New mayor Ed Lee ready to tackle pensions in face of $100M cost increase 

Ten days after being sworn in as interim mayor, Ed Lee said he will push to draw down pension costs “to stop the bleeding.”

Last week, The City learned pension costs were increasing next fiscal year by $20 million more than anticipated, for a total of $375 million — a $100 million increase from San Francisco’s pension contribution this fiscal year.

“I want [labor] to know that I understand the issues that they are faced with. But we have to make a decision,” Lee said Thursday. “The $100 million increase, that’s serious money. That’s money affecting all of us, and it affects the quality of life in The City. So we got to find pension reform. We got to move it forward, and I am committed to doing that. That’s part of my top five things that we have to do.”

In November, public employee unions spent more than $1 million to defeat Proposition B, the pension reform measure placed on the ballot by Public Defender Jeff Adachi. The initiative would have required city workers to pay more into their pension and more for the health care of their dependents.

No one is talking details just yet on how to rein in pension costs. Labor leaders invited Lee to a meeting next week to discuss the situation.

Lee said he wants to talk to stakeholders, including labor leaders and Adachi.

“I don’t want to announce any specific proposals because obviously there might be two, three, four sides to it. I’m going to hear everybody out and I’m going to be helping make those decisions,” Lee said.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said he planned to introduce a City Charter amendment in the coming weeks for the November ballot, but only with the support of Lee.

Labor leaders who fought Prop. B say they are “ready, willing and eager” to work with Lee.

“We want to cast a wide net and look for all kinds of creative solutions,” said Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for several labor unions representing city workers.

Lee committed to being ‘caretaker’

Former City Administrator Ed Lee was catapulted to the most powerful public office in San Francisco after being appointed to the post by the Board of Supervisors earlier this month.

But Lee’s cameo as mayor will end in just a year. So will all that power be tough to simply walk away from?

Although ex-Mayor Gavin Newsom and others have said the interim mayor should be a “caretaker,” nothing prohibits Lee from running for the post in November.

But when pressed by a reporter Thursday during a media conference call from Washington, D.C., Lee said such talk is “just rumors.”

“My position is that I will serve out this remaining term and then I will seek my job as city administrator so I can get a lot of stuff done,” Lee said.

So the answer is no — at least for now.

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