Monday, March 27, 2017

Sound The Alarm

After my guest column ran in the Dallas Morning News, I was surprised when I checked my inbox and found several emails from readers. Some were supportive, some were informative and some were, well, mean.

I understand opinions.

I understand dissention.

I understand a free exchange of ideas.

I do not understand mean.

Just like I don’t understand how we got to the point where the top priority for city leaders is not public safety but rather improving Dallas’ sliding negative credit and pushing the mayor’s transformational projects.

I do not understand why the city of Dallas refuses to pursue any revenue stream that will shore up the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund. Raise taxes? No. Allocate DART funds? No. Secure Pension Bonds? No.  Divert money from the mayor’s multi-million dollar transformational projects? No.

These naysayers and pension mess has started to take a toll on public safety.

Earlier this month, the fire department administered an entrance exam for prospective firefighters and paramedics.  Usually more than 1,000 candidates show up for testing. This time only 398 people took the test.

According to the city and news reports, 201 police officers have left since October 1, and that number is expected to double before the fiscal year is out. That will be the most officers to leave in decades, and the first time in nine years that the police force has dropped below 3,100 officers. In 2011, there were 3,690.

Meanwhile, the number of citizens and calls for help continue to grow. Officers have reported holding low priority calls for seven hours because the police department is short staffed, and the understaffed emergency call center with its recent technology and staffing snafus has placed hundreds of emergency callers on hold.

I do not understand why any of this is OK.

First responders are leaving and the no one is coming because of this mess. Why would you work for a city that doesn't pay a fair wage, breaks all their promises, and threatens your retirement? 

This is a 5-alarm public safety crisis.

What good are all the parks, the businesses, the bridges, or the neighborhoods if you do not have your first responders there to ensure your safety so you can walk through your parks, drive across those bridges and live in your neighborhoods? 

Why would the city of Dallas continue down this path leaving us to wonder just how many police and firefighters will be left to answer the call? 

I will never understand why we even have to ask that question.

#backthepension #PoundOfFlesh #savethepension

Monday, March 20, 2017

Thank Your First Responders By Backing The Pension

In her 33 years as a Dallas police officer, Crista served in many positions--on patrol, in Internal Affairs and Narcotics. She worked undercover as a high school student to help get drugs out of Dallas schools.

When her husband retired, they selected his pension and survivors benefits based upon her pension benefits and DROP account. All that is threatened now as Mayor Mike Rawlings and the city of Dallas attempt to seize DROP money and take back money already earned by retirees by garnishing their pension checks.

All that is further threatened by State Representative Dan Flynn who has sponsored HB 3151 that attempts to save the pension fund solely on the backs of its first responders by including the clawback provision, increasing the retirement age, eliminating cost of living adjustments and politicizing the make up of the pension board to one where the city gains control by allowing the mayor to appoint three additional members.

"The City of Dallas has benefited from our years of dedicated service and the DROP program," Crista said. "They immediately were able to keep senior officers, they were able to pay officers a 20 year pension versus a 30 year pension benefit. Yet, they are now threatening to abandon our pension. The City of Dallas and Mayor Mike Rawlings are bullies. They will use any and all forms of coercion to accomplish their goal of destroying the Dallas Police and Firefighters Pension Fund."

"My pension, DROP, and the annual adjustment is not a 'pie in the sky Ponzi scheme' crafted by 'greedy officers' intent on defrauding the citizens of Dallas, as Mayor Mike Rawlings has stated," she said. 

As a "greedy retiree," Crista volunteers more than 400 hours each year as a Reserve Police Officer, saving the City over $20,000 annually in wages and benefits for an on duty officer. She also assisted in the formation of the nonprofit Dallas Police Youth Foundation and has raised money for the operating expenses for the Dallas Police Department Youth Outreach Unit. 

"Many retirees perform similar activities" she said. "We don't serve the community because we are greedy. We serve in this manner because we have servant hearts and have earned our pension which we use to continue to give back to our community. Now is the time to thank your police officers and fire fighters by saving their pension."

#backthepension, #savethepension, #PoundOfFlesh

Friday, March 17, 2017

Elected Officials Created Problems, Not Solutions

Words and actions by Dallas elected officials in late 2016 helped create a $500 million run on the Dallas Police & Fire Pension System.

#BackThePension, #PoundOfFlesh, #SaveThePension

Thursday, March 16, 2017

It's A Sense of Sheer Abandonment

In the weeks following the tragic officer shootings on July 7, 2016, the Dallas community offered strong support for its first responders. But the tone from City Hall changed quickly. Dallas first responders contrast the support they received from Dallas citizens compared to the city’s administration.

#BackThePension, #PoundOfFlesh, #SaveThePension

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Now Where Are Those Chicken Feathers?

This really is a must read by Dallas Observer Columnist Jim Schutze. It shows what a travesty this pension bill crafted by State Representative Flynn really is by keeping in the clawback and the subterfuge created by Mayor Rawlings and his lobbying minions.

When calling out the city for its spending in other areas, Schutze writes: "How do you think that election would have gone? I would predict a vote of zero percent for the starchitect, 100 percent for the cops and firefighters plus dipping the mayor and City Council in tar, covering them with chicken feathers, placing them on a rail and carrying them out of town with much whiskey drinking."

Please share with your friends. Meanwhile, I'm going to go and find some chicken feathers…

#PoundOfFlesh #savethepension #backthepension

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Back The Pension--The Call To Serve Is Personal

Don't be fooled… The current bill circulating from the Texas legislature hurts your first responders and politicizes the pension board. If we abandon our first responders, who have given so much, who will answer the call?

The call to serve is very personal. Some Dallas first responders talk about why they serve and their concerns about their jobs and financial future.

#PoundOfFlesh #Savethepension #Backthepension 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Back The Pension

Don't be fooled by the latest news reports that claim the pension issue has been resolved. This new bill proposed in Austin still attempts to resolve the pension issue on the backs of its first responders with the city of Dallas doing nothing. It still includes the clawback of money already earned and distributed and allows the Mayor to basically take control of the pension board. A very frightening thought indeed…

#PoundOfFlesh #savethepension #backthepension

Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Promise Made

In the almost 40 years Don served as a firefighter, working an off-duty job wasn't an option.

It was the only way "to raise my kids, send them to college, put food on the table, and not just live a measly existence" that the city thought its public servants deserved, Don said.

Don was fortunate to survive years of not receiving raises from the city because of the income he received from off-duty jobs.

"When I was a Paramedic, I would work as many extra ambulance shifts, and later, hire-backs as possible, in order to supplement my income. Even though my wife worked, there were some pretty difficult years we faced," he said. "I truly believe it was the grace of God that guided us through them. I still believe this."

Don always plodded on because there was "always the promise that someday, in retirement, it would be different."


Promises that Mayor Mike Rawlings, the city of Dallas and the Taxpayers For A Fair Pension are attempting to break. 

Promises Don counted on when he decided to retire in 2012.

"I sustained an on-duty back injury early in my career from which I still suffer today," he said. "For over 30 years, I seldom had a day in which I didn’t have pain. In fact, it was what caused me to retire. I couldn’t feel my legs and was afraid if someone needed immediate help on the fire-ground, I wouldn’t be able to help them."

"I found out early in my career in 1978-1979 that the City was not our friend and never skipped a chance to tell the rookies at our station about it," Don said referring to a decades old pay lawsuit that the city hasn't settled and have dragged on for 22 years.

“It is the longest case pending in Texas right now,” Ted Lyon, a former Texas state senate and house member and police officer who's now a plaintiffs attorney representing thousands of the city’s first responders against their employer, told WFAA news.

“The city has filed so many (pretrial) appeals that it is really ridiculous,” Lyon said.

"Sadly, those men and women who probably didn’t believe me then, are finding out first-hand what I was talking about because many naively assumed the city was going to take care of them like promised," he said.


"I don’t know where this issue will land, but when the smoke clears," Don said, "the City of Dallas will have a black mark on it that will take decades to erase. The present government officials think public servants are below them and do not try to hide it now."

#PoundOfFlesh #savethepension