Labor leaders and government officials talking about the need for "pension reform" has become as fashionable in San Francisco as toting around a yoga mat. But while the folks ostentatiously carrying around the yoga accouterments are, ostensibly, doing some yoga, the city has yet to do a lick of actual pension reforming.
The good people who got together to kill Proposition B recently got together again -- to talk about instituting pension and health care reforms that'd make Prop. B look like a child's experiment. The assembled movers and shakers aren't letting Prop. B author Jeff Adachi take part in their reindeer games. But he's not waiting to see if they manage to pull off the legislative equivalent of blowing up the Death Star (San Francisco spent $993 million this year on workers' benefits -- you could probably build a Death Star and a shield generator on Endor for that).
Rather, Adachi tells SF Weekly that he's already assembled a "group of pension experts and attorneys" and is crafting "the new Prop. B."
Of course, if the city does manage to come up with a plan to save the $300 million to $400 million in short-term savings Warren Hellman
says is the benchmark, then Adachi will let his second Prop. B die on the vine. But he's not exactly anticipating that.
By the way, the original Prop. B -- which would have called for greater pension and health care contributions from the city's workforce
-- was only pegged to save San Francisco $120 million yearly. But, as Adachi is eager to point out, next year's pension costs have already jumped by some $100 million -- so you aren't even treading water until you're lopping $220 million off of the city's obligations.
When asked what his idea of "actually solving the pension crisis" will look like, Adachi manages to sound both punitive and pragmatic. He calls for measures that will affect current employees and retirees -- and acknowledges that it is an "open question" whether one can legally alter pensioners' existing payouts
. But "the problem is so big it can't be solved just from increasing contributions of current employees."
On the other hand, Adachi says his Son of Prop. B would be more sensitive to the fiscal realities of city workers earning less than $50,000 yearly. And he's also open to crafting two measures -- one addressing pensions, and the other health care. He isn't ready to spill key details, but has discussed the situation in broad strokes on his website
The public defender was overwhelmed in the last election
by a juggernaut of organized labor spending millions of dollars and backed by every last elected official in the realm not named Jeff Adachi. He also wasn't able to hire an actual, veteran consultant to helm his campaign
, as throwing down for Adachi on this issue would be a spectacular way to ensure future unemployment in the field of San Francisco politics.
Adachi hopes he won't be going it alone again. First of all, he says, today's workers and retirees have a vested interest -- literally -- in maintaining the viability of the benefits system. And, second, he feels the political tide has turned. "The issue has matured," he says. "It was difficult to find consultants to work with us [on the Prop. B campaign]. I don't think that will be the case with the new Prop. B."
That's a bold prediction. Here's an easy one -- to paraphrase the immortal Clubber Lang: "My prediction? Pain."
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