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