Southern California breaking news and trends

LA City Council approves reduced pension benefits; union threatens lawsuit

SEIU Local 721

Alice Walton/KPCC

Members of the Coalition of L.A. City Unions protested the city's pension reform plan. They wore cheesehead hats as they likened Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s treatment of union workers to that of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Over the objections of unions that represent thousands of employees, the Los Angeles City Council agreed Tuesday to scale back retirement benefits for future hires in an effort to reign in what city budget officials say are unsustainable costs.

The 14-0 vote came after passionate speeches from union members and city council members alike. A last minute motion from Councilman Richard Alarcon asked labor leaders and budget officials to meet in the next 30 days, at which point the pension ordinance will come back for a second vote, as mandated by the city's charter. 

The new benefits would impact civilian workers hired on or after July 1, 2013.

The Coalition of L.A. City Unions has threatened to sue the city for breach of contract, and a letter from the group’s attorney said an unfair employment practice charge could be filed with the Employee Relations Board. 


Committee debates campaign finance reforms for City of LA elections

Los Angeles City Hall

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

A campaign finance reform that would restrict which donations may be eligible for matching funds was approved today by a Los Angeles City Council committee.

Should L.A. City Council candidates receive matching funds only for donations made by city residents, or should they apply to gifts from anyone who lives in the county? 

The idea to widen the pool was floated today by the City Council's Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee. Its members want to be less restrictive than the plan put forth by the city's Ethics Commission, which would match donations only from city residents.

Councilman Herb Wesson pointed to his own experience as an example of why the plan should be modified.

“I lived in Culver City, a half a block from Los Angeles. I was very involved in Los Angeles politics and government, more so than ... Culver City,” Wesson said.

Staff members from the Ethics Commission and California Clean Money Campaign believe the restriction on matching funds would empower city residents. Currently, all donations made to candidates who opt into the matching funds program are eligible to be matched, regardless of where the donor resides. The matching funds come from public tax dollars. A study by Common Cause found 40 percent of donations made so far to the 2013 mayoral candidates have come from outside city limits.