Ed Lee deal shields San Francisco police, fire from pension reform

A deal Mayor Ed Lee struck weeks before announcing his run for a full term would shield police and firefighters from Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s pension-reform measure, The San Francisco Examiner has learned.

A provision delaying implementation of the proposed Adachi measure is contained within a broader agreement Lee negotiated last month with police and fire unions to postpone scheduled pay raises to help balance a budget deficit.

Adachi is the sponsor of one of the two dueling pension measures before voters on the November ballot. The other is backed by Lee. 

Adachi, who has been maligned by labor groups, is attempting for a second time to rein in pension costs after an unsuccessful measure last year that was blasted by labor groups in a well-funded campaign. Lee’s measure was crafted in talks with labor leaders and supported by members of the Board of Supervisors. While Lee’s measure saves less money, it has the backing of labor leaders, who are working hard to secure its passage over Adachi’s.

Under the wording of the pay-raise deal, if voters pass Adachi’s pension-reform measure, it wouldn’t affect police and firefighters until 2015. Adachi’s measure imposes steeper pension-contribution rates for public safety workers than Lee’s.

However, the deal allows that if voters approve the pension-reform measure crafted by Lee with the blessing of labor leaders, its provisions would go into effect in 2013 for police and fire workers.

“It’s a clear attempt to thwart the will of the voters,” Adachi said Monday. “They made this side deal. It’s bad public policy.”

Adachi said that while the agreement is likely an attempt to reduce the amount of savings his measure could generate compared to the “City Hall measure,” his would still save the city hundreds of millions of dollars more, and he remains determined in his campaign.

The agreement, which must be approved by the Board of Supervisors, includes a two-year extension of the police and fire labor contracts to June 2015.

It would save The City $31 million during the next two years. Police and firefighters would still receive their promised pay bumps, but later in the year than initially scheduled, and they would start contributing an additional 3 percent toward their pensions. 

Lee defended the deal, saying it needed to be done to help close a budget deficit hovering near $300 million.

“Jeff is going to conjure up every excuse that he has for his inability to work with labor,” Lee said.

Firefighter labor head Tom O’Connor said public safety’s agreement with Lee is “a pure gift.”

“The City is saving money on the front end now,” O’Connor said.

Kevin Martin, vice president of the Police Officers Association, said there was “a lot of internal strife” about opening up the contract again after having done so in previous years, and there was a need for The City “to make some concessions in our favor.” 

Drawing support from police and fire could help boost Lee in his mayoral run, which he made official Monday. Neither the police nor firefighters unions has endorsed a candidate in the mayor’s race.

“There certainly was no quid pro quo going into this,” Martin said, noting Lee’s mayoral decision came well after the contract was voted on by membership.



Dueling plans

Voters must decide how city pensions will be altered.

  • 2 Pension measures on Nov. 8 ballot
  • $800M Projected city pension contribution in 2014
  • $1.29B Projected 10-year savings under Mayor Ed Lee’s pension measure
  • $1.622B Projected 10-year savings under Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s pension measure

Source: City Controller’s Office

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