Monday, February 27, 2017

Dallas Observer Columnist Jim Schutze writes about the DART fix

In his latest Dallas Observer column, Jim Schutze writes that Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs "thinks the approach of the mayor and the business elite he represents is both reprehensible and absurd. It’s reprehensible because it would claw back the pension fund’s deplorable deficits almost entirely from pensioners and their families. And it’s crazy, because, if you treat cops and firefighters that way, pretty soon you won’t have any cops or firefighters still working for you.

“The mayor wants to take a pound of flesh from innocent police and firefighters, their families and these officers in retirement who have already served 40 years,” Griggs said.

Read the entire column here.

#PoundOfFlesh #savethepension #backtheblue

Friday, February 24, 2017

Another Story Of Betrayal

Editor's note: Here is another story about a first responder and his family. Mayor Mike Rawlings and the city of Dallas continues to paint police officers and firefighters as greedy, self-serving and overpaid.

This could be a story about John who gave 28 years to the city of Dallas before he retired.

Or this could be a story about John and the endless sacrifices he made for its citizens.

Or this could be a story about John and how he was betrayed by Mayor Mike Rawlings and the city of Dallas.

It could be, but it isn’t.

This is a story about his son Joe.

Joe was born six weeks early in the summer of 1991. Despite his early entrance, he was otherwise healthy, John said.

“About the time he turned 2, my wife was noticing significant delays in Joe’s ability to communicate as well as some of his motor skills,” he said. “After months of testing, Joe was diagnosed with autism.”

At that time, an autism diagnosis was very bleak, he recalled. “We were told to begin saving immediately because we would eventually need to institutionalize him. It was a harsh time for our family.”

“The financial strain was immense,” John said, “and the therapies were very intense. We were blessed to have not only our family, but also our police family. They looked out for me on many an occasion when I was exhausted from the long hours of work and taking care of Joe’s needs.”

In the 1980s and 1990s, the city’s insurance didn’t pay for speech therapy for anyone under any circumstance, he said.

“We had spent years paying out of our pocket for these expenses at a rate that a young police family couldn’t support. Doing without his therapies wasn’t an option for us because our child was our priority,” he said, “so we found ways to live very modestly and cover the costs.”

“After decades of hard work on all of our parts, but particularly Joe’s part, he has made major advances,” John said.

Joe earned a college degree and works full time.

“However, because of his communication difficulties, he is under-employed and still lives with us,” John said. “When DROP came along, we decided this would be a great way to ensure his future care. Without his DROP money, Joe’s care will suffer after my wife and I are gone. He is a fine, hard working young man who deserves a chance at a decent life.”

Now that money and his son’s future care is in jeopardy because of Mayor Rawling’s threat to seize DROP money and take back money already earned by retirees by garnishing their pension checks.

“I worked hard for ‪the police department and made many sacrifices to financially provide for my family,” John said. “I missed major milestones of both of my children --milestones I was told to never expect my youngest son to achieve. I sacrificed and worked hard in exchange for a pension. It’s time for the City of Dallas to honor our agreement.”

#PoundOfFlesh, #savethepension, #backtheblue

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Mayor Wants Confrontation, Not Cooperation

Editor's note: While there appears to be a step by the pension board and State Pension Committee Chairman Dan Flynn to try and come up with a workable solution to this pension mess, it's not time to sit around, hold hands and sing Kumbaya--at least not yet. We all know that the city of Dallas is quick to promise, but rarely delivers. So here is another story about a first responder that Mayor Rawlings and the city of Dallas want you to believe is greedy, self-serving and overpaid.

In the 34 years Tom worked for the Dallas Police Department, he said 36 officers were killed in the line of duty, countless were injured and some were paralyzed.

Before the creation of the city’s DROP retirement program, virtually all officers left at age 50 because they had maxed out their pension, Tom said.

“When it came time, I went into DROP at age 48 and took a reduced pension to do that. I didn't invent DROP, I didn't steal anything, I am not a thief,” he said. “I only did what the city and department wanted—for me to stay longer.”

DROP worked well for the city, he said.  It kept hundreds of officers past what would have been the normal age to retire.

“In my case, I stayed until age 56.  The city got at least six more years of service and a reduced pension amount because of DROP,” he said.

Now, Mayor Mike Rawlings and the city want to seize retiree’s pension accounts and garnish their pension checks for money already earned.

“The city and the Mayor want confrontation, not cooperation,” Tom said. “The problem is the city doesn’t want to do its part.  Had the Mayor said some time ago, ‘The police officers and firefighters of this city have always taken care of us, we will take care of them’ much of this situation could have been avoided. The Mayor wanted a crisis and spoke of bankruptcy to create it.”

“I believe that my benefits are protected by a State Constitutional agreement and by common sense,” he said. “I want to help fix the crisis. I want to be part of the solution. The city has never been concerned about the pension until it got to this point. The city needs to step up.”

#PoundOfFlesh, #savethepension, #backtheblue

Do We Honor The Promise Or Not?

The Dallas Observer ran another great commentary by columnist Jim Schutze which you can read here. He boils the pension trouble down to this:
"Do we, the taxpayers of Dallas, have a moral duty to provide our police and firefighters with the decent secure retirement pay they thought was promised and guaranteed to them when they took their jobs and while they did those jobs? Or not?"

Don't Let The Politicians Scare You

The Dallas Morning News finally printed another guest commentary. This one is a good one from Jim McDade, president of the Dallas Fire Fighters Association. Read about it here.

#PoundOfFlesh, #savethepension,

Monday, February 20, 2017

Don't Let David Face Goliath Alone

Editor's note: Meet David who faithfully served the citizens of Dallas for 36 years. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, the city of Dallas and the bogus group called Taxpayers For A Fair Pension want you to believe he is greedy, self-serving and overpaid. The truth is entirely different.

David’s 36 years as a police officer took its toll in seemingly small ways.

“I worked in uniform for the majority of my 36 year career. It was my choice because I liked it,” he said. “Unfortunately, what comes with wearing the uniform is all the extra gear.”

The gun belt worn by police officers weighs between 10 and 12 pounds depending on the equipment carried on the belt. 

“You might think that doesn’t sound like a lot, but for an eight hour shift getting in and out of a cramped patrol car, it can wear on your lower back very quickly,” David said. “Factor in the late calls and the overtime worked because of the shortage of cops, an officer can easily spend 12 hours in a squad car several days a week.”

The weight of that belt “finally got the best of my lower back.  I had no feeling in my right leg,” he said.

Steroid injections and physical therapy were unsuccessful.

In June of 2016, David had his first back surgery. After weeks of being off work and $6,300 of uncovered out-of-pocket expenses, he returned to patrol.

Although the surgery helped, “as soon as I started wearing that gun belt again,” he said, “the extra weight triggered the same symptoms.  I muddled through work for several weeks--because that’s what we do--but finally had to have a second surgery.”

This time two 3-inch titanium rods were installed and held together with six 2-inch titanium screws.

And while he was fairly successful at battling his back issues, he could not win against another formidable foe: Parkinson’s disease.

For years, he was able to combat it with expensive medications.

“As with any medications, there are the dreadful side effects. I felt like crud most days, but continued to work because even after 35 plus years, I still enjoyed being a police officer in the City of Dallas,” he said.

But in October of last year, he faced one of the most difficult decisions of his life.

“I felt the disease progressed enough that even with medication, I could no longer perform my duties as a police officer, nor did I want to put my partner in harm’s way as I could not physically do the job,” David said.

After going through the exit interviews, turning in all his police equipment and signing some paperwork, David visited the pension office. 

The counselor told him the dollar amount he would received every month. The counselor also told him his health insurance premium would increase from $75 to $629 because he had retired. He is too young for Medicare.  His out-of-pocket expense for his Parkinson’s medication costs about $980 a month.

Now, the battle David faces is with the city of Dallas, Mayor Mike Rawlings and Taxpayers For A Fair Pension who want to take away his pension, seize the DROP money he earned and garnish his pension checks.

It really is David against Goliath.

#PoundOfFlesh #savethepension #backtheblue #DavidVsGoliath

Saturday, February 18, 2017

And Now The Scary Part

Editor's note: Meet David who served the citizens of Dallas for 39 years. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, the city of Dallas and the bogus group called Taxpayers For A Fair Pension want you to believe he is greedy, self-serving and overpaid. Here is David's story.

In his 39 years serving the city of Dallas, David was injured twice, his lockermate was killed on duty by a burglary suspect and his partner was shot in the face with a shotgun.

He was one of the first officers who rolled up on the scene when two officers were shot trying to arrest an armed robber.

“We took one of the officers to the hospital in the back seat of my police car wondering if he would survive. His partner was killed at the scene,” David said.

Throughout the years, he worked a steady stream of extra duty jobs to provide for his family.

“Once upon reflection, I figured I had worked an average of 52 hours a week for my first 30 years on the department,” he said. “After hours and many vacation days were devoted to extra jobs instead of my home life and vacations. I thought I was helping my family get the things they wanted and deserved. But when you work extra hours, even when you’re home, you don't have the energy to properly participate in normal family activities.”

David believes the long hours, extra jobs and daily stress cost him his marriage.

“I know this would not have happened if I had chosen another profession,” he said.

After he served for 20 years, David said he decided to stay and take advantage of the DROP program that was offered by the city.

“Even though I had already earned a full 20 year retirement, by working an additional nine and a half years, I was told--and believed--my retirement years would be secured. I could have left the police department to work at another company, earning another retirement and a better salary. But the DROP option seemed to be the best at the time,” he said. “The charts and the numbers were there before you. We were told the pension was one of the very best in the country.”

So David remained and made his long term financial and retirement decisions based on income from his pension and the DROP program. He retired in August of 2009.

“Now the scary part,” he said. “My fears today concern me more than when I was working. When I was a young officer, I thought I was bulletproof and could handle myself in any situation. Today, I feel older, have no control and our future seems uncertain.”

If the pension is cut by a substantial amount or if any type of clawback is imposed that would garnish his pension check for interest already earned, David will be forced to sell his home.

“I receive no social security from working at the city. The pension and DROP are our retirement. Finding reasonable employment income at my age seems unlikely,” he said, noting that he is 67 years old, has a heart condition and suffers from neuropathy.

“We have obeyed every rule and direction we were given by the city of Dallas and the pension fund regarding our retirement,” David said. “We have done nothing to warrant this.”

#PoundOfFlesh #savethepension #backtheblue


Friday, February 17, 2017

I Know What Stress Is Now

Editor's note: Here is another first responder that Mayor Rawlings and the city of Dallas want you to believe is greedy, self-serving and overpaid.

Two years into his career as a Dallas police officer, Mike woke up in the back of an ambulance fighting paramedics after having a nocturnal seizure.

The emergency room doctor asked him if he was under a lot of stress.

Not really, Mike told the doctor who responded, “Your wife told me you just got back from out of state burying one of your partners who shot himself. She said you are working all of your extra job shifts and working on covering his also. She told me she’s pregnant with your third child and she needs some tests due to an abnormal sonogram.”

Then there was that call he had answered earlier in that evening when he drove up to a house engulfed in flames and desperately struggled to break through the burglar bars.

“Smoke was pouring from the house and I choked on it trying to gain entry because I had heard someone scream at one point from the inside of the burning house,” he said. “When I was throwing up in the yard after the firemen arrived, I didn’t know if it was from the smoke I had inhaled, the fact that they were pulling a dead family from the home or a combination of both.”

The emergency room doctor asked Mike if he even knew what stress was.

“I thought what a stupid question.,” Mike said. “I knew stress. I saw people in stress every day. People call 911 when they’re in stress.  We show up. We fix stress.”

Because of his seizures, Mike was put on limited duty in dispatch for a year a half. That assignment meant no extra jobs to help pay the bills. 

“I didn't always feel that I was treated fairly by the city,” he said, “but I believed everyone has doubts about their employer at some point in that amount of time.    I encouraged my three sons to do public service and two are firemen.  I always told them you won't get rich, but you will help people and you get a pension when you retire.”    

Within a year of his retirement, the city of Dallas and Mayor Mike Rawlings is trying to change the laws so that they can confiscate his promised pension.

“I now worry that I won't get what I was promised,” he said. “I know my job possibilities will be limited by my age and the epilepsy.    I worry more for my sons if we live in a society where they might work their whole life, plan and save, then retire, and after all that, get the deal changed.”

“I hope I didn't mislead them,” Mike said.  “One thing though: I do know what stress is now.”

#PoundOfFlesh #savethepension #backtheblue #DPFP

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Who's Got Their Six Now?

Editor's note: Meet Brent, another first responder that Mayor Rawlings and the city of Dallas want you to believe is greedy, self-serving and overpaid.

In March of 1972, Brent, his father and an assistant city attorney all went down to the Dallas County Court House to witness the signing of documents to allow the 20-year-old boy from Oklahoma to join the Dallas Police Academy.

“I still could not buy bullets or drink legally, but I could carry a gun and arrest bad guys,” he recalled. “As a young boy, I always wanted to a policeman. I just never grew out of it.”

He would have to wait until he was 21 before he was allowed to patrol on his own after two young officers, Officer Carl Cooke, 20, and Officer Allen Perry Camp, 21, were killed in the line of duty in separate incidents that year.

“I always felt this was so symbolic of how some very young men were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their community and the citizens of Dallas,” he said.

“During my career, I was spit on, assaulted, had guns pointed at me and was shot at,” Brent said. “Several friends were killed in the line of duty. Several friends were severely injured. I have always felt it was only by the grace of God, that I survived.”

He retired in 2008 after 36 years of service. The actions, threats and lawsuits by Mayor Mike Rawlings and the actions by the Taxpayers For A Fair Pension have completely demoralized him, Brent said.

“My job--my life--was being a Dallas police officer for 36 years, working deep nights, evenings, crazy hours, the weekends, holidays, the 1984 Republican National Convention,” he said. "I depend on the pension from the Dallas Police Department to provide for my wife of 43 years and me.”

“I felt I had the backs of the citizens of Dallas for 36 years," Brent said. "We need the city and the citizens to have our backs now.”

#PoundOfFlesh #savethepension #backtheblue

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

We Never Imagined This

Editor's note: Meet Dan who served the citizens of Dallas for 32 years. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, the city of Dallas and the bogus group called Taxpayers For A Fair Pension want you to believe he is greedy, self-serving and overpaid. The truth is entirely different.

“Of all the perils that we withstood, we never imagined that this would be one of them."

From an early age, all Dan wanted to be was a police officer. In fact, his mom still has the letter he wrote for a school assignment about his dream job: to be the police chief of the small town where he grew up.

Dan was not quite 21 years old when he hired on the Dallas Police Department in 1979. After serving for a time in patrol as a rookie, he and a female officer were tapped to be undercover officers in a Dallas high school.  It was the first operation in Dallas of its kind and tensions were high. The two young officers did an outstanding job, making quite a few arrests along the way.

Not long after that assignment, Dan became a member of the undercover world again, this time on the streets in narcotics.

“This is a position that isolates you from your friends and family,” said his wife Diane. “You don’t look like yourself and cannot act like yourself.  If you aren’t careful, it can eat away at you. He could not always go home, but instead stayed in an undercover apartment.”

“There is no normal home life,” his wife said. “When you do see your family, they don’t know who you are anymore. The chances of a deal going bad and someone getting hurt are really high. It is an assignment that takes a toll. “

Dan’s career continued and he made patrol sergeant.
“He loved working in patrol. It was his first love,” she said. “He wanted to make sure that citizens weren’t afraid. He wanted to chase bad guys.”

In his 32 year career, Dan  established the K9 bomb dog unit at Love Field.  A unit that, while he was its supervisor, never failed a TSA evaluation. He mentored many young officers along the way. He also created FIT (field intelligence teams) that supported the patrol units during major events.

He retired in June of 2011. 

“I made a decent living, so we deferred most of his salary to the DROP account, thinking we would need that money more in our later years,” Diane said. “About a year after he retired, I was diagnosed with cancer. Thank God he was retired, because he did everything and I do mean everything.  Every appointment, every surgery, every day, he was there for me.  Just like he was there for his troops and for the citizens of Dallas.”

And now, after all that,  she said, “We are being told that all the money we had saved --which is absolutely not millions --will be taken. That the pension that he thought he has secured for his family may not be there after all.”

Dan like his fellow officers isn’t eligible for Social Security.

And like many of his fellow officers,  Dan “is too beat up from the rigors of the job to even contemplate getting a new one now,” his wife said. “And why should he need to? He gave it all to the City of Dallas. It’s time for the city to stand up, man up, and stand by their police and firefighters.”

Citizens need to learn the true facts and not be misled by the propaganda being disseminated  by the Taxpayers For A Fair Pension and those who helped create this disaster, she said.

Dan and Diane's situation remains tenuous.

“Like many of our colleagues, the plan at the end of the year was to take what we needed to pay property and income tax from the pension in a lump sum withdrawal--except that option wasn’t available to us this year,” Diane said. “So, we scrambled and are scrambling to make payments, cover bills, make ends meet.”

If Diane were not still working, she said, they may have lost their home. Her plans to retire in the next five years have been put on hold.

"Frighteningly, that prospect is not off the table," she said. "What an insulting way to treat those who put their very lives on the line every day for decades.”

#PoundOfFlesh, #savethepension, #backtheblue