Competing pension reform plans to face off in Nov.

July 12, 2011 7:20:01 PM PDT
Voters in San Francisco may soon have a say on reworking the pension benefits given to city workers. Two competing plans to get those costs under control could both appear on the November ballot.

"They're saying San Francisco is broke. My ass!" shouted a pension reform opponent outside City Hall Tuesday. "San Francisco is not broke, it's one of the wealthiest cities in the world."

A small but vocal group of city workers and recent retirees said they don't like either one of the proposed pension reform plans -- not even the one their own unions support.

"When we talked to our union and we tried to tell them that we oppose this, they ignore us, so they leave us no other choice other than to take it directly to the public," said San Francisco General Hospital employee Brenda Barros.

These workers, mostly healthcare and human services employees, say they don't like that both plans would tie their benefits to the ups and downs of the economy. Backers of pension reform say it's a necessary move so rising pension costs don't force the closure of city services.

But aside from that, the two plans couldn't be more different. The City Hall plan is a carefully negotiated compromise between the unions and the politicians. The competing plan is a nearly unilateral effort by public defender Jeff Adachi.

"Do you just want the City Hall solution which kicks the can down the road? Or do you want a real solution that's going to fix the problem?" said Adachi. "That's the choice that voters will have to make in November."

Adachi has gathered 72,000 signatures to put his version of pension reform on the November ballot, right next to the city's pension reform measure. Adachi would have all city workers pay for half of their own pensions instead of the sliding scale based on salary proposed by the city and the unions. And while the city plan would offer police and firefighters a 4 percent raise to offset the higher premiums, Adachi would not.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is concerned the two competing measures will leave voters bewildered.

"We do not want them confused," said Lee. "There is really only one workable measure. That would be the one that our Board of Supervisors and the mayor jointly together put on the ballot."

In a last minute amendment, supervisors added a line to make sure voters can't pass both measures. "If... this proposition receives more votes," it reads, "then the other proposition shall not become operative in any respect."

In other words, the one with the most votes wins.


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