the city’s single homeless men. I no longer have the report, but I recall its main conclusions, which divided this population into five main groups. A large segment of homeless men were clinically diagnosed as seriously mentally ill; occasionally dangerous, they were for the most part frightened, confused, and unable to cope with life. A smaller group suffered from severe personality disorders. They weren’t necessarily sick, but they had a hard time interacting with others. If they held a job, they would fight with the boss; get them an apartment, and they would fight with the landlord. Another 20 percent of the persistently homeless were crippled by substance abuse (though men in all five groups used drugs and alcohol to some extent). Hardcore slackers—what we used to call “bums”—made up about 15 percent of the total. They were generally healthy, and often had job skills, but preferred not to be tied down to regular jobs. They might work or panhandle long enough to buy a bus ticket to Florida or San Diego, but wherever they went, they would soon wind up back on the streets.

The remaining segment—roughly 10 percent of the homeless—were simply down on their luck. They had lost a job, they had been burned out of their apartment building, or they had seen a marriage break up. They needed a helping hand to get back on their feet. Find them a job, and they would keep it. Get them an apartment, and they would take care of it, and pay the rent. The report concluded that only this last 10 percent of the homeless population could be helped in any meaningful way, an observation that sheds light on why, despite billions in spending and hundreds of social programs, homelessness and the chaos it creates has reached the crisis point in cities and states across the country.

Despite indictment, Rep. Hunter holds 8-point lead in House race


Duncan HunterrumpThe 60-count indictment issued Aug. 21 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego targeting Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, and wife Margaret Hunter for allegedly spending $250,000 in campaign funds for personal uses, then trying to cover up their actions, has led to media speculation that Hunter’s seat was a potential Democratic pickup in November.

“Duncan Hunter’s Indictment in California Opens the Door for a Long-Shot Challenger,” was the headline on a New York Times analysis by veteran political reporter Adam Nagourney.

“Hunter’s scandals make his once-safe Republican district competitive,” declared a Vox piece written by Tara Golshan.

But the idea that California’s 50th Congressional District – which covers much of east and north San Diego County and south Riverside County – might be in play seemed far more plausible to East Coast media outlets than to media in Southern California.

That’s because the district is as solidly Republican as any in California. Republicans hold a 15-percent registration edge over Democrats, Donald Trump won the district by the same amount in 2016, and in the June primary, Democrats only got 36 percent of the vote – even though stories about Hunter’s profligate spending of campaign funds had been in the news for more than two years.

Opponent may be hard sell in pro-Trump district

It’s also because of Hunter’s young, inexperienced opponent – 29-year-old Ammar Campa-Najjar, a former U.S. Labor Department spokesman. While the first-time candidate has so far slightly out-raised Hunter in campaign donations, his background may make him a uniquely hard sell in a district known for its ardent support of Trump. Campa-Najjar is the son of an Arab father and a Mexican-American mother – and, as Fox News and other conservative outlets emphasized, the grandson of one of the terrorists who helped plan the killing of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany.

Campa-Najjar, a Protestanttold a reporter for The Independent newspaper of London that he was confident district voters would recognize the irrelevance of the issue. “[W]hen it comes to my distant relative – who died 16 years before I was born – he influenced my thinking as much as he did yours, which is not at all,” he said. “I knew him as much as you did. So it really is kind of a non-sequitur. It plays on xenophobia and distorting facts and it really has no bearing.”

Campa-Najjar told the San Diego Union-Tribune that his “ethnic background is not a liability, it’s an asset,” citing the large number of Chaldeans and Latinos in the 50th.

Nevertheless, in a Survey USA poll released Monday, Hunter held a 47 percent to 39 percent lead over Campa-Najjar. But the subcategories of the poll point to the obstacles facing the challenger. Hunter received a surprising 41 percent of the vote among independents. The 23 percent of Republicans who now say they won’t back him could consolidate behind the five-term incumbent – especially as the prospect of Democrats retaking the House is emphasized by the media in the run-up to the November vote.

Hunter’s claim that he is the victim of a Justice Department plot led by prosecutors who were donors to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign resonated with many voters. Among decline-to-state voters, 41 percent said they believed the Hunter indictment was political; 64 percent of Republicans held that view.

Hunter, a former Marine, was the first member of Congress to have served in the military in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He succeeded his father in 2008, who had represented eastern San Diego County in the House since his 1980 election.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

CA Supreme Court Could Make Local Ballot Initiatives More Difficult


CA Supreme Courtrecent unanimous ruling by the California Supreme Court (pictured) that may force the city of San Diego to retroactively create pensions for non-police employees hired since the start of 2013 isn’t just bad news for pension reformers. It also serves notice to elected officials who participate in signature-gathering campaigns for local ballot measures that they need to be wary of doing so in a way that interferes with state laws requiring that changes in work conditions be collectively bargained with employee unions.

At issue was Proposition B, approved by San Diego voters in 2012 by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. The measure required that all city employees who began their jobs on or after Jan. 1, 2013 – except for police officers – get 401(k)-style retirement benefits instead of the defined benefit pensions that left San Diego finances in near ruins more than a decade ago because of City Council decisions to underfund them.

But San Diego employee unions and the California Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) argued even before the measure reached the ballot that it violated state collective bargaining laws because the campaign for the pension changes was led in 2011 and 2012 by then-San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders. He claimed that his role in the Prop. B campaign was as a private citizen – not as mayor – and thus he faced no obligation to collectively bargain with public employee unions before touting the direct-democracy initiative.

Before reaching the state high court, a trial judge first disagreed with Sanders and San Diego, then an appellate court sided with the city. But all seven state justices joined in a ruling that found that city leaders had not met their requirement to first seek changes at the bargaining table before seeking to impose them through direct democracy.

“Allowing public officials to purposefully evade the meet-and-confer requirements of [state collective bargaining rules] by officially sponsoring a citizens’ initiative would seriously undermine the policies served by the statute: fostering full communication between public employers and employees, as well as improving personnel management and employer-employee relations,” the court held. It ordered the case be sent back to the appellate court to determine how San Diego should untangle its mess.

Elected leaders may be less likely to lead ballot fights

The decision seems likely to change the nature of direct democracy going forward – at least at the local level of California government.

Direct democracy, brought forward in California by Gov. Hiram Johnson in 1911, has greatly benefited from the active participation of elected officials. They are often more able to win public approval of sweeping reforms through the ballot box than they can through the Legislature or city or county governing boards, which are often allied with deep-pockets special interests.

For example, Earl Warren – the former U.S. Supreme Court chief justice and California governor – repeatedly led ballot campaigns as Alameda County district attorney that directly affected many areas of California life.

But similar efforts by a politician in 2018 would face a different kind of vetting than Warren faced. Going forward, any ballot proposal that affects public employees in any way is subject to a potential court veto if it can be established that it were led by elected officials who didn’t live up to their collective bargaining obligations.

The California PERB Blog’s analysis noted that justices “did leave open the possibility that government officials can separate their official actions from their private activities. However, the court did not provide any guidance on what a government official would have to do to make such a distinction clear.”

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com