Democrats dividing over SF pension reform measure


Former Mayor Willie Brown, long known as a friend of labor, crossed a picket line Thursday to support the measure which is bitterly opposed by the city's union employees.

Measure B is on the November ballot in San Francisco and backers of the measure held a fundraising luncheon at Le Meridian Hotel in the San Francisco Financial District where hospitality workers were walking a picket line.

If you looked quickly between the protesters, you could see Brown ducking between them to get inside the Le Meridian Hotel. One of the members of the local union captured his image on her cell phone. Also, public defender Jeff Adachi, who is pushing the effort to amend the city's pension program, was seen walking into the hotel. Adachi declined to talk with reporters at the fundraising luncheon.

But the head of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, Gary Delagnes was more than happy to criticize Adachi's proposal.

"This is about health care much more than pension reform," says Delagnes.

Delagnes says the proposal will cut into workers health care benefits as well as requiring all workers to contribute 9 to 10 percent of the salaries towards their pension, rather than the current 7.5 percent.

"The reason I'm doing this is because I don't want to see basic services like the public defender's office obliterated," says Adachi.

Last April Adachi told ABC7 the city's pension system is threatening to bankrupt the city and a civil grand jury report warns of a coming pension tsunami, but the police union boss calls it a myth.

"That is based on projections of revenue earnings that have never happened in the history of this country except for the last two years," says Delagnes.

Brown disagrees saying the city is heading for financial trouble under the system he helped put in place.

"And if we don't begin to address the issue intelligently, there will not be anything except future Vallejos," says Brown.

Brown referring to the financially bankrupt city of Vallejo, a warning repeated today at City Hall as a committee met to discuss the grand jury report.

ABC7's political analyst Bruce Cain, Ph.D., believes San Francisco, the most liberal city in the state with the strongest unions, will be a bellwether for the rest of California.

"In this particular case if San Francisco goes for it, it will be an indication that pension reform is going to happen throughout the whole state," says Cain.

ABC7 asked Cain how he would rank the pension problem compared to everything else California is facing. He put it at number 1. He also says voters with 401ks have little sympathy for public employee pensions that far exceed the private sector plans.

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