Is Adachi's pension reform a Tea Party initiative?

And can Mayor Ed Lee fashion a pension reform measure that is suitable to all sides?
Sarah Phelan

With all eyes on Wisconsin, local labor leaders are suggesting that Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s proposed retirement/health plan reforms are really Tea Party initiatives, even as Adachi threatens to place another Measure B-like initiative on the fall ballot if city leaders can't agree on a fix for the city's fiscal problems

Last fall, Adachi started a war with the local labor movement when he placed Measure B on the November ballot. Measure B proposed increasing employee contributions for retirement benefits, decreasing employer contributions for heath benefits for employees, retirees and their dependents, and changing rules for arbitration proceedings about city collective bargaining agreements,

Measure B ultimately failed, but not after both sides spent a ton of cash. And now labor is refusing to have Adachi sit in on their pension reform talks with Mayor Ed Lee, former SEIU President Andy Stern is describing the fight in Wisconsin as a ’15 state GOP Power grab," and SEIU Local 1021 leader Gabriel Haaland is pointing to Wisconsin as a reason for excluding Adachi from pension reform talks

“Adachi's obviously scapegoating a group that’s part of a national agenda,” Haaland said, noting that in the states where Republicans gained statehouse control in 2010, there’s talk about eliminating collective bargaining, and ending defined benefit plans and paycheck protection.

“The problem is that pension reform has been blowing on the anti-public sector worker winds that are blowing in Wisconsin and other states, whether progressives want to acknowledge it or not,” Haaland continued. "There is a reason that Adachi got so much money last year, and the corporate interests behind him are part of this effort to bash public sector workers.”

Prop. B’s campaign finance records show the campaign raised $1.125 million in 2010, and that the lion’s share came from wealthy individuals.

Billionaire venture capitalist, former Google board member and Obama supporter Michael Moritz gave $245,000. Author Harrier Heyman, Moritz’ wife, donated $172,500. financial analyst Richard Beleson donated $110,000. George Hume of Basic American Foods donated $50,000. Gov. Schwarzenegger’s former economic policy advisor David Crane gave $37,500. Philanthropist Warren Hellman donated $50,000. Republican investor Howard Leach, who co-hosted a Prop. B fundraiser with former Mayor Willie L. Brown, gave $25,000. Investor Joseph Tobin gave $15,750. Maverick Capital partner David Singer gave $15,000. JGE Capital Partners donated  $15,000; Bechtel owner  Stephen Bechtel Jr gave $10,000: Matthew Cohler, a general partner of Benchmark Capital, donated $10,000; the California Chamber of Commerce donated $5,000 and philanthropist Dede Wilsey gave $1,000.

But records also show that Measure B opponents, which included San Francisco Firefighters, SF Police Officers Association, SF First Responders, the California Nurses Association, United Educators, San Francisco Gardeners, San Francisco Teachers, Library Workers, laguna Honda Workers, donated over $1 million in their successful bid to squash Adachi’s reform. And that just about every elected Democrat, including Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, then mayor Gavin Newsom, Sheriff Mike Hennessey, and Board President David Chiu, came out against Adachi’s original plan.
Haaland acknowledged that the argument could be made that the progressives’ version of the hotel tax didn’t pass and less attention was paid to the district elections last fall, because labor focused primarily on defeating Adachi’s Measure B.

“But at the end of the day, we did get the real estate transfer tax and we defeated Measure B,” Haaland observed. "So, we need to keep fighting anti-worker pressure. It’s challenging times, but I feel like the connections need to be made.”

Adachi was swift to refute Haaland’s claim that his Measure B pension reform is and was a Tea Party initiative.
“What’s not been reported is the fact that there are all these people supporting pension reform who are progressive Democrats,” Adachi said, pointing to Moritz, Crane and former Board President and Green Party member Matt Gonzalez, who all supported Measure B last fall.

“You are talking about saving basic services and that’s a progressive cause,” Adachi continued. “You might argue that pension reform isn’t a progressive solution. But then you are saying that the needs of one group of workers are subservient to the needs of other workers. And even if you raised every tax in the city, you’d not be able to keep up with pension and healthcare costs."

“Even if we could raise parking tickets to $200 a pop, and tax folks who make more than $100,000 a year, that still wouldn’t solve the problem, because the problem is so huge,” Adachi added. “When you look at this crisis, you can’t simply redbait and say, you are a Republican, or Sarah Palin. Matt Gonzales has always spoken for progressive values, but because he supports pension reform, he’s suddenly a member of the Tea Party? At a certain point, it begins to become absurd.”

Haaland countered that he’s  “challenged by the notion that thousands show up in Wisconsin to fight some of the same people behind Measure B, but our discourse has lowered to whether or not Jeff Adachi is a good guy.”

And Adachi expressed doubt that Mayor Ed Lee can come up with a suitable pension reform plan.

“I’ve heard Lee say there has to be a solution involving pension reform and underfunded healthcare benefits that would save $300 million to $400 million in annual savings, and that corresponds with the solution he needs to come up with to close the budget deficit,” Adachi said.

Adachi said that he has met with Lee on his own to discuss pension reform, but the new mayor did not list specifics.
“He didn’t tell me what his plan was,” Adachi said, “The Prop. B supporters have a plan, but Lee did not ask what that was. But he said he sincerely wants to solve that problem, and that his preference would be one ballot initiative that everyone would agree on. And I fully support a solution that is going to truly solve the problem. I’ve always believed it’s important for the public to understand the gravity of the situation. For too long, it’s been the elephant in the room and there hasn’t been enough public information.”

Adachi said he had a beef with the idea of “groups of labor unions holding meetings at City Hall and deciding who can participate.”

"It’s also troubling that there is no information publicly available about what the ideas on the table are, no explanation of how they got there, and no documenting of the extent of the problem,” Adachi continued. “And that’s what got us here in the first place: a lack of transparency, and voters being asked to weigh in without the full information.”

Adachi said he has an upcoming meeting with Lee, the Department of Human Resources and Sup. Sean Elsbernd about pension reform that is separate from the working group that includes labor and philanthropist Warren Hellmann.

And Elsbernd told the Guardian he believes the pension reform process would go smoother if Adachi were at the table.
“I have no problem with Jeff at the table, it makes sense to have him there to avoid two ballot measures,” Elsbernd said.

Elsbernd added that it was too early to cite numbers when it comes to talk of capping pensions.
“It’s a mistake to pick a number right now because you don’t know what it’s worth,” he said, noting that the pension reform working group has sent a bunch of different scenarios to retirement actuaries to crunch the numbers to see how much they would save the city.

“I can see a case being made for asking the highest paid city workers to contribute higher amounts for healthcare benefits,” Elsbernd said. “But I’m not sure that’s equitable on retirement benefits, though I could see a situation where safety pays more, regardless, because they have better pensions.”


Common sense. There is no way to sustain the current pension and health care benefits for public employees. Feeble attempts to shift focus or engage in political bickering do not address the very basic issue of insolvency. Jeff Adachi is being attacked by those who benefit from these excessive taxpayer funded entitlements, and all he is saying is that the emperor has no clothes.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2011 @ 10:02 am

@Matlock; @The Commish

Hey, dig this NY Times op-ed...err, paranoid rant/ conspiracy theory, by Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman. Basically, he backs everything I've been saying. Let's see you make hay of this~

"What’s happening in Wisconsin is...a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside.

For example, the bill includes language that would allow officials appointed by the governor to make sweeping cuts in health coverage for low-income families without having to go through the normal legislative process.

And then there’s this: “Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).”

What’s that about? The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be “considered to be in the public interest.”

If this sounds to you like a perfect setup for cronyism and profiteering — remember those missing billions in Iraq? — you’re not alone. Indeed, there are enough suspicious minds out there that Koch Industries, owned by the billionaire brothers who are playing such a large role in Mr. Walker’s anti-union push, felt compelled to issue a denial that it’s interested in purchasing any of those power plants. Are you reassured?"

Posted by Lisa Pelletier on Feb. 26, 2011 @ 5:54 pm

San Francisco is a super-wealthy city so it may avoid many of the extreme measures 98% of all other cities, counties, school districts and municipal districts will choose to deal with this issue, but this is merely the beginning of the story and it will get worse every year.

Money in vs. money out. Ask any family. It's tough to balance it all out, and debt is a long-term silent killer. But the wealthy bondholders are happy, that's for sure, and rents are up almost 100% in the past 10 years, so that's good. The California and San Francisco politicians continue to deliver the goods to their most important constituencies.

Wahington Post - March 19, 2011

"Citing pension costs, Costa Mesa, Calif., plans to lay off nearly half its employees"

That's 1/2, or 50%, for anyone who likes numbers.

Costa Mesa has about 110,000 residents and its median income and median house values are above the California norm, so they are not in the bottom 50% of all California communities that have fewer resources.

The Guardian blog doesn't like links, so you'll have to search it out, but only if you have a strong stomach. Some of the stories about affected city employees are wrenching, as lay-offs always are.

March 19 washingtonpost dot com slash business slash economy

And labor. Where's that 3-day work week so we can increase the jobs in this state and country by 25%, the current amount of "real" unemployment and under-employment?

Posted by Robert on Mar. 20, 2011 @ 9:34 am

LOL.......Jeff Adachi is a progressive with common sense. My supe, Sean Elsbernd is a classic fence sitter. It's obvious the pension payments are largely responsible for the deficit. The disclosure of Heather Fong's massive pension payment and last year payout did not help their cause.

If the public employees want fat pensions they should fund it by contributing about 25% of their salaries toward the pension. Right now, half pay NOTHING. Heather Fong gets 25K PER MONTH and she contributed NOTHING. Same for all public safety. We can hire qualified public safety that won't bankrupt SF.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2011 @ 12:23 pm