San Francisco's Mayor Lee plans pension measure with or without labor agreement 

With or without an agreement from labor unions, Mayor Ed Lee will introduce a proposal Tuesday for the November ballot that would rein in San Francisco’s skyrocketing pension costs, City Hall sources said.

Lee has just six days to solidify an agreement with labor unions before the May 24 deadline to submit a charter amendment to the Board of Supervisors for placement on the Nov. 8 ballot. While both sides have for months insisted a deal is close, consensus has remained elusive.

That could mean buy-in from union leaders might have to wait until after a proposal is submitted to the board next week.

“Regardless of whether we have an agreement, the mayor and I are introducing a proposal on Tuesday,” said Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who has been active in the negotiations to craft a pension-reform measure.

The mayor’s proposed measure will then go through the legislative process when amendments could be made over the next two months.

“I believe the mayor and labor are working very hard to reach an agreement by Tuesday,” Elsbernd said. “Will he get there? I don’t know.”

It takes six votes by the board to place a City Charter amendment on the ballot. The board’s deadline to vote is in July. 

Today, labor unions are meeting with city officials for the final scheduled session to go over provisions in the measure in hopes of striking an agreement before Tuesday.

The proposed measure will be “like a novel. It’s 100 pages long,” Elsbernd said.

Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said Lee hoped to introduce a proposal that had broad labor support by the Tuesday deadline.  

“The best of all possible worlds would be a handshake agreement before it gets introduced,” said Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for the Warren Hellman pension working group, which includes The City’s most powerful labor unions, such as police, fire and the Service Employees International Union Local 1021. “But there are many roads to Rome.”

Labor leaders have told supervisors they are prepared to move forward with their own measure in the event of an impasse.

Among the sticking points between Lee and labor leaders has been by how much pension contribution rates would increase for existing employees.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi, meanwhile, is continuing to gather signatures to place his own pension measure on the ballot. Adachi said he would drop it only if the consensus measure adequately reduces The City’s pension costs — a tab that is expected to double by 2014 to $800 million.

Supervisor John Avalos, who is scheduled to meet with labor representatives Friday, said, “I’m hoping there will be one measure. If we have two measures, they probably would both go down.”

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