H-SAN LUIS OBISPO

Aug 16, 2011 1:17 AM by Danielle Lerner

San Luis Obispo's all mail-in special election just 15 days away

Just 15 days to go until voters in San Luis Obispo decide one of the most heated battles in city government history. The future of pensions and binding arbitration in the city.

Monday marked the last day to register for this month's all mail-in special election on August 30. At last check, 24,000 ballots had gone out and 4,300 had already been returned. In the past few months the debate over Measure A and B has caused tension between the city council and the city's police and fire unions, and as the countdown to the special election continues, campaigns on both sides are heating up.

From television spots, to social networking videos and rallies, signs of San Luis Obispo's upcoming special election are everywhere.

Measure A deals with pension reform. If passed, the city council would have the power to reduce pension benefits for all new city employees without voter approval. Supporters say a "yes" on Measure A will ensure the city remains financially viable.

"It's going to be very difficult in the future to continue to provide services to the people of San Luis Obispo that we all expect," said John Ewan, co-chair of Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility.

A spokesperson for those against Measures A and B was on duty and not available for comment Monday night, but in previous interviews he has said Measure A creates an unfair balance of power.

"We've been willing partners with the city to come in and offer up concessions to reduce our benefits packages and we've been rebuffed at the negotiations table," said Erik Baskin of SLO City Firefighters Local 3525.

Measure B repeals the local police and fire unions' right to binding arbitration, passed by voters 11 years ago. It allows an objective third party to make the final decision during a negotiation impasse. Supporters say taking that away allows our elected council members to rule in the citizen's best interest.

"We all appreciate what they do, it's that we need to gain control and this binding arbitration has just not worked," said Ewan.

However those against Measure B feel it gives the city council too much power.

"Our members not having a say in working conditions, hours and their safety, and really the safety of the citizens," said Baskin.

The ballots were mailed out at the beginning of this month, you just fill it out, put a stamp on the envelope and send it in to the County Clerk-Recorder's Office.

This is the first all mail-in special election in San Luis Obispo's history.

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