Two steaming non-scandals

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The political press is all over two of the big non-scandals of the day, Jerry Brown's pension and Jeff Adachi's budget. Let's start with ol' Jer'.

You can say a lot of things about Jerry Brown, and I've said a lot of them myself, but the guy has never tried to enrich himself off the public dollar. Fact is, Jerry's about as cheap as you can get, and hates to spend money -- his money, campaign money, public money. In some ways, he's responsible for Prop. 13, because he was such a cheapskate as governor in the 1970s that he ran up a huge billion-dollar-plus surplus in Sacramento at a time when property taxes were soaring.

But Matt Drudge, playing off public anger at state employee pensions, decided that Brown was "double dipping," citing and OC Register report, and suddenly, the former gov's secret pension was big news. But wait, the Chron actually figured it out: Brown isn't drawing any pension at all right now. If he were to retire after about 25 years of service as secretary of state, governor, mayor of Oakland, attorney general and a Supreme Court clerk, he'd be eligible for a pension of $78,450 -- considerably less than your average San Francisco cop or firefighter. Knowing Jerry, he'll probably decline it anyway.

In other words: No story.

Then there's Jeff Adachi's budget. I know, it looks bad for a guy who's trying to cut worker pensions and health care to be seeing budget increases and still leave the city with a $2 million legal tab for work he refused to handle. But really, this is old news -- Adachi's been warning for a couple of years that he was going to have to decline cases (and thus stick the city with a private legal bill). And let's remember: The staff in the Public Defender's Office handles almost twice as many cases as they ought to.

Adachi's ballot initiative annoys me -- he's going after city employee benefits instead of looking at where the city can raise new revenue. And he's acting like a lone wolf, demanding that his office is properly staffed and launching an initiative that attacks public employee unions instead of trying to work with them.

But I don't blame him for being agressive in pushing for adequate funding for his shop -- I wish the director of public health was willing to try as hard to avoid cutbacks instead of going along with whatever the mayor proposes. And his current budget is nowhere near as scandalous as what happens every single year with police and fire.

 

Comments

The city can't possibly raise enough revenue to shore up the pension fund and pay for the increased cost of health care for 29,000 employees.

I am a city employee. Under the current contract, I pay nothing toward my pension and nothing for my Kaiser. This is ridiculous. Of course I don't want to pay, but I recognize that it's MY pension and MY health care and I have to help pay for it. The taxpayers of SF should not have to pay the entire bill for us as the taxpayers have enough problems as it is.

SEIU, stupidly, is making this "anti-worker" which is nonsense. It's a fiscal matter. The pension will be insolvent in 15 years at the current funding rate, and that means the city would have to come up with more than a BILLION dollars to prop it up at that point. SEIU is also, again stupidly, putting up signs all over my worksite blaring that we will have to give up health care for our kids because we are all so poorly paid that we won't be able to afford it.

Grow up, SEIU. Families have to budget and make priorities. If you have to start paying more for health care, you will do without some non-essentials, just like most of the rest of American right now.

Posted by guest on Aug. 17, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

The guest above did not identify what kind of job he is in, but it's not a low paid job. Perhaps, he's Jeff Adachi himself. All City workers receive a contribution from the City toward their healthcare premium that is only 75% of the Kaiser rate. This is below the standard in the bay area public sector which usually covers Kaiser at 100% with that cost applied to more expensive plans if you choose them. 90% of all City employees pay 7.5% toward their pension. Of course, Adachi pays nothing towards his pension and still will pay nothing if his measure passes. But this is the guy that defends rapists and murders. Stop the lies, stop Adachi!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2010 @ 3:03 pm

Speaking of lies, if Prop B passes Adachi and all elected officials would pay 9% for their pensions. Would it kill you to read the thing?

Posted by Seej on Aug. 17, 2010 @ 4:39 pm

Read the measure, because your facts are wrong. The Charter Amendment would require Adachi to pay the increased rate toward his own pension.

You write that 90% of City employees pay 7.5% toward their pension, but you're wrong on that too, because a large percentage of employees get their contributions "picked up" (i.e., paid for) by the City. You should read the MOUs on this score. Read the Civil Grand Jury Report, too.

Your post on healthcare relates to City workers' healthcare. But the healthcare part of the Adachi measure only requires an increased contribution for dependent healthcare. I'm not aware of a single private employer in the City that pays for all dependent healthcare.

With respect to the last two sentences of your post regarding Adachi defending "rapists and murderers" those comments are the words of someone without an argument on the pension issue and the need to make nonsensical, irrelevant statements. Opponents of the measure are going to lose big on this Charter Amendment if they can't come up with a logical argument and instead stoop to that BS.

Posted by Patrick on Aug. 17, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

I'm against the pension measure, but trying to demonize the city's public defender for fulfilling his constitutional mandate (defending rapists and murders) is disgusting.

It is guaranteed to backfire if the SEIU or any other organizations tries to push this line.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 18, 2010 @ 11:07 am

... the previous post is not. Rubbish, you will regard it. On this individual, if indeed it is a valid individual with a valid situation, substantial information is required.

Posted by Guest LD on Aug. 17, 2010 @ 8:01 pm

I agree with you..

...but I suspect your post is nothing more than another another sock-puppet, satire clown-act by an Internet (im)poster, whose opinion is the exact opposite of what he wrote above.

The giggling never stops in the Internet Chatroom among the all clowns hiding behind the satin curtain. The medium is the massage.

But, hey, our post is good! You get the point. I agree with everything you wrote The SEIUers (sewers) just don't get it.

Posted by Barton on Aug. 17, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

Your a city employee and you actually believe that crap?

Wonderful. Great. Jeesh. That's pure scapgoating.

Blaming the workers (yourself) when if we just passed an income tax on the rich here at say 0.01% we would raise about $1 billion and solve all these so-called budget problems until kingdom come.

Singling out workers' unions is pure scapegoating. Pure and simple. Simple scapegoating. Politically they are a much easier target than corporations.

People like you frame the issue like this all day long. Like workers, struggling to raise a family can afford to pay for healthcare when the rich get a free pass every day and all the time?

What we need is social and economic justice and parity, coupled with Wellness for each and every worker built around solid social justice platforms.

Posted by Guest SoS on Aug. 17, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

Wow, if that guy really is a city employee, he's part of the lucky minority (like Jeff Adachi) that pay nothing towards their pensions. Over 90% of city employees are contractually obligated to contribute a minimum of 7.5% of their pay toward their pension.

Oh, and by the way, over 80% of the Pension system's income comes from investment returns - not contributions by the employee and employer. If the fund became insolvent, that would only happen from decades of a poor investment returns. Even with the economic hole we're in, San Francisco's retirement fund grew by over 12% last year.

Posted by Guest A on Aug. 17, 2010 @ 2:55 pm

Exactly, Guest A.

The reason city workers keeping having to dip into the general fund to meet their own pension obligations has nothing to do with the idea that they are not meeting their own pention obligations.

What we need is social and economic justice and pariity. We need Wellness, which can only be achieved through organic wholeness as outlined through a consensus of all workers working together for the common goodness.

Posted by Guest SoS on Aug. 17, 2010 @ 5:10 pm

Per Redmond's link to SFGate:

"...new $2.2 million bill to taxpayers because he refused to take more than 1,000 cases last year that went instead to private attorneys, city documents show."

"Even through tough fiscal times, Adachi's budget has gone up every year but one since he's been in office."

"Adachi's budget has grown 91 percent since he took office..."

Now, Adachi does not have control over how many cases he's supposed to deal with. (Or does he? Outsourcing at it's finest, at the cost of all of us.) But really, crime may be up due to some some uncontrollable trend.

Analogously, employee benefit funds may be down due to, oh I don't know, the worst economic recession in three-quarters of a century.

Discuss.

Posted by Guest LD on Aug. 17, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

Proposition B which undoubtedly will be backed by venture capitalists like Micheal Moritiz who smell an economic opportunity should this measure pass is, to put it plainly a fraud. It, like "Care not Cash" which took money from local GA for homeless adults to save and fund services for homeless people, failed miserably because the money taken went into the general fund. This money was used to hire highly paid consultants, highly paid upper management and fund other programs popular with the public but it didn't end homelessness. It, in fact, made a bad situation worse but it did elect Gavin Newsom as Mayor, who road on a wave of voter anger at poverty, ginned up by endless TV adds that showed old, alcoholic men. Yes, Adachi's case loads have increased and so has his budget. My case loads have increased too at public health as have all primary care providers. More people are relying on city services for programs like "Healthy San Francisco" as the private sector shrinks jobs with benefits or cannot afford expensive corporate health insurance. Since we have no single-payer yet in the State, like Leno's bill, health care costs will escalate. With more people on our roles ,expenses without raising revenue will increase. Adachi's measure may not help the situation because there is nothing in it that specifically puts the money into services, directly and in fact, if you believe HHS we could lose 23 million per year in Federal funding.

Propostion B puts the money saved, which by the way, is an estimate given which figures you go by, into the same general fund that can be used by the in-coming Mayor ,if Gavin is elected for Lt. Governor, under the direction of the in coming new BOS, for whatever they like. Like "Care not Cash" , Proposition B is smoke, mirrors, bells and whistles that rides voter anger at public sector Government workers and our unions. Riding voter anger and fear eventually turns on the political forces that relied on them especially when it doesn't produce results.

In addition, it is about limiting and nullifying our collective bargaining agreements that many city workers have made in good faith over the years. City workers in lieu of higher wages in the private sector bargained for pensions and health care benefits as part of our agreements. This measure puts the burden on the worker and the workers family who will pay more to cover health insurance costs and lining the pockets of the insurance corporations who are doing well at everyone's expense. I won't be surprised that some of the growing contributors to Proposition B won't be insurance moguls. . Proposition B will rely on expensive TV and radio adds that will demonize labor and city workers. Anti-government sentiment works well for Republicans and Republicans in disguise especially when backed by big corporate cash. Riding voter anger and capitalizing it maybe a winning strategy but in the end it will not help the city, the programs and the workers who deliver them. After 15 years of public service, it will make the situation worse and is a race in my opinion to the economic bottom for all workers, in or outside of unions, in the private or public sector.

Last year, city workers gave back in furloughs, raises, pension pay-outs, holiday day pay a total of 250 million to support city services and balance the budget. Our main goal was saving jobs, critical to keeping the city running. That figure dwarfs the figures quoted by supporters of this measure who seem bent on demonizing unions and the workers themselves or minimizing the effects that workers are going feel in the wallet if the measure as is passes. Many workers will have to choose insuring their kids or paying rent. But I am sure that will be minimized by supporters who didn't listen to the workers last week whose kids are going to be affected, along with their families. Some have even argued that paying a janitor 50,000$ a year is too much. Too much? Is a Public Defender worth 192.,000 a year too much including not paying his own retirement currently with health care benefits for his family? What is too much? Minimum wage for all may be next, except of course for appointed or elected officials or heads of Departments. That is what our out going govenator is proposing for State workers.

Proposition B is not about funding the services. It is about nullifying collective bargaining agreements, demonizing city workers and their unions pure and simple. It is not a progressive approach and will not solve our budget problems any more than "Care not Cash" solved the homeless problem.

I attended a birthday party for Social Security on Saturday hosted by the San Francisco Labor Council. A report is due in December about the solvency of this great program that has kept many senior citizens out of poverty for over 75 years. There is speculation that those on the commission will repeat the mantra that it will be "insolvent" in 30 years and needs "fixing and adjusting" to make it work. We have to be afraid of all those retired workers who because of these entitlements are the reason are municipalities can't function anymore and why we can't afford it unless it is adjusted. Wow, be afraid of retired fire-fighters, nurses ,doctors , janitors, teachers, medical assistants, HIV counselors etc., who because of hard economic times struggle especially in a city like San Francisco where wages have declined by 3.3% in the last year alone.

Demonizing pensions, health care benefits, livable wages, unions and collective bargaining agreements in a city that saw the nation's first general strike in 1934 during the height of a Depression, is a real disappointment for progressive politics in a city that claims to honor labor. Maybe it no longer does. How sad that really is.

Posted by Guest lucretiamott on Aug. 18, 2010 @ 6:02 am
WOW

Union apologists have a hard time with self awareness.

Venture capitalists spend their money on all sorts of idiotic things, the Chris Daly loved Young People United got money from George Soros, that group bragged that it got Daly to pass the cities sick pay law. Soros gives out millions to all sorts of liberal operations. With all the millions rich liberals give and all the advocating that ridiculous liberal media stars shout out your complaint is silly.

The unions were for laws in the city that superseded collective bargaining agreements. Healthy San Francisco, the sick pay law, and the cities minimum wage laws all superseded negotiated contracts, and they all were pushed by the unions upon their employees on the board. Don't you think that repeating your sad complaint about collective bargaining agreements when you didn't care about them before is a bit hypocritical?

You should base your arguments on less of a hypocritical foundation.

Posted by matlock on Aug. 18, 2010 @ 9:03 am

Not bad - only about a quarter of this is wrong.

The $250 million in concessions were TEMPORARY in the form of furlough days and deferred raises (Police claimed "give backs" while taking 8 percent in permanent raises over one year with temp furlough days) Prop B's cost savings are PERMANENT. The $250 million did NOTHING to address the City's $787 million structural deficit,.

The average wages and benefits of a City janitor in the 2010-2011 budget is $73,640. Anyone who claims $50,000 is understating total compensation by almost 50%. A private sector janitor in the City makes half that if he is lucky but his City services are being cut and now he is paying $6.00 an hour at parking meters to subsidize overly generous public employee benefits.

You folks need to stop pretending you are out to protect the "little guy." You don't give a damn about low-paid private sector workers...This is plain and simply about keeping every nickel in your pockets- everyone else be damned. Of course, nothing wrong with that- but you're not fooling anyone.

Posted by Seej on Aug. 18, 2010 @ 9:35 am

"More people are relying on city services for programs like "Healthy San Francisco" as the private sector shrinks jobs with benefits or cannot afford expensive corporate health insurance."

Yes, times are tough and more people are relying on city services.

So it is only right that you pay more than $0 a month for healthcare.

It is only right that you stop dipping into the general fund for your pensions and that you start ponying up more money from your own pocket for your own pension obligations....so that we can stop cutting city services more and more.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 18, 2010 @ 6:15 am

lucretiamott: Adachi's attempt to use pension reform the same way Newsom used "Care Not Cash"
One of the best analogies I've seen.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 18, 2010 @ 7:37 am

Since we are all speaking "Analogously" today....

...how about the analogy with Vallejo, which had to declare bankruptcy because it couldn't get its public-sector pension costs under control.

Ultimately, this may be the only way to solve this problem if we keeping delaying action.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 18, 2010 @ 8:16 am

Willie Brown Confesses Own Sins in Creating Public-Sector Pension Mess:

"The system was set up so politicians like me couldn’t come in and fire the people (relatives) hired by the guy they beat and replace them with their own friends and relatives.

Over the years, however, the civil service system has changed from one that protects jobs to one that runs the show.

The deal used to be that civil servants were paid less than private sector workers in exchange for an understanding that they had job security for life.

But we politicians, pushed by our friends in labor, gradually expanded pay and benefits to private-sector levels while keeping the job protections and layering on incredibly generous retirement packages that pay ex-workers almost as much as current workers.

Talking about this is politically unpopular and potentially even career suicide for most officeholders. But at some point, someone is going to have to get honest about the fact that 80 percent of the state, county and city budget deficits are due to employee costs.

Either we do something about it at the ballot box, or a judge will do something about in Bankruptcy Court. And if you think I’m kidding, just look at [the bankrupt city of ] Vallejo."

Adachi: A man with cajones

Posted by Barton on Aug. 18, 2010 @ 8:49 am

Even the godfather of pension folly is on the pension reform bandwagon- from the Chron today:

..."Pension reform has gained momentum in the California as more studies reveal that the state -- and cities and counties -- have promised retirees pension and health care payments far beyond what current levels of contributions and investments can provide.

On Monday, a Reuters news service story quoted former Gov. Gray Davis as saying, "Pension reform is essential. You just can't afford the benefits that have been promised because all the actuarial studies turned out to be wildly optimistic.

"Pension reform is going to occur because people understand that elected officials and state employees cannot live demonstrably better than the rest of California."

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/opinionshop/detail?entry_id=70356#ix...

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE67F4IY20100816

Posted by Seej on Aug. 18, 2010 @ 1:56 pm

Even Gray Davis recognizes that pension reform is "essential." As for those who assert that the San Francisco pension fund's problems merely result from bad investment returns in a down economy, sorry, but you're wrong. Even Gray Davis recognizes that "all the actuarial studies turned out to be wildly optimistic." I'd suggest reading the Cheiron report, i.e., the report of the City's independent actuary. It describes how many billions (with a "B") the pension fund lost.

Also, the Securities and Exchange Commission sued the State of New Jersey today for misleading investors about the its pension obligations while issuing bonds. So, now the feds are looking at states and municipalities (San Francisco issues lots of bonds) given their pension issues.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870364900457543768274625116...

Posted by Patrick on Aug. 18, 2010 @ 5:47 pm

San Francisco progressives are in the interesting position of hoping that stocks continue to stagnate so they can say "we told you so, capitalism sucks" while living on the fumes of past studies saying "things are going up up up, why worry about pensions."

Posted by matlock on Aug. 18, 2010 @ 2:23 pm

The public sector unions this budget cycle contributed 250 million dollars in wage cuts that help close the budget gap. Public sector unions helped pass two local ballot measures that reformed retiree health care benefits and a pension reform initiative which prohibited pension spiking to reduce health care costs and pensions locally. Public sector unions helped pass a bond measure that easily passed to rebuild and retrofit SFGH last year along with public officials and now, this year throught the hotel tax help raised needed revenue.

This isn't about pension reform. It is about putting the burden on the worker to pay for the services we deliver. That is what has happened in the private sector as employees are being asked to pay more and more for their health care beneftis. That is why another union in the private sector is demonstrating outside of Childrens Oakland over health care compensation for nurses who are being asked to pay more for their kids care. All the while health insurance corporations who I'm sure will make a generous donation to the Adachi campaign laugh all the way to the bank.

And yes, we actually do care about the little guy because that is who we serve.

Posted by Guest lucretiamott on Aug. 18, 2010 @ 2:35 pm

care where their money comes from? They probably could careless about Adachi's plan. They just like to see all talk diverted from tort reform or any other controls on costs.

If say the unions decided to address tort reform and take on one of the other powerful wings of the democratic party, the ambulance chasing lawyers, now that would be interesting. Sadly the rest of us get stuck in the middle of those two gigantic monetary holes.

Posted by matlock on Aug. 18, 2010 @ 8:45 pm

"Living on fumes." That's a good way to put it.

Public-sector workers are praying (pipe-dreaming) that the Dow Jones Industrial Average rises 15% annually so that 1) their bloated pensions can be paid for through stock market investments, 2) they can stop dipping into the General Fund, and 3) the public will therefore stop paying attention to them.

Hence, those attacking Adachi's amendment have suddenly become Wall Street cheerleaders and capitalist yell girls.

(Tim Redmond suggests in his latest radio conversation suggests that another depression is more likely).

Posted by Guest on Aug. 19, 2010 @ 7:50 am