Is Richard Riordan Backing Down On Pension Debate Challenge?

A couple days ago, Tyler Izen, the L.A. Police Protective League threw down the gauntlet, challenging former mayor Richard Riordan to debate his proposal to slash city pensions.


A day later, Riordan -- through a spokesman -- accepted.

Now, however, Riordan seems to be waffling a bit. In a lengthy statement this morning...  

Riordan said, "Certainly there will be traditional debates about pension reform involving civic leaders... But I want this debate to be profound. I want it to occur in people's homes, in their churches, in coffeehouses and restaurants, on college campuses. Wherever people gather."

Note that Riordan says the debates will involve "civic leaders," but does not say that he will be one of them.

Further down, however, Riordan says that he will participate in the "discussion": "This debate, this discussion will include me - make no mistake about that - but this is not a personality contest."

OK, so when will this debate discussion take place? 

"Let's not put the cart before the horse," Riordan said. "When the pension reform plan is qualified for the May ballot, if the public is fortunate in that regard, then the civic debate - about my proposal and the existing system - will begin in earnest."

The LAPPL challenged Riordan to three debates before Dec. 7 -- the deadline to turn in signatures for Riordan's ballot measure. Seems pretty clear that won't happen. 

Riordan's spokesman, John Schwada, said Riordan is not ruling out a debate before then, but he also said that "until it's on the ballot, it's kind of premature to be completely debating this."

"The unions would love nothing more than for us to exhaust ourselves debating them when we should be trying to get this on the ballot," Schwada said. "We're not going to fall into their trap."

Asked again if Riordan would commit to participating, Schwada said, "The mayor will participate in debates. The question is what the format is."

Eric Rose, spokesman for the LAPPL, said that today's statement is "more double talk from Dick Riordan."

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