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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pension Wars: This Was No 'Backroom Deal'

Posted By on Tue, Sep 13, 2011 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge Ed Lee will shuffle the cards right in front of you. No tricks. - CHARLIE POWELL
  • 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.

click to enlarge 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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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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