The funeral Friday at St. Mary's Cathedral for two San Francisco firefighters killed in the line of duty was a sober, elaborate affair, and everyone from Gov. Jerry Brown to Rep. Nancy Pelosi to Mayor Edwin Lee came to pay their respects.
Jeff Adachi, the San Francisco public defender, came too, and was standing before the procession began in an area at the front of the Cathedral with other elected officials. An unidentified fire department staffer asked him to leave. Adachi demurred, and then the fire department official returned with an colleague, and they asked Adachi to leave once more. At this point, Adachi complied.
The small contretemps underscores just how bitter the city's firefighters and other unions remain over Adachi's now two-year-old campaign to reform the city's pension costs by requiring city workers to contribute more into the plan. Adachi's Proposition B was soundly defeated at the polls last November, but he has introduced a new initiative for the November ballot, which will likely compete with another pension-reform plan that City Hall and the unions, after working together for months, introduced on May 24. Warren Hellman, who is also chairman of the Bay Citizen, has been quite involved in the City Hall-union consensus effort.
The funeral for Fire Department Lt. Vincent Perez and Firefighter-Paramedic Anthony Valerio drew thousands of mourners from across the state and country.
Adachi said in an interview Saturday that he doesn't regret going to the funeral, even though he was asked to leave. "I asked [the fire department official] why, or who, and he wouldn't say."
"I just stayed. And then he came back with somebody else, and said that I had to leave, that he wanted me to leave," Adachi said. "At that point, I agreed to leave."
"I was there to show my respect for the sacrifice they made," he said. "I've always had tremendous respect for the sacrifices that public safety officers make. That was true before pension reform, and will be true after. It is a separate issue."
Adachi said that after the second request that he leave, he left the area for elected officials at the front of the Cathedral and stood in the back of the Cathedral until the procession as finished, then left.