Sunday, June 11, 2017

Cursing Mayor Mike; Out of the Good Times and Into the Bad

Well mark another one done—34 years. Happy anniversary, babe. Out of all the couples we started our marriage journey with, we are the only ones left standing.

I guess we took those vows seriously because here we are 34 years later and I’ve got those “for richer or poorer” and “in good times and bad” ringing in my ears.

Unfortunately this year, we moved back into the poorer side and landed in the badlands. We can thank the city of Dallas and Mayor Mike for that.

We never, ever expected, planned or dreamed of being rich. We just worked hard at our regular jobs (my husband as a Dallas police officer and I as a public school teacher).

We both took on extra jobs, kept our promises, paid our bills, served our communities, raised two kids and eked out a reasonable living. We planned a future where we could live our golden years with some semblance of dignity and comfort.

But here we are—our pension money frozen, our benefits cut, our financial security zapped into oblivion and a trail of one broken promise after another by the city of Dallas.  Better Call Saul.

Make no mistake. The Dallas police and fire pension systemisn’t fixed, and those 10,000 active and first responders and their families are still broken. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

You know, we spent our lives like a lot of other first responders never really expecting much.  All we ever really expected and wanted in our retirement years was to travel, see our kids and not worry about money.

Ok, so maybe my wants were a bit more extravagant than my husband’s.

Go ahead and call me excessive and greedy: I just want to be able to walk into Central Market every three or four months and buy some of the fancy food there like the rich folks do without worrying about the cost.  (You know, like Mayor Mike and his crew of cronies.) Heck, I'd settle for just being able to buy a steak at my local grocery store without having to worry about my grocery bill.

Instead, life seems to have come full circle—and not in a good way.  I see my future days mirroring my college days where I subsisted on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and boxed macaroni and cheese.

But on this day, the day of my 34th anniversary, I will still count my blessings. I am blessed that my husband and I have each other through these tough times. I am certain we will endure, but I have to admit, it’s not exactly my idea of the circle of life.


And for that, even on this day, I curse Mayor Mike and the city of Dallas every single day.

#ThanksForNothingMayorRawlings #StopSpreadingLies #BackThePension #ThePensionAintFixed

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Giving Credit Where It Isn't Due

So the governor signed the bill to "fix" the Dallas Police & Fire Pension fund.

The official fix begins Sept. 1.

The fall out began long before that.  While I understand the need for the bill, excuse me if I don't do the dance of joy when 75 percent of the "shared sacrifice" sits squarely on the backs of the city's first responders.

About a week or so ago, The Dallas Morning News did its celebratory mayoral kumbaya circle in its editorial post. (Honestly, it made me gag and caused a spike in my blood pressure despite my yoga breathing.)

It's taken more than a week for my anger to subside and for me to re-start this latest post. However, it's important to correct some of the statements bandied about by the DMN (which btw has become nothing more than the mayor's private PR firm).

And yes, I know we are supposed to quit pointing fingers and playing the blame game, but when the DMN and the city continues circulating falsehoods, we need to point and wag a few fingers and assign blame.

In its editorial post last week, the DMN gushes in praise for the mayor and still credits him with trying to prevent a "run on the bank" to save the pension. I'm all for giving credit where credit is due, but let's credit the mayor for actually causing the run on the bank.

Remember when the pension board asked him to assuage members fears and issue a public statement expressing support for the fund and telling its first responders that the city had their back?

Remember the Mayor's words? 

Oh wait, you can't because he didn't. 

Instead, he wrote a letter demanding that the pension board stop access to accounts earned by first responders and then filed his lawsuit.

Game on.

$520 million gone.

Why bring it up again? So the mayor can't claim he fixed something that he purposefully  and actively broke.

The DMN editorial wistfully stated that maybe the pension bill fix "can even become a catalyst to rebuild trust between first responders and City Hall."

Well, I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but this ain't no Disney movie, and when you've got Pinocchio living at 1500 Marilla Street, well, you're a long, long way from happily ever after. 

#ThanksForNothingMayorRawlings #StopSpreadingLies #BackThePension







Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Pension "Fix" & All The B-Slapping

It didn’t take long before the back-slappin’ and congratulations started over the soon-to-be-enacted bill to fix the Dallas Police & Fire Pension Fund.

And, it didn’t take long either before the bitch-slappin’ started.

All I know is while Mayor Mike Beelzebub Rawlings and his cronies crowed about fixing the problem and solving our public safety crisis, every single one of us--active and retired first responders and their families and friends--knows the truth.

There was no justice here. 

Only Just Us.

And the city and its citizens--especially in the poorer communities--are headed pell-mell into very scary times. City officials finally acknowleged that drive-by shootings are up 148 percent from last year. Violent crime is up. Response time is up.

Then there was that incident in South Dallas where there was a reckless and unchallenged 30-minutes of cars stunting in the middle of the intersection at Malcolm X Boulevard and Elsie Faye Heggins Street.

According to news reports, Dallas Councilwoman Tiffinni Young demanded an explanation on why it took police so long to respond.

Seriously? 

Councilwoman Young should look in the mirror and ask herself that question. 

Or better yet, she should ask her buddy Mayor Rawlings or his henchman Lee Kleinman. Or perhaps, she should ask all the fancy folks that headed up the Taxpayers For A Fair Pension. Good luck getting an answer from them because they are all hiding behind their fancy gated communities with their private security firms.

Dallas Police Association president Mike Mata has a simple and clear answer for you and it's an answer you're not going to want to hear: This is merely a sign of things to come because the police department is so understaffed.

"You're seeing a trend of lawlessness that's coming within the city of Dallas. The fix is we need more cops. It's as simple as that," he told Fox4News.

And why are we so understaffed? 

Let's see… low pay, bad pension, broken promises.

You see this pension bill didn't resolve or solve the problem--especially when you place 75 percent of the "fix" on the backs of your active and retired first responders. It won't stem the exodus of your first responders,  and it surely won't entice new ones.

It's as simple as that.


#RawlingsDoesn'tCare #JustUs #BackThePension #ItAintOver

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Pension Fix

Perhaps I don’t have to worry about eating cat food after all.

Perhaps.

Now that there’s a pension fix that stabilizes the fund, I think perhaps I’ll be OK. 

Maybe.

Just a few months ago, it was very bleak—the kind of bleak where you wonder if your survival hinges on selling Chiclets or macramé south of the border or finding a lucrative street corner to panhandle.

That kind of bleak.

The kind of bleak where you ponder about eating cat food and then decide you could subsist on a diet of Ramen noodles. The kind of bleak that keeps your eyes red-rimmed from sleepless nights and salty tears. The kind of bleak that plunges you head first into an abyss wallowing in the unfairness of it all.

The kind of bleak that underscores that life really is not a Disney movie where everyone doesn’t live happily ever after and Prince Charming doesn’t come to the rescue. First responders have battled unfairness all their lives. Happy endings have always been few and far between. And, there never, ever was a Prince Charming, only the  Prince of Darkness Mayor Mike Rawlings.

But at least for now, there is this pension fix.  Retired Assistant Fire Chief Debbie Carlin said it best: “Fire and police are saving each other once again.”

By all accounts, this is a fix borne mainly by first responders. The ones who always sacrifice. The ones who were always promised so much, but who received so very little.  By several accounts, first responders will shoulder 75 percent of the burden.

It’s disheartening that more wasn’t required of the city of Dallas to honor the promises made to those who sacrificed so much. 

But life is not a Disney movie.

All the first responder leadership acknowledged that this compromise bill will be tough to sell to our people, and it is.

We were unable to overcome the Mayor’s narrative of “taxpayer bail out” even though it never was and never will be one. We were unable to overcome the Mayor’s constant portrayal and betrayal of first responders as greedy and the creators of this problem.  We were unable to overcome the Mayor’s concentrated, carefully orchestrated campaign of lies. Had we had more time, perhaps we would have.

Unfortunately during this time, public safety has eroded and will continue its downward spiral. Regardless of this pension fix, the damage has been done. Record numbers of police and firefighters have left. More will still go.  Officials concede it will take 10 years before we will be back to full strength.  Meanwhile, crime and response times continue to climb. 

And while this pension fix stings, active and retired first responders did succeed by…
•Saving the fund to ensure that we will still have a pension check
•Ensuring that the clawback of funds—although still in the bill—is no longer a certainty.

I remember that just a few short months ago, our Prince of Darkness and his minion floated the now infamous Ice Floe plan which would have left all of us without a pension check. I remember just a few short weeks ago when that same Prince tried to float some fuzzy math by the state house pensions committee in an effort to shirk the city’s financial obligation to the pension fund.

I remember all those things. 

I also remember how all the active and retired police and fire associations fought valiantly for every one of us. You may not have liked this or that by one or the other, but they fought for us. All of us. Without them, the results would have been catastrophic.

No, we did not get everything we wanted nor hoped for.  And yes, the sacrifices made—as always—were and will continue to be tremendous.  And, no, it is not fair.


But now is the time for all of us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and ready for our future battles which will surely come. We must continue to stand together for we truly do have miles to go before we sleep.

#backthepension #peoplebeforeprojects #lifeisnotadisneymovie

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mayor Rawlings, Cats & Dogs, and "Conceptual" Things

Things I will never understand:

*Item #1…Why Mayor Mike "BB" Rawlings can initially claim the pension fix brokered by State Rep. Dan Flynn was a taxpayer "bailout" and going to raise taxes, but now, this senate "Conceptual plan," is no longer a "bailout."

Perhaps that's because it never was a taxpayer bailout to begin with. Raising taxes was never, ever in Flynn's plan. Trust me, I read all 188 pages. It just made the city take responsibility for its legal and moral obligations to fund the pension.

At the mayor's press conference, one reporter went astray and asked the mayor about that very point. Why, the reporter asked, isn't this amended plan a taxpayer bailout? Rawlings did what he does best--a bit of a sidewinder shuffle: 

"The nature of this bill creates a system where we're not locked in for the set amount for eternity and the last bill did that, and that's why I called it that," Rawlings said.

Hmmmm, interesting how for months Rawlings screamed "taxpayer bailout." He painted a cat a dog, but no one questioned it. Then suddenly, someone pulled the cat's tail,  the cat meowed, and now the cat is no longer a dog, but a cat. Go figure.

*Item #2…Why all the stakeholders at Senator West and Senator Huffines marathon meeting apparently agreed not to comment on the details of the "nonbonding conceptual" agreement until the senate amendments to the pension bill were drafted. 

And then, the senators immediately held a press conference.

Not to be outdone, Mayor Rawlings squeaked in his press conference waving around the non-binding agreement paper in his hand and talking about how from the beginning he always said "to fix this plan everybody has got to come to the table."

Well, last time I checked, Mr. Mayor, the police never left the table. Nor the firefighters. Nor Chairman Flynn. Nor the pension folks. But where were you? Oh, that's right, you were blowin' and goin' about taxpayer bailouts and pistol whippings.

Interestingly, police and fire groups honored the agreement to remain quiet because, well, a promise is a promise, and first responders take those things rather seriously. That is until the senators and Rawlings blasted the info across the evening news, startling all the active and retired members of the those groups.  

This leaves me wondering about what the end game is for that. Is it so that it will be more difficult for police and firefighters to back out or re-negotiate when the actual amendment from the senators proves to be a different thing entirely?  You know, when that cat becomes a dog again? 

We shall have to wait and see what the senators come up with and how it fits with Rep. Flynn's pension bill. Flynn said he remains "committed to continue to support the 10,000 Police and Fire members and their families first and will not allow them to be bullied by the City."

*Item #3… I will never understand why Mayor Rawlings tries to pretend to care. He's painted first responders as greedy and self-serving among other things. At the press conference, a reporter asked him about the animosity between him and first responders. He did that sidewinder shuffle again, but I found this tidbit rather enlightening:

"We've had a lot of frank conversations. The retirees," Rawlings said about the negotiations. "There were tears in that room. There was emotion going on, and at times there were almost my tears."

Almost. 

You know like a cat is almost a dog.

#savethepension #peoplebeforeprojects #RawlingsDoesntCare 




Monday, May 8, 2017

The Mike Rawlings Train Wreck Express

Last week was an entertaining week in a warped-watching-a train-wreck-kind of way.

It was especially fun watching Mayor Mike Beelzebubbing Bamboozling Rawlings (let’s just call him BB Rawlings for short) implode last week as the Texas House of Representatives handed him a stunning defeat by unanimously approving the pension bill.

Angered by the vote, Rawlings said state legislators and first responders took “the citizens out in an alley and just pistol whipped them.”

First responders—and even legislators—gasped across this great state. But even though offensive, such remarks were a win for us because Rawlings' true character bled outside his crafted public persona in an ugliness that was plain for everyone to see.  At the end of the day, there’s no getting around that comment.

I, along with most active and retired first responders, closely followed the Dallas City Council elections. And while I was disappointed that Candy Evans was unable to unseat Rawlings’ Henchman Kleinman, I do not believe this was a vote against first responders. Kleinman told The Dallas Morning News that he targeted specific votes to “make sure we were taking to the right people.”

Based upon the feedback I’ve received from those who walked the neighborhood for Candy and who worked the polling sites, I believe Kleinman targeted the older folks—folks who live in a fact-vacuum. These older citizens rely solely on mainstream news media for their information sources, and we all have seen the campaign of lies disseminated there. He also targeted them with mailers containing misleading information. Obviously, this group  were not Internet or Social Media savvy. 

Time and time again, those folks said they supported Kleinman because The Dallas Morning News did. They also cited former Chief Brown coming out in support of Kleinman.  To them, that meant police officers supported Kleinman. (Don’t even get me started on that one.) You mix all of that in with his your-taxes-will-be raised-if-I-don’t-get-elected lie, and well, you can pretty much predict the unfortunate outcome. It was just too much for Candy to overcome.

So you probably are wondering where the bright spots are. I found Robert Wilonsky’s political commentary particularly enlightening.  From it, you’ll note three more stunning defeats for BB Rawlings:

*Councilman Kingston won re-election despite a huge fusion of cash into his opponent’s campaign coffers from a PAC run by BB Rawlings’ campaign consultant and BB Rawlings’ campaign treasurer.  Talk about getting pistol-whipped.

*Councilman Scott Griggs won re-election. Another win for us.

*Councilwoman Tiffinni Young is in a run-off. She’s the one who supported without question BB Rawlings attempt to basically hand over Fair Park to one of his cronies.  According to the column, Young also has received campaign money from that same political PAC.

Then there's two other promising tidbits…

*Councilwoman Monica Alonzo will also face a run-off. She also had received campaign money from that same political PAC.  It was a very tight race, and that election is currently under a criminal investigation for voter fraud, so we're not quite sure who will ultimately be on that run-off ballot.

*And finally, in what turned out to be a rather bright and unexpected (for me) ray of hope was the return of Councilman Dwaine Caraway. He wore a t-shirt supporting Dallas police and fire on election night, and immediately after winning the election, proposed a first responder-friendly amendment to the pension bill before it goes to the state senate for final approval.  His proposal takes away the mayor’s appointments to the pension board and instead places those appointments in the hands of the city council.

Talk about another pistol whipping.

And, during all this hullabaloo, BB Rawlings screeched to anyone who would listen that his continued fight in the Texas State Senate  against first responders may be his Alamo.  He dared to compare himself to William Travis.


Hmmm… Try George Custer and the Battle of Little Bighorn.

#backthepension #savethepension #peoplebeforeproject