ANALYSIS: Moore, Sheperd Crucial to Pension Compromise
(APN) ATLANTA — When the City of Atlanta passed a compromise pension reform proposal late last month, in June 2011, it was hailed as a shining new example of the City Council coming together in a unanimous vote, and as a victory for Mayor Reed.
But the unacknowledged victor is actually Councilwoman Felicia Moore (District 9).
And the unanimous vote covers up a non-unanimous count of a vote that never occurred: the nine Council Members who were in favor of the pension reform proposal introduced by Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean (District 8), Chairwoman of the Finance/Executive Committee; and the six who were not.
According to the Wall Street Journal newspaper the “late compromise… preserved the pension system from being set on a course for total elimination,” which is what the WSJ says the Adrean plan would have done.
The nine votes who were lined up in support of the Adrean plan were: Carla Smith (District 1), Ivory Young (District 3), Cleta Winslow (District 4), Alex Wan (District 6), Howard Shook (District 7), Adrean, Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11), Aaron Watson (Post 2-at-large), and Lamar Willis (Post 3-at-large).
Ten yea votes would have been required for a pension reform vote.
The six who were opposed to the Adrean plan or unprepared to support it in late June 2011, were: Kwanza Hall (District 2), Natalyn Archibong (District 5), Moore, CT Martin (District 10), Joyce Sheperd (District 12), and Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large).
Archibong, Moore, Martin, and Bond are consistent progressive votes on the Council; Hall seems to be growing more progressive over time; while Sheperd’s act of remaining uncommitted until the end, thus holding up the entire Adrean overhaul, was more surprising.
During the debate, Sheperd recalled her days working as a union employee for a telephone company.
As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, the pension reform debate became very contentious, beginning with Mayor Kasim Reed’s press release accusing Council President Ceasar Mitchell of stalling reform.
Several Council Members balked at Reed’s insistence that the Council pass a reform package by June 30, coinciding with the fiscal year budget deadline, especially Moore.
Still, Moore knew that if she did not act quickly, there was a possibility the Adrean plan could pass, especially if there were no alternative on the table. And by introducing an alternative plan, Moore was able to dramatically shift the character of any compromise, which otherwise may have been minor amendments.
So, Moore met with union leaders and workers to find out what would be acceptable to them.
The unions proposed paying more out of each paycheck in order to keep the current defined benefit system.
The problem then became that the Adrean proposal had already had one reading at Full Council, but the Moore proposal had not. Two formal reads of any respective proposal would have been required, before the Council could consider that proposal.
This meant that–given the chronology of the procedural requirements–the Adrean proposal would be ripe for consideration before June 30, while the Moore proposal would not.
This is why several Council Members got highly upset with Councilman Wan, when he made a motion for the Finance/Executive Committee to approve the Adrean plan without recommendation, so that it could get a second read at Full Council, and so the Full Council could adopt the plan before June 30 if it chose to do so.
Council Members, including Martin and Bond, objected that it violated the spirit of the Council Retreat in early June at the Atlanta Botannical Garden, where everyone is said to have agreed to give fair and equal consideration to both proposals.
Atlanta Progressive News has previously objected that the Retreats are not videotaped and has requested that the Council videotape all Retreats just like the Council meetings, so these gentleman’s agreements can be a bit more transparent.
Anyway, that was when Martin questioned what Wan was being promised in exchange for his motion. Martin said Wan’s response to a plea from Bond to withdraw his motion was “inappropriate.”
Martin went on to state that he was the “most lethal member on Council,” that Council Members could choose to remember Wan’s actions at a later date, and to say that “a line has been drawn in the sand.”
After several weeks of meetings, including special work sessions comparing and constrasting the Adrean and Moore proposals, it became clear that Adrean did not have her ten votes.
So, that’s when some Council Members [five, according to one source] went behind closed doors with Mayor Reed to draft a compromise which basically consisted of the Moore proposal for current employees; and a hybrid plan including both a defined benefit and defined pension plan, for future employees.
APN objects to the closed-door pension compromise meeting with the Mayor as a violation of the Georgia Open Meetings Act.
According to the source, Moore believed the meeting could be closed to the public because it did not have a quorum of Full Council members.
APN’s News Editor–the present writer–is already in litigation with the City of Atlanta and seven Council Committee Chairs for holding seven closed-door private Committee Briefings every two weeks.
The present writer plans to ask more about the pension meeting as part of the discovery process of the existing lawsuit. Judge Jerry Baxter has scheduled a status conference on August 08, 2011. The present writer will argue it is not acceptable for the Council to come out of an open meeting; to go into a closed meeting to continue discussing what was discussed in the open meeting; only to come back into the open meeting and vote on the compromise that was decided upon in the closed meeting.
(END / 2011)