Newsom Aims Latest, Greatest Fuck You At Public Defender
UPDATE 2:27 p.m. Tuesday: Mayoral spokesman Tony Winnicker reminded us that the union contracts in question were written months ago, well before Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s ballot measure was written. While the effect is the same, the MOUs — which roll back any wage concessions if future state or local laws affect employee wages or benefits — were not written with SF Smart Reform in mind.
Mayor Gavin Newsom is no stranger to the “don’t get mad, get even” adage, but his latest act of revenge may go well beyond getting even and would in fact put him well in the lead, if one were to keep score.
The mayor has made it clear he is no fan of Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s pension reform ballot measure. But now, it appears Newsom has quietly taken a big step towards sabotaging Smart Reform SF, before even the Department of Elections has had a chance to see if it has qualified for the November ballot.
Hidden in the contracts between the city and the unions representing the city’s police officers and firefighters is a clause that would cancel all givebacks to the city made by those unions — including an eight percent giveback from firefighters — if Adachi’s pension reform measure or any other state or local law affecting employee benefits is passed.
Such a provision could make it untenable for anyone to support Adachi’s pension reform measure — and would indeed make it that much easier to campaign against it — as it would unbalance the budget.
In a letter addressed to city leaders Monday, Adachi laid out his case as follows:
Clause 188(b) of the proposed new Police Union contract reads: “In the event that a City Charter amendment or State Ballot measure or State legislation is implemented [before June 30, 2012], resulting in any reduction in represented employee wages or fringe benefits, the [new wage concessions] shall terminate.”
“The Firefighter contract has similar language,” Adachi wrote. “These Clauses allow the police and fire to terminate their salary concessions in the event that any law passes that would reduce their salaries. No other unions received such a clause in their contracts. This provision was included to exclusively protect police and fire from actions by voters or lawmakers. There is no reason to give Police and Fire favored standing over other city employees.”
While the union contracts were altered with knowledge and cooperation of Newsom, mayoral spokesman Tony Winnicker dismissed Adachi’s complaints on Monday. “We’re not buying in to Jeff Adachi’s characterization of the union agreements,” Winnicker told The Appeal. “He’s not part of the discussion.”
The union contracts are set to be ratified by the Board of Supervisors today; should the police and fire union contracts be rejected by the Board, they would have to be renegotiated in order for the city to have a balanced budget. That may prove difficult to do, but not impossible. Fiscal conservative and mayoral ally Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said mid-Monday he’s not yet sure what he’ll do when voting time rolls around today; Supervisor John Avalos, chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, was more prolix.
“[The new language] is a crass poison pill… which makes it that much more difficult to balance the budget,” Avalos told The Appeal on Monday. “[Public safety employees] do important work and they put their lives on the line, but when it comes to their MOU, it appears they’re putting their wages and benefits ahead of the good of the city.”