Adachi and Ballard's pension reform gloves come off

Nathan Ballard (left) compared Jeff Adachi (right) to Sarah Palin in context of city's pension reform challenge

Yesterday, I talked to Public Defender Jeff Adachi about the latest efforts to address pension reform in San Francisco. Readers may remember that Adachi roused the ire of the labor unions last year, with the ultimately unsuccessful Proposition B. At the time, most folks felt Adachi’s measure didn’t have a snowball’s chance because it asked public employees to bear the brunt of the city’s ballooning retirement and health plan costs. Yet, they all praised Adachi as a great city leader who has been on the right side of many other battles in this city’s rich political history.
But the pension reform issue hasn’t gone away, and now that Adachi is threatening to introduce another measure this fall, the gloves have apparently come off, as witnessed by a Bay Citizen article that reported that union leaders don’t want Adachi to be part of a pension-reform working group at City Hall
In that Bay Citizen article, Nathan Ballard, who served as communications director for former Mayor Gavin Newsom from 2007 to 2009, said, “Inviting Jeff Adachi to our talks would be like inviting Sarah Palin to speak at the Democratic convention."
The Bay Citizen characterized Ballard as “a Democratic strategist who has been involved in the working group since its inception.” And it noted that Mayor Lee had reached out to Adachi—an effort that it framed as a “complicating move.”
But it didn’t get Adachi’s thoughts on Ballard’s comments. So, I asked Adachi how he felt about being compared to Sarah “Moose in the headlights” Palin.
“It’s ironic that a spokesperson from Burson-Marsteller, which is headed by Republican operatives such as President Bush’s former press secretary (Dana Perino) and represents some of the most reactionary corporate interests, such as USA Blackwater, is accusing me of being a Republican for trying to solving our city’s pension crisis,” Adachi replied, referring to the fact that Burson-Marsteller, a global public relations firm, appointed Ballard as a managing director in March 2010.
“This is a company that is known for representing the worst corporate criminals in modern history,” Adachi continued. “They organized a campaign against civil rights in Argentina, supported a government massacre in Indonesia and tried to justify the killing of over 2,000 people in India’s Bhopal disaster. You have a hired mouthpiece, Nathan Ballard, who's been paid $50,000 out of union member dues deciding who can attend meetings at City Hall. “
Asked for his thoughts on Adachi’s response, Ballard replied, “Burson-Marsteller employs talented operatives from both sides of the aisle. Although I won't speak to the specifics of Jeff Adachi's allegations, Burson is well known as the world's go-to firm for crisis communications, and that tends to involve handling high-stakes disputes for controversial clients. As a criminal defense lawyer, Jeff Adachi should resist the temptation to assign blame to an advocate for accusations made against a client.”

So, buckle your seats, ladies and gentlemen. The pension reform battle is ON. And if the exchange posted above is any indication, it's only going to get uglier


@Guest and The Commish

As I've already acknowledged, we recognize the need for pension reform. The problem is that whenever these measures are enacted, the the most vulnerable workers get hit the hardest. And as Tim Redmond points out, nothing ever comes out of the hides of the rich, even though they were the ones who precipitated the financial crisis.

I would have been happy to support Adachi's measure if it really did target workers who actually make these $100,000+ salaries (mainly public safety workers and administrators) -- that is, those who can afford to pay. The problem is that (the original) Prop B went after workers with dependents (a big hit to single mothers with children). It would have hit low-salaried workers the hardest, requiring them to make the greatest sacrifices. And, as Tim Redmond points out, nothing ever comes out of the hides of the wealthy or corporations, even though they caused the financial meltdown in the first place.

You should care about the corporate agenda because it is decimating the middle class in this country. Workers in this country have not had a real wage increase in thirty years because corporate world cares more about profits than people. We can't stimulate the economy without guaranteeing good wages and benefits. We will never jump start the economy until we empower these workers. Until we do , this pension reform proposals is just stop-gap measures. Adachi is like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke. It's time to demand that the wealthy and corporations shoulder their fair share of the sacrifice. They got us in this mess, no?

Posted by Lisa Pelletier on Feb. 18, 2011 @ 7:22 pm

people in American strive to be rich?

Because life is better if you're rich! Better food, vacations, house, car, healthcare, education, everything.

It's what American is built on.

And your radical new idea is that we should penalize those who have succeeded to create wealth? And instead tax them into oblivion to subsidize those who instead took no risk and instead took a cushy city job?

Would you care to tell us your job? I'm guessing you won't dare.

Posted by Tom on Feb. 18, 2011 @ 7:45 pm

Knob polisher for Ronald Reagan's corpse?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2011 @ 8:05 pm

No, Tom. Not at all. I don't think progressives want to penalize those who have created wealth. We recognize that everyone enjoys benefits from a society that allows wealth accumulation by people who earn it. Their ideas and products benefit the whole world. How dare you think otherwise!

But we are enraged when rich people become bankrupt because of their reckless business decisions and are bailed out and made whole by the government, all out of the pockets of average people.

I'd love to know how much Warren Hellman was bailed out over the last few years. Without massive government taxpayer bailouts he would almost certainly be more broke than the public pension plan.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

Do you have any data to support your claim that Hellman was bailed out and he "be more broke than the public pension plan" if he wasn't bailed out? It sounds like you are just making stuff up.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

Gosh. If he still had stock in Lehman Bros. maybe he really didn't get bail out.
ha ha.

"Hellman worked in investment banking at Lehman Brothers, where he served as president as well as head of the Investment Banking Division and Chairman of Lehman Corporation."

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2011 @ 9:49 pm

Sold to voters as a "cost neutral" way to keep more police officers on the street - and lo and behold!- its going to take officers off the street and yes, the lastest cost estimate of this program is a $140,000,000 payout to the cops whom I did not realize were underpaid.

...And I think I read in this thread that "big corporations" got us into this mess.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2011 @ 12:37 pm

"The problem is that (the original) Prop B went after workers with dependents (a big hit to single mothers with children)."

Again, I must rebut with the truth, for the 100th time.

All B would have done was to raise your personal healthcare cost from $0 to $9 monthly, and the cost for all of your dependents combined to $239.

Why do you think this is draconian? Those of us working in the real world pay at least $500 a month for family coverage.

Public-sector works simply cannot get a grip on how good they have it.

Posted by Barton on Feb. 19, 2011 @ 9:03 pm

Half the folks here are allergic to Prop B facts.

But keep posting... I love the Prop B "went after single moms with children" drivel as if the drafters sat around and said "Gee, how can we make single moms with children pay more than everyone else..."

You'll note even the Wisconsin protesters have agreed that EVERYONE will now contribute more for their health care including employees WITHOUT dependents which Prop B didn't even do...

Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2011 @ 10:33 pm

Ballard is a clown/genius, a PT Barnum-esque figure.

Keep repeating the lie over and over again: "They're stealing children's heathcare! They're stealing children's healthcare!" ...

...and the lumpen-proles will believe you soon enough.

Posted by Barton on Feb. 21, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

I think this issue will begin to redefine the left/right debate. Traditionally, leftists supported unions in almost all circumstances. But when the unions represent grossly overpaid city workers, like cops and firefighters, who are pad from OUR tax money (very little of mine, actually, since I'm a renter, but I still think it's a very bad use of tax money) and that money has to be taken from public services like schools, I don't see how anyone who considers themselves to be on the left could possibly support that.

And the health care benefits? Many of us have NO health care benefits and would have to pay far more for them than those "poor" city workers even if Prop B had passed. So save the crocodile tears for someone who really deserves them, not the workers and unions who are stealing OUR money to give themselves great pay and/or benefits while most of us have none.

Posted by Jeff Hoffman on Feb. 21, 2011 @ 10:14 pm

Actually the pension crisis has bonded the progressive movement together after it had become badly fragmented by things like health care public option and war funding.

"There’s a bitter irony here. The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America’s oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence.

So will the attack on unions succeed? I don’t know. But anyone who cares about retaining government of the people by the people should hope that it doesn’t. "

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2011 @ 10:37 pm

"...public-sector workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are paid somewhat less than private-sector workers."

So in addtion to cadillac health plans public employees (at least in CA) who are getting GUARANTEED pensions of $50,000, $75,000, $150,000 or $200,000 for THIRTY YEARS with AUTOMATIC COLAs ("bonus" COLAs if you're an SF retiree) are yes, making less than those in the private sector...!!!

No taxpayer gives a damn about the data some poll was able to cherry pick that didn't have a clue as to how to value a pension annuity with automatic increases...Please stop insulting our intelligence.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2011 @ 11:24 pm

I'm still obsessed by Michael Moritz. I can't believe a billionaire that only pays 15% capital gains on carried interest has sponsored a prop that would primarily affect the health care of dependent children.

Without him I have no doubt that Prop B would have never happened.

I'm personally offended by that.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 22, 2011 @ 10:54 am