Gonzalez Challenges Paulson
to Debate Pension Reform Measure

Written by Luke Thomas. Posted in News, Politics

Published on June 27, 2010 with 25 Comments

Bring it on! A cool and collected Matt Gonzalez (left) challenged Tim Paulson of the SF Labor Council to debate the merits of a pension reform measure sponsored by Public Defender Jeff Adachi (right) . Photos by Luke Thomas.

By Luke Thomas

June 27, 2010

Former Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez has thrown down the gauntlet and challenged San Francisco Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson to debate the merits of a controversial pension reform measure being proposed for the November ballot.

“I would love to have a debate with Paulson,” Gonzalez told FCJ on Saturday following a signature drive kickoff event for the measure. “If he wants to sit down and debate this issue publicly, or any issue in the City, I’ll do it.”

“The labor council wouldn’t win the debate,” Gonzalez added.

Gonzalez challenged the notion that the labor council is progressive, pointing out instances when it supported candidates like Amos Brown who put forward anti-poverty legislation and attacked the homeless. “They always put on the mantle of progressivism, but they don’t always deserve it,” he said.

Former Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez.

The SF Smart Reform measure, sponsored by Public Defender Jeff Adachi and supported by Gonzalez, aims “to ensure that the City’s retirement and health service systems are properly funded and that the City’s annual costs are balanced with reasonable City employee contributions to their retirement and health plans,” according to the measure’s preamble. “The City’s cost of pension fund contributions and health insurance for active and retired employees has increased by 85 percent over the past five years, from $419 million in fiscal year 2004-2005 to a budgeted $776 million for fiscal year 2009-2010. These costs come at a time when the City is facing substantial budget deficits. In 2010, the City faced a $522 million budget shortfall, and is expected to face large deficits in coming years.”

Paulson and labor groups, including SEIU 1021, are vociferously opposed to the measure on the grounds that it is inequitable and regressive, saying it will hurt low-income working families.

“The problem is that Adachi’s measure does not distinguish between the school custodian who is making $30 thousand (per year) and the top brass,” SEIU organizer Gabriel Haaland said. “These folks can barely afford childcare, and forcing them to pay for the healthcare of their children literally takes food off their table. If Adachi had gone after top brass, it would be different. Instead, he went after low wage workers too.”

SEIU organizer Gabriel Haaland.

Adachi dismissed Haaland’s claim saying, “If you earn more, you pay more.” Moreover, he said, fiscal pressures to layoff employees as well as cuts to important city services will be eased if the electorate passes his pension reform measure. Assuming the measure qualifies for the November ballot and is passed by a simple majority of  voters, $170 million will be saved in the first year alone, Adachi said.

Without needed reforms, San Francisco's pension and healthcare expenditures will continue their inexorable climb. By 2016, total pension and healthcare outlays are projected to exceed $1 billion.

Gonzalez challenged Paulson to a public debate upon learning Paulson blasted Adachi on his Facebook page calling Adachi an “embarrassment to San Francisco.”

Paulson declined to comment on Gonzalez’ invitation to debate the issue, saying instead, “It’s Adachi’s singular decision to act like Meg Whitman and unilaterally attack gardeners, nurses, firefighters and the lowest paid workers. Too bad Gonzalez is drinking the Kool-Aid, also.”

San Francisco Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson.

Adachi cited the bankruptcy filing by the City of Vallejo as an example of what could happen to the City and County of San Francisco if the City’s runaway pension expenditures are not reined in. “The City of Vallejo went bankrupt in part because they wouldn’t change their contribution rates,” he said.

Following a court intervention, City of Vallejo public safety employees are now required to contribute 13.5 percent of their gross salaries into their pension accounts.  By comparison, Adachi’s measure would require San Francisco public employees to contribute between 9 and 10 percent of their gross salaries.

Without pension reform enacted, the City and County of San Francisco will eventually become insolvent, Adachi warned. To emphasize his point, Adachi said San Francisco’s current pension system provides up to 90 percent of an employee’s annual base salary upon retirement, for life.  Forty percent of City employees are currently eligible for retirement.

“That train wreck is already here,” Adachi said.

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi.

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas is a former software developer and computer consultant who proudly hails from London, England. In 2001, Thomas took a yearlong sabbatical to travel and develop a photographic portfolio. Upon his return to the US, Thomas studied photojournalism to pursue a career in journalism. In 2004, Thomas worked for several neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco before accepting a partnership agreement with the SanFranciscoSentinel.com, a news website formerly covering local, state and national politics. In September 2006, Thomas launched FogCityJournal.com. The BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, New York Times, Der Spiegel, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, 7x7, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Weekly, among other publications and news outlets, have published his work. Thomas is a member of the Freelance Unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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Comments for Gonzalez Challenges Paulson
to Debate Pension Reform Measure
are now closed.

  1. Marc, you like h???? (No offense meant to h, of course.)

  2. Does anyone know what the significance of 2626 Vallejo Street in District 2 is?

    Jonathan Moritz, an investment banker with Sequoia Capital, and Harriet Heyman, retired, apparently carefree about it all, have each donated $75,000 to the signature gathering campaign.

    Ground floor investor at Google?


    Alright, Moritz contributed $3000 to reelect Max Baucus, the guy who delivered on President Obama’s promises of a public option to compete with the private health insurers.

    Will Jeff Adachi Daince with Them What Brung Y’all?


  3. h, i love you, but you’re not up to the task of debating this.

    For the opposite reason of why Adachi wouldn’t debate and why Gonzalez would choose easy pickings like Tim Paulson to debate, I’m not going to subject you to such public humiliation because I like you.

    I prefer to kiss ass down and kick ass up, would debate with someone at my caliber or above like Gonzalez or Adachi.


  4. Why is Matt G. issuing a challenge? Why isn’t Jeff Adachi defending himself?
    After all, I don’t see Matt’s name or picture on the slick flyers littering my car windows.

  5. Just note,

    Salomon talked a good game. Then, put his tail between his legs and ran. Which is, as he says putting: “first things first”.


  6. Thank you, Howard, but I quit drinking last year.

    I’ll satisfy myself by remaining delightfully drunk on your kind words.

    h, first things first.


  7. Marc said “What can we expect Matt and Jeff to advocate next, a flat tax? Free trade? Supply side economics?”

    If they did it would be the best thing to happen to the City in decades. It would attract the businesses that create job.

    If the great debate happens I’ll buy the beer for the h and Marc.

  8. Come one, come all!! The debate of the century between Marc Salomon and h Brown is going to happen. Ticketmaster will sell out fast, so get your tickets early, as this debate will guarantee a full house, standing room only!

    Bets are already being placed on who will be left standing, when the dust clears.

  9. marc,

    So, I’m beneath you? Nope. You’re chickenpoop because your know two things. First, you have nothing to gain even if you were to best me. And second and most important? You realize that I’d kick your ass. In public. In front of Chris Daly and the world. It’s much easier for you to go all snarky like some Steven T. Jones. You’re inferior to me. Deal with it. Or, prove me wrong. In public.

    Just agree to debate me. This is actually in the dozen or so years I’ve known you that you’ve backed down. Why is that? Oh right, you’re superior in advance.

    Don’t feel bad. I can kick Matt’s ass on stage too. And, anyone else’s in SF. C’mon, take me on.



  10. h, If Gonzalez declines to debate me, and he doesn’t decide to debate anyone within his debating weight class, then let’s talk.


  11. marc,

    So, does that mean you’re afraid to debate me?


  12. h, what are you going to do, bleed on me?



  13. Marc,

    I’ll debate you on the issue. How about at Daly’s Symposium/Garage Sale?


  14. @Marc, I seriously doubt Paulson will risk being demolished by Gonzalez in a debate. Such a scene would be reminiscent of King Arthur dismembering the Black Knight in The Holy Grail:

    But your challenge, should Gonzalez accept, would certainly make the contest less lopsided.

  15. @Jamie, so you support age discrimination in employment?

    If Paulson won’t debate Gonzalez, I’ll challenge Matt to debate this issue.


  16. Always wonderful to see progressives carrying water for the Chamber of Commerce, leveraging resentments amongst those who have no retirement security against those who do have a scintilla of retirement benefits.

    If successful, this would shift the retirement burden from society to the individual, lowering incomes of city workers in the near term and doing little to help those who are lashing out at city workers due to their own retirement insecurity.

    The public employment portion of San Francisco’s structural budget problems rest largely with the highest paid workers, not the lowest paid. Yet this measure treats all the same.

    Progressives tend to support progressive approaches to economics, that is, take the most from the most able to pay, the least from the least able.

    What can we expect Matt and Jeff to advocate next, a flat tax? Free trade? Supply side economics?


  17. Sucks to be a young adult working for the City …. With their low seniority, the status quo means we keep laying off young people and losing their fresh ideas and talents in San Francisco.

  18. I’m hearing Adachi wants to run for mayor and hopes to generate support on the west side with this gambit.
    I saw a few petition circulators out by the Sloat shopping center a couple days ago.

  19. I read Jeff Adachi’s pension reform measure, it seems sensible enough. Why does the SF Labor Council have their nickers in a twist over Adachi’s pension reform?

  20. About time someone called out Paulson the corporate tool, cut from the same turncoat cloth as Andy Stern.
    Anyone really surprised he chickened out ?
    Any truth to the rumor, started here, that he’s considering a job as labor consultant for Lennar ?

  21. The contestants are not in the same debating weight class.


  22. The charter amendment does not address spiking. Its strictly about employee contributions to retirement and health care.

    You can read it at http://sfsmartreform.com/read.html.

  23. Will this legislation outlaw the spiking of compensation so that public employee union members get pensions that are more than 100% of their salaries?
    Will this legislation require public emloyee union members to be in their 60s before they get their full pensions, like members of the private sector have to be?
    Will this legislation limit pensions to about 70% of the employee’s basic, unspiked, salary?
    Will this legislation require the workers to pay more of their health insurance premiums?
    Without the above reforms this legislation won’t tame the runaway pension problems that SF and the rest of California has.

  24. wow,

    Gonzo out from under his rock. Paulson and Haaland and the rest of the labor bosses regularly sell out the general welfare of the City and its citizens in exchange for empty promises (Haaland and the Bontanical Gardens – Paulson on all things Lennar). Paulson testified in favor of tearing down the old Longshoreman’s Hall at the Embarcadero where the union men murdered by the cops lay in state in the 30’s. And, to change the zoning of the spot to allow a structure double its size to be constructed. What for? A couple of months work. What’s to replace the shrine? Condos for the super-rich.

    Mike Casey tried to allow a hotel on the wharfs off North Beach. For Walter Shorenstein. Screw the citizens of SF and their shoreline. He saw a chance to increase his power, again by changing the zoning for the wealthy.

    You can’t trust labor leaders in this town. They’re all in bed with developers and their own image in their mirrors.

    I’ll carry one of those petition boards around with my ‘Meko for D-6 supe’ sign.


  25. San Francisco custodians earn between $41,000 and $50,000. Not big money but not $30,000 a year.

    Source: http://www.sfdhr.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=2118