A conflict between two different pension reform measures that will both likely end up on San Francisco’s ballot in November took a new twist this afternoon with a winner-takes-all element that could be added to the race.
Mayor Ed Lee has joined other city officials and labor and business leaders to craft a proposal to change San Francisco’s retirement benefits, while Public Defender Jeff Adachi has prepared a separate plan that proposes higher pension contributions from city employees.
Both measures appeared headed to the ballot as Adachi dropped off more than 72,000 signatures Monday at the city’s Department of Elections to get his measure on the ballot and the Board of Supervisors was set today to consider putting the mayor’s measure on the ballot.
If both measures were approved by voters, there could be some legal wrangling over whether parts of each plan could be enacted if the other measure did not address them. Before the board could make the vote this afternoon, Supervisor Sean Elsbernd amended the measure.
The amendment says that whatever measure concerning retirement benefits gets the most votes in November will be the one that goes into effect.
Elsbernd, who has been one of the board’s strongest backers of pension reform, said it was a move “I hoped I wouldn’t have to make” but said he hopes it clarifies for voters “a very difficult issue to understand.”
The board unanimously approved Elsbernd’s amendment and will pick up the pension reform issue again at its meeting next Tuesday. The supervisors will likely vote to put it on the ballot–a majority of the 11-member board appeared with Lee when he announced his proposal in May.
Lee, who had visited board chambers earlier this afternoon for his monthly voter-mandated question-and-answer session with supervisors, said he hoped voters will choose his plan over the other one.
“Our proposal is the much more preferred one because it unifies the city,” Lee said, adding that he was confident Adachi’s plan would fail at the polls because “it just doesn’t resonate with the rest of the city.”
Adachi, who says his plan would save the city $1.25 billion over the next 10 years compared to $750 million for the mayor’s plan over the same period, had offered a compromise plan to Lee and the supervisors last week, but it was not brought up at today’s board meeting.
Adachi said earlier today that if the board did not consider his compromise proposal, he would go forward with his initial proposal.
His supporters gathered more than 72,640 signatures that were dropped off at the Department of Elections on Monday and appear to be more than the 46,177 required to get on the November ballot. The department has 30 days to certify the signatures.
“I’m not interested in kicking the can down the road for a couple of years,” he said.
Before today’s board meeting, a small group of current and former city employees gathered outside City Hall for a rally opposing both measures.
The coalition included the United Public Workers for Action and the West Bay Retirees chapter of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, the city’s largest labor union.
Kay Walker, a chapter officer for the West Bay Retirees and former social worker for San Francisco, said retired city workers were “totally left out” of the mayor’s negotiations for pension reform. Lee’s plan includes the potential delayed payment to retirees of a supplemental cost of living adjustment.
“I don’t think they should touch people who are retired,” Walker said. “I don’t want pension reform as a way to fix the deficit.”
Lee said, “(Retirees) are concerned about the changes but when they look into the details, there’s nothing threatening about that.”
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News