Updated Oct. 6 at 5:38 p.m.
Investor and philanthropist Warren Hellman, a leading proponent of San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi's Proposition B, has withdrawn his support of the measure, which would increase city employees' contributions to their pension and benefits costs.
“I’m leaving the Yes on Proposition B campaign for the same reason I got involved in the campaign in the first place – we need a meaningful dialogue in San Francisco between business and labor to solve long-term problems threatening the city’s future without name-calling and fingerpointing," Hellman said in a statement.
Hellman is a major funder of The Bay Citizen and is chairman of its board. He plays no role in The Bay Citizen's editorial operations.
Tom O'Connor, head of the firefighter's union, said, "We look forward to working with Warren Hellman and all the business leaders in San Francisco" on solving the city's financial issues.
O’Connor said that Hellman’s change of heart came about in the course of about a day. “A series of old friendships led to Warren’s mind being changed,” O’Connor said.
Hellman has maintained “longtime friendships with some old firefighters,” O’Connor said, and one of these firefighters explained that the financial impact of Prop. B would “hit everyone on the fire engine differently. This is why we are so upset.”
A single person with no dependents would face a far smaller increase in health care costs than another firefighter who happened to have dependents. “It is not an equal share for everybody,” said O’Connor, who declined to be more specific about the chain of events.
“You don’t become as successful as Warren Hellman by being rigid and dogmatic,” O’Connor said.
Hellman could not immediately be reached for comment, nor could Adachi. Both men's names appear prominently on print materials supporting the measure.
Hellman had donated $50,000 to the campaign on Aug. 4, according to campaign finance filings.
Reached at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Darcy Brown, the chief staffer for the Adachi campaign, did not believe that Hellman's change of heart could possibly be true. "No. It's not true. That's crazy," she said.
Brown said she had met Wednesday morning with a group of Prop. B donors, one of whom is a friend of Hellman's. She declined to identify Hellman's friend, who she said gave no indication that any shift was in the works.