Mayor Ed Lee’s pension measure placed on November ballot 

Voters can reduce The City’s labor costs by about $1 billion over the next decade after Mayor Ed Lee’s compromise proposal to reduce pension costs was placed on the November ballot Tuesday.

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With pension costs projected to total about $5 billion during the next decade, labor leaders and the Board of Supervisors joined together to support Lee’s measure to draw down those expenses.

The board’s 11-0 vote Tuesday to place the measure on the ballot also was accompanied by words designed to persuade Public Defender Jeff Adachi to drop his dueling measure.

“Declare victory,” said Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, publicly addressing Adachi. “You have won. You have pushed the envelope. We are in a great place. Let’s not have a campaign over 5 percent.”

The statement seemingly presented Adachi a graceful way to withdraw his separate proposal by crediting him for his influence over the mayor’s reform measure. 

The city controller released an economic analysis Tuesday of both ballot measures. Under a scenario with pension costs totaling $4.4 billion in the next decade, Adachi’s measure would generate $250 million more in savings than Lee’s.

But Adachi was not backing down Tuesday. He said he hadn’t heard Elsbernd’s message and would later watch the rebroadcast of the meeting, but said the difference in savings remains sufficiently significant. Under a less-rosy cost projection also analyzed by the controller, the difference in savings increased to $336 million. 

“They still haven’t figured out where this money is coming from,” Adachi said. “To most San Franciscans, $336 million is a lot of money.”

Supervisor David Campos, perhaps the most progressive member of the board, echoed Elsbernd’s message to Adachi, noting that his effort to rein in pension costs, which began with the unsuccessful Proposition B in 2010, helped shape Lee’s ballot measure.

Elsbernd said the savings difference between the two measures is not worth the “gamble.” Since Adachi’s measure is not supported by labor groups, if it were to pass with more votes than Lee’s, labor would likely sue, putting any savings at risk.

“That’s a gamble that is completely irresponsible to take with the taxpayers’ money,” Elsbernd said.

Lee praised the board for supporting his measure, which was crafted over six months of at times heated talks.

“Our comprehensive consensus reform measure ensures that we have a system that San Francisco can afford,” the mayor said in a statement. “By realizing the savings we need, we can protect vital city services now and in the future.”

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