June 12 2013 10:20 AM

Kevin Faulconer and Jan Goldsmith self-pump on the labor deal

Jan “Hans” Goldsmith and Kevin “Franz” Faulconer
Photo illustration by John R. Lamb / Adam Vieyra

"Who knows himself a braggart / Let him fear this, for it will come to pass / That every braggart shall be found an ass."

—William Shakespeare

Rarely in politics does self-promotion fail to attract some degree of ridicule.

It's clear why they do it: unadulterated ambition. Come on, how many humble, hard-working, credit-shirking politicians do you know? Enough said.

So, when it came time for some spotlight grabbing amid the historic five-year labor deal recently inked in the city of San Diego, it was predictable that some hands would suffer burns.

Let's begin with the self-proclaimed star of the whole bloody, messy labor-deal show, the Blake Griffin of the San Diego City Council (tall with a preference for slam dunks), Kevin "What's Next?" Faulconer.

The Blonde Bomber of Point Loma staked his claim to stubborn intransigence early, folding those neatly starched arms across middle-aged pecs and defying the city's six labor unions to propose any meaningful longterm contract.

Out of Faulconer's pockets poked the heads of his good soldiers of the right wing, that gleefully malleable trio of Lorie Zapf, Mark Kersey and Scott Sherman.

When city leaders first shook hands with labor on a tentative compromise in late May, Faulconer was itching for some back pats, boasting on Twitter that he was "proud to broker" a "fair" deal—or, as he referred to it later the same day, "my plan."

Council President Todd Gloria bit the hook, shooting back, "Good work KF" and lauding the "bipartisan" nature of the agreement. (FYI, any deal requiring six votes from a 5-4 Democrat-majority council could be loosely described as bipartisan.)

In an email the following day, K-Faulc heaped self-praise by declaring, "I'm proud to announce that yesterday afternoon union leaders agreed to my proposal," followed by a link to a U-T San Diego story that had Faulconer claiming he "broke the logjam by proposing what turned out to be the final deal."

Oddly, K-Faulc's name didn't top anybody's acknowledgements Monday when the council signed off on the agreement. In fact, most of the praise fell to Tim Davis, a Northern California labor attorney who did most of the heavy lifting, as many people testified.

Davis, in turn, first acknowledged Mayor Bob Filner, who he said was bold to campaign on the idea of a five-year deal. "We would not be here without your influence," Davis said.

The most flattering words for Faulconer, in fact, came from City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. Well, maybe it was more a future job suggestion for Faulconer, who'll be termed out of office next year. After noting how "intense" negotiations got, Goldsmith hinted, "Perhaps someone will write a book about it." (Yeah, Kevinomics has a ring to it.)

The best Spin can fathom from talking to numerous folks knowledgeable of those negotiations, Faulconer made it clear that to get any support from the four Republicans on the council (again, two were needed for passage), that train would have to pass through Kevinville.

On several occasions, these sources say, Faulconer nixed proposals that both Zapf (who really, really, really wants the police-union endorsement for her 2014 District 2 campaign) and Kersey seemed leaning toward.

One five-year proposal was so laughably low, Spin was told, that no one in labor really knows what it was because Davis refused to present it for consideration.

While jackhammers pounded in the soon-to-be-pedestrian-only Plaza de Panama in Balboa Park early Monday, Spin asked Filner about Faulconer's take. At first the mayor was gracious: "Let me first say that unless he and I agreed, it wouldn't have happened. So he's right there."

Then the hammer. "The problem is, the Republicans held up a five-year plan for three months," Filner said.  "They said no, no, no, no, no, and we came to a complete, screeching halt…. They resisted a fair deal from day one. But Tim never gave up, and he finally got me and Faulconer to sit down."

Added the mayor, "The other three [Republican council members] followed him, so when we sat down, we were able to solve it. But to say he brokered it? I didn't get my 10 [-percent salary increase over five years], and he didn't get his 2.5 [-percent]. Whatever."

Bob Filner and his crowbar go at a parking berm 
with vengeance in Balboa Park.
Photo by John R. Lamb

"I do think that the pensionable-pay concept is a very good idea," Goldsmith offered self-indulgently. "I was instrumental in coming up with an idea that adjustment of compensation is one way that you can help get the pension burden under some level of control…. I changed the conversation to the things that we can do that are reasonable. And one of them was pensionable pay…."Speaking of whatever, Goldsmith drew a modest crowd of 20 to last Friday's Catfish Club gathering and tried his hand at personal glad-handing, suggesting that the centerpiece of the labor deal—the pensionable-pay freeze—sprung from his carpeted cranium.

Sorry to burst your bubble, Mr. City Attorney, but many folks were around in 2005—three years before you came to town—when city employees and then-Mayor Dick Murphy forged a three-year deal that included a frozen pensionable-pay component, a tradition that continued in subsequent labor deals during Jerry Sanders' administration.

"That is pretty amusing," said Michael Zucchet, the former City Council member (and mayor for three days!) who heads up the influential San Diego Municipal Employees Association, which represents the city's whitecollar workers.

But surprising? No, since "it was all so laughable in 2011-2012 when the Jerry Sanders / Jan Goldsmith / Carl DeMaio / Lincoln Club / Taxpayers Association / Republican Party cabal… announced their brilliant and innovative idea for pension ‘reform': pensionable pay freezes!" Zucchet wrote via email. "How original and creative. City employees had already been doing that—by agreement—for at least five years already, saving hundreds of millions in City pension contributions."

So, boys, perhaps take some advice from someone you no doubt admire. As Ronald Reagan said, "There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit."

Got a tip? Send it to johnl@sdcitybeat.com or follow John R. Lamb on Twitter @johnrlamb.


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