Is Gavin Newsom Attempting to Gut Pension Reform?

Categories: Government
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Gavin Newsom is accused of pulling a fast one. But will the supes give a damn?
The organization Public Defender Jeff Adachi formed to push his "Smart Reform" pension measure today sent out a frantic call to arms, claiming Mayor Gavin Newsom is attempting to subvert the charter amendment before voters even get a chance to go to the polls.

While the proposed amendment would mandate police and fire personnel pay 10 percent of their salaries toward pensions, the agreements hammered out between the city and public safety unions up before the Board of Supervisors tomorrow for approval would nullify police and fire wage concessions if Adachi's amendment were to pass -- thus unbalancing the budget.

This, naturally, would allow cops, firefighters, and any other opponents to pension reform (and there are many) to assail Adachi's measure.

This concession-busting clause only affects police and fire personnel.

Our messages for mayoral spokesman Tony Winnicker have not yet been returned.

While Adachi's troops are asking voters to harangue their supervisors into not passing the mayor's overture to public safety workers, it's somewhat difficult to imagine the supes getting worked up about saving "Smart Reform." The pension and health care reform measure is detested by labor and not one elected official in the city has thus far stepped forward to back it.

Update, 4:50 p.m.: Tony Winnicker returned our call. He said that this was not a case of Newsom reacting to Adachi's pension-reform measure, but part of wage-concession agreements hammered out with police and fire unions "weeks ago."

The timeliness of the situation is that those Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) come before the Board of Supervisors for approval tomorrow. Winnicker characterized the agreement as the sort of thing the city had to offer the public safety unions in return for heavy wage concessions. Within the MOU the supes are being asked to greenlight tomorrow is language that would negate cops' and firefighters' wage concessions if any measures are taken to lower their salaries. "This is an appropriate part of collective bargaining discussions," says Winnicker.

Those concessions: $11.6 million this year from the firefighters and $7 million next year; $17.8 million this year from the cops and $9.4 million in fiscal 2011-12. Winnicker said he'd check and get back to us how much the city would, in turn, save if police and fire personnel would begin contributing 10 percent to their pension plans -- per Adachi's charter amendment -- instead of the current rate of 9 percent.

The Board of Supervisors has approved the MOU of every other city union. It remains to be seen what they'll do tomorrow.

NOTE: Winnicker's numbers differed from those provided by the controller's office, which came to just under $20 million in total give-backs from public safety.

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