How San Francisco’s political establishment is wrecking pension reform

From City Journal:

To outsiders, liberal San Francisco may seem preoccupied with leftist protesters occupying prime real estate in the Financial District or with debating proper restaurant etiquette for the city’s small but flagrant nudist population, or until recently, with arguing whether male circumcision should be outlawed. But the prospect of bankruptcy focuses the mind, even in a city so obsessed with leftist cause celebres. When San Franciscans head to the polls on November 8 for a municipal election, the big question facing voters will be how to fix the city’s crumbling public-pension program.

The ballot contest centers on competing reform initiatives: Proposition C, the so-called “City Family” measure backed by Democratic Mayor Ed Lee and the city’s public-employee unions, versus Proposition D, advanced by San Francisco’s pension-reforming public defender, Democrat Jeff Adachi. Adachi’s previous pension-reform effort, Proposition B, failed last November. Now Adachi, running for mayor against Lee and nine other candidates, is waging a courageous reform-based campaign. Prop. D requires higher worker contributions than Prop. C and, more significantly, would roll back pension benefits.

Prop. D is clearly the better of the two initiatives, which is why city officials are taking no chances that Adachi’s reforms will prevail over the establishment’s compromise half-measure. Mayor Lee pulled a sneaky behind-the-scenes stunt to ensure that Adachi’s measure would be less effective, even if it wins the most votes. Under a memorandum of understanding Lee negotiated with the police and firefighter unions in July, most of the city’s highest-paid workers would be exempt from the provisions of Prop. D that require higher pension-contribution rates. Despite an exposé by the San Francisco Examiner and ensuing controversy, the city’s board of supervisors unanimously approved the memorandum.

(Read Full Article.)