San Diego One of Many Cities in ‘Pension War’

The San Diego skyline.

The pension debate in San Diego is complicated by the fact that city workers do not participate in Social Security. Photo: Tomcio77/Flickr

By Katie Orr

Franklin Lamberth took a break from his garbage route and stood in the sun next to the truck he drives for ten hours a day, four days a week. Lamberth has been a San Diego sanitation worker for nearly 20 years. He says he wouldn’t want to do anything else. But still, morale in his department is low, and he says his coworkers keep turning to him for reassurance.

“And they come to me because they think I have the answers,” said Lamberth. “And all I can tell them is, through life I roll with it. I’ve had a nice run. I don’t see any promise.”

Lamberth will get his pension when he retires, about $24,000 a year. But that’s all he can count on. Like all current city employees, Lamberth won’t receive Social Security because the city isn’t enrolled in the system.
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McNerney Faces Tough Foe in Delta Race

Ricky Gill at a community event.

Ricky Gill campaigns at a community event. Photo: Tara Siler

By Tara Siler

Bob Benedetti is a political science professor at Stockton’s University of the Pacific. “My lord!” he exclaims as he looks over before-and-after versions of the congressional district map that covers San Joaquin County.
“The first thing I think that hits you is that the current one is compact and the one we had been using is not,” he says.

That’s an understatement. The lines of the old 11th District are an abstract mess. The new 9th District is far tidier–covering the Delta, with Stockton and agriculture at its center.
“San Joaquin County is one of the top agricultural counties in the United States, probably in the world,” Benedetti says. “But politically the valley has tended to be conservative, whether it registers Democrat or Republican.”
Voter registration numbers would seem to favor the incumbent, Democrat Jerry McNerney. But the GOP candidates are trying to swing some conservative-leaning Democrats their way.
At Stockton’s Cinco de Mayo festival, Ricky Gill works the mostly Latino crowd. An Indian-American, Gill is a recent law school graduate. The day of the festival is also the day he turns 25-that’s the minimum age the Constitution sets to serve in the House of Representatives.
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Top-Two Primary Election: How’s That Work Again?

The "top-two" primary will be tested in a California state-wide election for the first time in June. Illustration: Getty Images

If you open your Sample Ballot for the June 5 primary election, you’ll find a big difference.

Take the race for the U.S. Senate: Instead of a roster of candidates for the one political party to with you belong, you’ll see all 24 candidates in a big long list (including 14 Republicans, 6 Democrats, 2 Peace and Freedom, 1 American Independent and 1 Libertarian). Even if you don’t have a party affiliation, you can now vote in the primary.

Pick your one choice from that long list. The two candidates who get the most votes will go to the general election in November.

KQED’s education blog, The Lowdown, explains it right here.

Once you understand how to vote using the new system, you may want to know more about how it’s going to change California politics. KQED’s Forum devoted an hour to the topic earlier this week. It was a lively — even heated — debate.

Former California Democratic legislator Steve Peace is the co-chairman of the California Independent Voter Project, which authored the Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act. He thinks the new primary system is good for Democracy:

Bottom line is, open primary means competition. Competition means a healthier system…. Seventy-three percent of Californians say that partisanship is at the root of our problems. (Yet) we’re run by the other 27 percent.

But Jon Fleischman, a GOP strategist and publisher of, a website on California politics, hates it:

As I watch the practical application of Proposition 14, the amount of money that it takes to compete now is just absolutely staggering and stunning. The effect of that is that I’m watching the special interests from Sacramento, whether it’s the labor unions on the Democrat side, whether it’s certain business PACs on the Republican side or certain major donors are now weighing in and coming into these districts and they’re going to cherry pick the candidates.

You can hear the entire show right here: