San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said today that he is continuing to push forward to get his pension reform measure on the November ballot, but has reached out to city officials that are backing a separate measure on the issue in an attempt to reach a compromise.
Speaking outside City Hall this afternoon, Adachi said he has more than 60,000 signatures on a petition for his measure, well over the roughly 47,000 required to qualify it for the ballot.
Adachi said his measure, which proposes increased pension contributions from city employees, caps on pensions for new employees, and other changes, would save the city more money than a separate measure being proposed by Mayor Ed Lee.
Lee’s proposal, the result of months of negotiations between city officials and labor and business leaders, is set to be considered Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors, who will likely vote the following week on whether to put the measure on the November ballot.
Adachi called the mayor’s proposal a “watered-down version” of real reform, saying his plan would save the city $1.25 billion over 10 years, compared to $750 million for Lee’s plan over the same period.
However, Adachi said that he is open to compromise and dropped off a compromise proposal in the mayor’s office and with each supervisor earlier today.
The compromise proposal would save about $97 million in fiscal year 2012-13, while Adachi’s original proposal would save about $107 million that year, and Lee’s would save about $58 million, he said.
The compromise measure would have to be approved by the supervisors to go on the ballot since Adachi cannot change the language of his measure without starting over again in the collection of signatures. The deadline to turn in the signatures is Monday evening.
Adachi said, “We are willing to withdraw this measure if we can reach a solution,” but added he is willing to go forward with both measures being on the ballot.
“Voters are smart, they’re going to always go for keeping services,” he said.
He said the rising costs of the pensions for city workers in the coming years will force either dramatic reductions in services or massive tax hikes if extensive reform is not enacted.
Proposition B, a similar pension reform measure proposed by Adachi that was rejected by voters last November, was stiffly opposed by the city’s public safety employees.
He said this proposal is facing similar criticism since police and firefighters would take on a larger share of the employee contributions since their pensions are more costly.
Adachi said he has gotten reports of threats from police against people gathering signatures for his petition, and even during this afternoon’s press conference, a passerby heckled him about cutting pensions for firefighters.
“This unfortunately has been a very divisive issue,” he said.
Adachi said he hopes the mayor and supervisors consider the compromise when they meet to discuss pension reform Tuesday, but has gotten no indication that they are considering it.
“Let’s fix this right, let’s make sure we don’t have to come back in a couple of years,” he said.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News