Adachi unlikely to accept truce on pensions 

Public Defender Jeff Adachi is gearing up for a serious political campaign in a battle of dueling pension measures.

Adachi has said he would drop his ballot measure if Mayor Ed Lee’s measure, reached by consensus with unions, is changed by increasing workers’ contribution rates to generate more savings. However, that seems unlikely to happen.

This is the second effort by Adachi to reduce The City’s pension costs and the second one drawing criticism from labor groups, who object to his approach of doing it without their input. Instead labor leaders partnered with Lee and last week unveiled a pension measure that has broad support.

Last November, labor ran a more than $1.5 million political campaign to defeat Adachi’s Proposition B, which would have had city workers pension rates increase from 7.5 percent to 9 percent, or to 10 percent if they were public safety workers. The measure also included changes to health benefits, by ensuring The City would only pay for half the health coverage of city workers’ dependents.

The health care provision was the measure’s death sentence. This time Adachi has focused on just increasing pension rates, and he said he has hired well-known political consultant and Democratic strategist Richard Schlackman to run the campaign to pass “Son of B.” Adachi ran a $1.13 million campaign for last year’s Prop. B, which Adachi said would have saved The City about $120 million a year.

City workers’ pension rates will increase more than they would have in last year’s Prop. B under Lee’s consensus measure, which labor is supporting. The savings are estimated to begin at about $59 million in fiscal year 2012-2013.

But Adachi said those savings are about $50 million shy of what his measure would generate. He said he would drop his effort if the proposed agreement is amended during the legislative process. “I’m not saying they have to come up with 100 percent of savings that we do, but they have to come close.”

Dueling measures raise concerns about the passage of the measures. Or complications that would arise should both pass.

Lee introduced his measure last Tuesday and the Board of Supervisors will now hold hearings on it and can make changes before voting to place it on the ballot in July. It already has picked up support from more than six supervisors.

Supporters of the measure have praised the consensus agreement for achieving up to $1 billion in savings during the next 10 years and don’t expect any significant changes by the board. Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for the coalition of labor groups who helped craft the Lee measure, said Adachi is just attempting to “manipulate the process” and that “nothing will be good enough for Jeff Adachi because it doesn’t have his name written all over it.”

Adachi, however, said that his measure more adequately addresses the problem by achieving more savings in the first five years when pension costs are expected to skyrocket. City pension costs could double to $800 million by 2014.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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