Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Few 'Worrisome' Things & More



Oh, so now the DMN finds our public safety crisis "worrisome." In true form, the City Manager T.C. Broadnax trots out his first proposed budget aiming, as the DMN says, to put "service first." Or, as we prefer to say: putting Projects Before People. 

 The DMN comments: "But it's worrisome that this budget with no significant service cuts was delivered on the backs of salary savings from hundreds of police officers who have left the city. Broadnax and his staff account for 3,094 officers in 2017-18 — 519 fewer than in the budget this fiscal year. As the crime rate ticks up, it's important that Dallas doesn't curtail aggressive efforts to recruit and hire more officers. (Violent crimes — including murder, sexual assaults, robberies and aggravated assaults — are up 7 percent through June, compared with 2016.)"

Hmmmm, they call it "worrisome." We call it a public safety crisis.


And with the State Fair of Texas just around the corner, officials are now a little concern

about security at the fair. The DMN reports, "The shrinking Dallas Police Department — already struggling with slower response times and an uptick in violent crimes — may have trouble providing security for the State Fair of Texas the way it once did." Ya think? Perhaps Big Tex as part of his welcome speech to fair goers should warn everyone with a: "HOWDY FOLKS! Your estimated police response time is…"


And speaking of And speaking of response times and the shortage of police officers, retiring police officer Nick Novello took a parting shot. According to an article in The Dallas Morning News, Novello told Dallas City Council members "the same thing he's been saying all over Facebook and the television news in recent days: Police response times are worse than you think. Priority calls are being sent to officers who can't respond, just to clear the emergency off the board. Morale's in the toilet. Stress levels are way up. And help ain't on the way."
"You no longer have a viable policing function in Dallas, Texas," Novello told the council. File this one under the category of #WeToldYouSo and #HelpAintOnTheWay


Not sure if this will have anything to do with anything, but for now, a small, red flag flutters. According to news reports, federal regulators are investigating the financing behind the massive Statler Hotel redevelopment in downtown Dallas.

According to the DMN, "One focus of the SEC inquiry is the sale last year of $26.5 million in municipal bonds backed by future tax incentives that the city of Dallas granted to the developer under what’s called tax-increment financing. Cities use such deals to lure developers to build in specific areas with little economic growth." Like I said, just a small red flag fluttering… for now.
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Friday, July 14, 2017

Reality Check

So apparently now it takes a Reality Star from "American Grit" to call out the city of Dallas over the appointment of Black Lives Matter activist and convicted felon Dominique Alexander to the DPD search panel. Watch the report here.

John Burk, a star on the FOX reality show "American Grit" lives and works in Dallas. In his Facebook video, he characterizes the committee appointment as "a slap in the face to every police officer that walks that street." Watch it here. (Warning: video contains expletives)

Tomi Lahren, a popular conservative commentator, was also outraged and posted an angry commentary to Facebook on Wednesday night that has been viewed 2.1 million times. Read about that here.

Blue Lives Matter also reported on the controversy. You can read about it here.

Once again, we see just how little first responders lives matter to Mayor Mike and the City of Dallas.  

Just wondering where all the outrage was when the City of Dallas broke all its promises to its first responders and their families and stole the pension? Despite what they tell you, it ain't fixed.

And we aren't going away.

#ItAintFixed #savethepension #holdtheline


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Please Release Thing 1 & Thing 2

Without taking sides into the latest brouhaha over a lawsuit filed by the widow of Lorne Ahrens who was gunned down along with four other officers July 7, I felt compelled to highlight one tiny paragraph in the 26-page document.

For me, it continues to highlight all that is woefully wrong with the city of Dallas and its leadership.  Lots of people—we don’t know how many because the city apparently won’t share those numbers—so let’s just say lots of people sent letters addressed to Ahrens’ widow, Katrina, but mailed to Dallas City Hall. These letters, according to the lawsuit, contained heartfelt messages, checks, cash and gift cards to Katrina.  The city apparently has been opening and reading her mail and supposedly logging everything.

According to the suit, Katrina “requested a copy of the log, but was denied by the City, which claimed the log contained confidential information.”

Hmmmm, the city likes to say a lot of things and then hide behind a lot of things.  Kind of like a dystopian version of Thing 1 and Thing 2 from Dr. Seuss.

Since March 18, I’ve tried unsuccessfully to get the city and Mayor Mike Rawlings to up some basic info.  I wasn’t asking for state secrets. I wasn’t asking for the code to his gated community. I didn’t even ask to see whatever secret handshake one needs for admittance into that special Dallas Citizens Council.  Nope. All I asked for were two basic things:

Thing 1: All email correspondence related to HB 3158 between Mayor Mike Rawlings or his staff and Pension Committee Chair Dan Flynn or his staff.

Thing 2: That survey that Mayor Mike said he had that shows 80 percent of citizens would not support a tax increase for its first responders and the pension.

Instead, the city stalled a bit, and then on April 3, the city requested an attorney general’s opinion. Then on June 7—you know about a week after the governor signed the pension bill—the city withdrew its request for an AG opinion on my request and said they would release the info to me.

But when they finally released the info—85 days after my initial request—I received one document on June 9.

One.

That’s right.

Just one three-page email about an interview request.

Are you kidding me?

And as for Thing 2--Complete crickets on that alleged survey.

There has to be one right?  After all, the mayor said he had one, so it’s got to be there somewhere right? The mayor wouldn’t lie about something like that, or would he?

If I were a bettin’ woman, I’d wager some DROP money that there ain’t no stinkin’ survey.

But then again, I couldn’t bet any DROP money even if I wanted to. Mr. Mayor saw to that.

In the meantime, I’ve filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office about releasing Thing 1 and Thing 2.

#SaveThePensionItAintFixed





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