Pension Wars: This Was No 'Backroom Deal'

Categories: Politics
Ed Lee Dealer Charlie Powell.jpg
Charlie Powell
Ed Lee will shuffle the cards right in front of you. No tricks.
It's a scientific fact: Attempt to comprehend the fetid relationship between pensions and politics in this city and a substance resembling guacamole will begin oozing from your ears. Finally, a tangible reason not to wear white after Labor Day.

Be that as it may, billions of dollars of city money are at stake depending on what direction voters go in November. So it's worth examining the most recent dust-up between proponents of Jeff Adachi's Proposition D and the known political universe pushing Prop. C, "The City Plan."

Per the police and fire unions, Adachi's most recent campaign fliers and political messaging negate the $28 million in givebacks safety workers agreed to in July. Adachi is claiming these so-called givebacks could, in fact, cost the city $61 million.

Well, they're both right.

What's really at issue here was Adachi's use of the term "backroom deal." That implies corruption -- and, with an issue as spectacularly complex as pensions, it's a lot more likely voters may be turned off Prop. C by such insinuations than read through the 280-page plan and come to the same conclusion. But this was no "backroom deal;" it was all quite overt and pro forma.

rsz_billion_dollar_bet_cover.jpg
While Adachi is likely hinting at some level of corruption to spark political outrage -- good luck with that -- the more complex and damning allegation would be that the relationship between labor and government in this city is so conjoined that corruption is hardly necessary. What's more, if a politician has felt political blowback in this city for treating labor too lavishly, that'd be news to us. Voters ratified pension increases in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2008.

Regarding these specific "backroom" allegations, SF Weekly noted in its recent cover story that, in order to obtain the projected $31 million in givebacks, the city exempted police and firefighters from Adachi's plan until 2015 -- which could cost the city $61 million if it passes. Of course, that union deal needs to be approved by the Board of Supervisors -- but, as the Examiner's Melissa Griffin astutely noted today, the givebacks have already been assumed when tabulating the city budget. So if the supes voted it down, they'd blow a $31 million hole in the budget. And in order to make that crazy move, they'd have to be upset about political gamesmanship advancing the City Plan every last one of them has signed on as supporting, to the detriment of Adachi's plan.

If the message isn't clear, it ought to be: Who needs a back room?

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11 comments
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RazorSheldon
RazorSheldon

9/11 was a Sunday, so obviously no mail was delivered.  Stop the desperate tactics and focus instead on the facts... namely that current pension obligations are unsustainable.  

The only reason Adachi mailed the flyers on Thursday, 9/8 was to get them to the constituents in time for the supervisors vote and this was the first day he could do this.

Guest
Guest

..."But this was no "backroom deal." It was all quite overt and pro forma."

Wrong again Joe- you've really been off your game.  The Department of Human Resources will not post the MOU online until AFTER the final vote is taken. No member of the public outside of press reports was given the ability to scrutinize this deal.  That's "overt??"

The City's logic is - if we give an employee group a $100 million raise, well, it doesn't cost the taxpayers anything if we had that in our budget.

Joe Eskenazi
Joe Eskenazi

Brett --

I think you're taking things a bit too literally here. No, collective bargaining agreements are not undertaken in the midst of Civic Center Plaza for the benefit of onlookers. But this troubling element of the proposed deal has been public knowledge for months.

Nixing givebacks in the course of future events isn't novel. It happened last year, too, with regards to Prop. B. That makes it pro forma. As for overtness, the supes and the public have known about this deal for months. No attempt, to my knowledge, was made to conceal this. That's the point -- you can debate the fairness or honor of this deal, but you can't say the supes and voting public don't know what's going on. 

Moving on, I'm not sure that's the most accurate reading of the city's logic (though raises were already included in all of the projections). What's undeniable, however, is that by including these givebacks as part of a balanced-budget solution, they become inviolate.

Best,

JE

Guest
Guest

"But this troubling element of the proposed deal has been public knowledge for months."

So you have to be a frequent reader of the Examiner (not covered at all in Chron) to know what the he*l is going on?  How about just being able to read it yourself and not having to rely on the competence of an Examiner reporter.  Not a backroom deal if one secondary news outlet writes a story on it because the MOU was leaked to them??

"Moving on, I'm not sure that's the most accurate reading of the city's logic."

That's exactly the City's logic- read Elsbernd's email to Adachi:

"First, you assert that our vote tomorrow increases our pension obligations by $127 million.  This would only be the case if, indeed, we were granting a new raise that had not yet been incorporated into the Retirement System's annual projections and if the Retirement System had not yet accounted for any kind of raise."

Frankly, I think your typical diligence has slipped for whatever reason, maybe you're tiring of Adachi- who knows.  I could be wrong.

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

Dear politicians,

Only adults can vote, so you're only going to lose voters if you don't talk to them like adults.

njudah
njudah

I'm not voting for the labor-backed Ed Lee plan after their bullshit rhetoric this weekend connecting Adachi's plan with 9/11. Over the top rhetoric like that is stupid, so they lost whatever support I might have thrown their way.

Avolberding
Avolberding

Adachi drops mailers on 9/11 blasting safety officers and you won't vote for Prop C? I don't get it.

njudah
njudah

Oh please. The credit card people sent out bills the weekend of 9/11. are they defiling 9/11 too?

I could give a shit when he puts out his dead tree doorhangers and I actually happened to be there the day of the actual event...the 9/11-Adachi rejoinder was another example of the heavy handed, over the top attacks the C campaign is doing, and I'm sick of this crap. There are plenty of reasonable arguments for both measures that don't require emotional nonsense.

Turd_Blossom
Turd_Blossom

Supervisor Elsbernd - Staff

Alexander Volberding Legislative Aide Alexander.Volberding@sfgov.org (415) 554-6516 - voice (415) 554-6546 - fax

J_iliz
J_iliz

I cant sort out the message the writer is trying to get across in this write up. Probably because there are too many political holes not summarized for the reader. That, or maybe I need to give my college degree back. 

kellog64
kellog64

perhaps the author is too tongue in cheek to convey the point clearly in this article.

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