San Luis Obispo City Council battling over binding arbitration
February 16, 2011
After a contentious debate, San Luis Obispo City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday night to call for a special council meeting next week to discuss repealing or revising binding arbitration and pensions for public safety employees.
Next Tuesday, the council is slated to vote on whether or not to allow the public another chance to vote on binding arbitration, a mandate that resulted in police officers receiving a 30 percent raise in 2008.
“My strong belief is that taxpayers think we need to get hold of our budget and 80 percent of our operating expenses go toward salary and benefits,” said councilman Andrew Carter. “The citizens are becoming more aware that city employees have an above average income than that of the public or the private sector, and their benefits are off the charts.”
Binding arbitration, voted in by the public in 2000, entitles public safety workers’ unions to bring in a third party arbitrator if labor talks are at an impasse. The city and the unions are then required to abide by the arbitrator’s decision.
“If this gets put on the ballot, it is a choice for the taxpayers – if you want your council to have control, we can’t have binding arbitration,” Carter said.
Last night, Carter asked that the agenda for a proposed March 1 council meeting include a discussion of binding arbitration and employee pensions and the possibility of placing both issues up for a city-wide election as early as June
Both city manager Katie Lichtig and city attorney Christine Dietrick concurred that the issue should be heard at a special meeting on February 22 at 7 p.m. in order to provide staff the time needed to prepare the ballot measure along with a title and summary for the proposed June election.
Council members Andrew Carter, Dan Carpenter and Kathy Smith voted in favor of having a special meeting to allow the public to discuss placing binding arbitration up for a vote of the people.
Mayor Jan Howell Marx and councilman John Ashbaugh said they were opposed to revisiting the issue because prior discussions have been very contentious and that the people had voted 57 to 42 in favor of binding arbitration in 2000.
Council members are asking the public to have their voices heard through either email or during public comment at the council meeting scheduled for February 22 at 7 p.m.