scott martin
cns news & features

San Francisco--

Amid charges of back-room deals with union lawyers, the Board of Supervisors last week approved charter amendments that would revamp the Civil Service Commission and give city workers more choices over health benefits and pension plans. Unions applauded while the District Attorney's office threatened to sue.

The approval by the supervisors puts the charter amendments on the November ballot for voters to decide.

Deputy District Attorney Christopher Burdick told the Board of Supervisors last Monday, "The charter amendments changed between eight AM and three PM today. Where's the discussion? If we have to sue you, we will."

The amendments would change Civil Service Commissioners' term limits from six to two years with the mayor reappointing commissioners, thereby politicizing the commission.

The Civil Service sees the move as a union attack destroying the current system of checks and balances that Civil Service has over other branches of city government.

Asked Commissioner Lee Munson, "Who is going to protect the public interest? If union wants to do something and the mayor wants to do something and it is not fair to the public interest or the employees, nobody is going to take a stand if their job is on the line."

Munson said that if the proposition passes the commission will be cleaned out. "There are five commissioners who will be replaced," said Munson, "and the commission will be stacked with pro-labor interests."

The charter amendments are reputed to be Brown's pay-off on a campaign promise. During last year's mayoral campaign, the San Francisco Police Department approached both Jordan and Brown, seeking support for police labor interests in return for an endorsement. Jordan turned the department down; Brown accepted, getting the endorsement.

Both the Police Commission and the Fire Department favor the charter amendments.

Brown is not the only one owing favors to labor. "The board of supervisors feel so deeply indebted to labor," Munson said, "that they voted for this ballot proposition even though it had big problems."

Amendment opponents at the supervisors meeting charged that unions had written the charter amendments and hastened the legislation, thereby violating San Francisco's "Sunshine Ordinance." The Sunshine Ordinance states: "Deliberations are to be conducted before the people, and city operations are open to the people's review."

Said John Larson of the Chamber of Commerce, "We've only had one week and not enough discussion...The board should hold public meetings and hearings, because there are too many substantive changes." He said the amendments were too complex to put on the ballot and urged the supervisors to reject them.

Nevertheless, the Board of Supervisors voted seven-to-one in favor of the proposition, with Susan Leal voting against the it.



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