November 26, 2012 | 10:02am
Former mayor Richard Riordan has suspended his effort to place a measure on the May ballot to roll back City Hall pensions.
Riordan's campaign had gathered more than 100,000 signatures for the effort over the last month. But at that rate, it appeared to be impossible to gather more than 300,000 signatures by the Dec. 28 deadline, said spokesman John Schwada.
Riordan wanted to require city workers to pay more toward their pension benefits, and convert all new city employees -- including police and firefighters -- to 401(k) plans.
"You're talking close to 400,000 signatures that are needed," Schwada said. "That's a lot of signatures to get in a month."
SEIU Local 721, which coordinated an effort to prevent Riordan's proposal from reaching the ballot, declared victory.
"Richard Riordan's scheme to make trash truck drivers, street pavers and tree trimmers retire into poverty has failed because the citizens of Los Angeles value the men and women who serve their community," said the union, in a statement attributed to sanitation worker Simboa Wright. "City residents weren't about to let a bunch of billionaires rewrite city policies. As city workers have been saying for a long time, Riordan's half-baked plan wasn't thought out. It died because it was bad for city workers and the city they serve."
In his own statement, Riordan said he was not giving up on the issue. The next opportunity to put an initiative on the ballot would be in June 2014.
"I think it was always recognized this was going to be a very difficult and ambitious program to get something on the ballot in May," Schwada said. "Dick Riordan believed it was worth a shot. He put his money where his mouth is. We determined that alternative is not viable at this time."
Riordan recently told City News Service that he put $200,000 to $400,000 of his own money into the signature gathering effort. The campaign has not filed a finance report, so it is not yet known how much Riordan was able to raise from other sources.
Though Riordan's campaign was shooting for the Dec. 28 deadline, the City Clerk's Office had suggested they file by Dec. 7 to ensure that the signatures were verified in time for the May ballot.
Update, 10:45 a.m.: Tyler Izen, president of the L.A. Police Protective League, challenged Riordan to a series of debates. Riordan initially accepted, then backed off. In a statement today, Izen called the measure "simplistic" and said it would have cost the city more money.
"We appreciate Mr. Riordan's concern for the City's financial status, we just disagree that this Charter change was a viable option," Izen said. "As I have said from day one, thoughtful analysis and real solutions are needed to address pension issues, and the League will continue to work towards those solutions with the City or anyone else who wants to roll up their sleeves and help."