Mayor Newsom blasts board initiatives 

Mayor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday had a few choice words for city supervisors he said are pushing illegal initiatives on the June 8 ballot and watering down a pension-reform proposal that Newsom said could have saved The City millions of dollars.

His comments came at a time when a Chamber of Commerce poll revealed that 51 percent of voters surveyed say The City is headed in the wrong direction. Among their top concerns: The economy and the lack of jobs.

At the annual CityBeat Breakfast hosted by the chamber, Newsom delivered a 25-minute speech, spending most of his time spinning the bad news about jobs and The City’s $522 million budget shortfall into a positive story about accomplishments The City has made during the recession, including employment programs and transit improvements.

But his tone became more critical when talking about recent attempts by city supervisors to place a slew of what he views as questionable initiatives on the June 8 ballot.

On Monday, he fired off a letter to the Board of Supervisors asking them to remove from the June ballot an initiative that would allow tenants who are unemployed or are paying more than 33 percent of their income for rent to defer rent increases. Newsom said this will give landlords ammunition to drive up rents on vacant units as a way to offset the rent-increase deferrals. 

Newsom said the initiative is “blatantly illegal,” and it will be challenged at the state and federal level if it passes.

“Don’t worry about voting for or against it,” Newsom told a crowd of more than 1,000. “It will be thrown out.”

Supervisor Chris Daly, who sponsored the initiative, shot back with a letter Tuesday saying the mayor’s attempt to urge the board to remove the initiative is “laughable.”

During the event, the mayor also claimed that supervisors didn’t “do their homework” when they tried to push certain initiatives that have since been removed from the ballot, including Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi’s proposal requiring police to walk regular foot beats. Newsom said the board cannot strip that authority away from the police chief.

“Turns out they had to take it off the ballot because it’s illegal,” the mayor said.

Mirkarimi responded, saying Newsom couches his comments with condescending criticism when he doesn’t like a proposal.

“The mayor doesn’t do his homework and legislates through [the media],” he said.

Newsom was emphatic about the need for pension reform that goes beyond what the board approved Tuesday for the June 8 ballot. If it passes, the measure would increase newly hired public safety workers’ retirement contribution from 7.5 to 9 percent, and change the formula for pension payouts for those hired after July 1. This would save The City roughly $450 million.

Although Newsom supports this pension reform plan, he pointed out that it doesn’t go far enough, saying it’s a weaker version of Supervisor Sean Elsbernd’s proposal, which he claims would have saved millions of dollars more.

“This is a crisis, and what did we do yesterday at the Board of Supervisors? Watered it down,” Newsom said.

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