Friday, August 17, 2018

Remembering Dicky Hickman

Words fail me. 

I just don’t know what words to use to describe how important Dicky Hickman was not just to his family and friends, but to our entire first responder family—police and firefighters alike.

As so many of us grieved at his passing  on Thursday, August 16, I wondered if the years faded the memories of what this great man did for all first responders and their families.

Let’s go back to 1978 when the city of Dallas refused to grant acceptable pay raises to its first responders and failed to work toward fair pay for safety (sound familiar?). 

Police and firefighters, under the direction of police & fire association presidents Bobby Joe Dale (police) and Don Greene (fire) came together and launched a joint committee with Dicky at the helm to push for a pay referendum that would give first responders $186 more a pay check.

As chair, Dicky was tasked with collecting 34,000 signatures in 60 days to force a referendum for a 15 percent pay hike. Police and firefighters garnered 65,200 signatures and the pay referendum was put on the ballot for January 20, 1979. 

Of course, the city did what the city does best:  It formed a “citizens” committee to come out against the pay referendum and misdirect voters. They threw around some fuzzy statistics that Dicky countered, telling The Dallas Morning News that all the city could do “is try and take figures and statistics and manipulate them to their use and confuse the people.”

The city's anti-pay committee claimed if citizens approved the referendum, they would be promoting the type of “fiscal irresponsibility” that plunged New York on the brink of disaster and caused Cleveland to default in December of 1978.  (Fast forward to today.  Aren't those comments eerily reminiscent of those dire forecasts by current Mayor Rawlings regarding the pension crisis about Dallas “walking into the fan blades of what might look like bankruptcy.” It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now.)

At every twist and turn and in every newspaper article, Dicky was the voice and the face for first responders and the pay referendum fight.  With a record voter turnout (the city predicted a low voter turnout), citizens listened to his message and overwhelmingly approved the 15 percent pay raise by 56.6 percent in January of 1979.  

Well, most citizens listened.  The referendum failed only in the affluent precincts. At the time, Dicky said, the business community “turned their backs” on public safety officers.  

“There will still be a scar left from the fact that the business community in Dallas went against us,” he told The Dallas Morning News. “They patted us on the back and told us what a good job we were doing. Then they turned their back on us.”

It would be a back that would continue to be turned against first responders throughout the years, throughout the decades old pay referendum lawsuits and on into our current pension battle.

In 1980, in a landslide vote, Dicky was elected as president of the Dallas Police Association where he served as its leader from 1980 to 1986.
During that time, police and firefighters joined forces again after then-City Manager Charles Anderson told first responders, “You need to do what you have to do” when they sought back pay and vacation time owed. 

And yes, Dicky and first responders did what we had to do and prevailed in the 1269 (riding in a higher class) lawsuit forcing the city to compensate first responders when they performed supervisory duties on a temporary basis and giving the additional five vacation days owed. 

As president, Dicky relentlessly championed Dallas police officers, always fighting for better benefits and working conditions as well as improving the safety of the citizens of Dallas. 

Under his leadership, officers won the right to have legal counsel before they were questioned in officer-involved shootings.  He also filed suit and won the right for all city employees to run for public office outside the city of Dallas.  He also challenged and won the right for city employees to participate in political campaigns.

He successfully fought against attempts to require first responders to live within the city of Dallas, and he held the line against civilian review boards.

And while he was just one man among many, he was the one man who stood tall against the city, making our blue line a little stronger and that much better. And that is how Dicky Hickman should always be remembered.

#Iwon'tforgetyou #backtheblue #savethepension #dickyhickman

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Twas the Month of Christmas And All Was Not Right

During the holidays, it’s easy to forget. 

…Especially when the politicians and their cronies are busy patting each other on the back for “solving” the pension crisis, or when the news media paints Mayor Mike as savior of the troubled pension fund even nominating him for Texan of the Year.

It made many of us wonder why the people who faithfully served the citizens of Dallas fighting crime, living in peril, and responding to medical emergencies, fire, danger and natural disasters weren’t considered the real Texans of the Year. And, yet, the man who has such a disdain for first responders is. 

Texan of the Year? Try the Grinch instead.

It’s enough to make Frosty melt, the Elves strike and Santa skip Christmas.

Do not be lulled into complacency by their lies that all is well and all is fixed.

We remain at Elcon and Defcon 1, forced now to fight our fight in the courts to regain our confiscated money and reinstate our benefits. The state constitution is clear: the city and pension system are “jointly responsible for ensuring that benefits under this section are not reduced or otherwise impaired.” (Read  Article 16, Section 66, paragraph (f) here.)

I don’t know about you, but stealing our money and stopping our annual adjustment (COLA) surely impairs and reduces our benefits violating the state constitution.

We just ask one thing this holiday season: Don’t forget our fight! Donate to our legal fund at DPROA, PO Box 720446, Dallas, TX 75372.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Inner Circle

Yesterday pretty much sucked the life out of me as the pension board moved forward with the annuitization plan instead of postponing it until the end of the year.

More disconcerting was the fact that the active police trustee and active firefighter trustee--you know the ones whom active first responders entrusted to the board--voted WITH the mayor’s minions. 

So much for holding the line.

So now that little hair cut Mayor Rawlings talked about has morphed into a shaved head.  Our personal monthly loss is at least $1,000.  Like many of you, we chose a substantially reduced pension amount (my husband's is at 63%) when we entered DROP.

The only bright side out of all of this is that according to their “experts” my husband will live until he’s 86.  And yes, I can sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.

I do not know how we can recover from this.

In my speech to the board (which in retrospect was not my most shining or eloquent moment although one of my most passionate and sincerest), I told the pension board:

 “You are asking us to choose between visiting our children and family members who are scattered across these 50 states or paying our taxes.  You are asking us to choose between paying our bills or covering our medical expenses.  You are asking us to choose between selling our homes and providing for our families.”

I also told the board that in Dante’s Inferno, the inner most circle of hell—the ninth circle—was reserved for the most serious sin for Treachery—for the traitors, the people who betrayed trust.

“Make no mistake about it, if you do this thing, you will find yourselves at home among your traitorous brethren there," I told the board. "Be sure to tell Mayor Rawlings hello for us when you see him there."

Sadly, I did not expect Sam Friar and Joe Schutz to be greeters there. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

A Storm Is Coming…The Pension "Fix" Takes Effect

With the havoc, devastation and sorrow left in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, those of us with roofs over our heads, unflooded homes and loved ones by our sides answered the call for volunteers, cash donations, material goods and prayers.

Somehow we feel better when we change our Facebook banners in support of our great state, text our donations to rescue efforts, buy t-shirts to support our Gulf Coast friends or tweet to create awareness of this epic disaster of biblical proportions.

As with every crisis--big or small, epic or minuscule--first responders always answer the call. Always. That's what they do.

For Hurricane Harvey, the state mobilized, the federal government mobilized, the country mobilized. Donations poured in by the millions. Texas will not just survive; we will thrive because that's what Texans do.

But today, this day of September 1 of 2017, about 10,000 of us have momentarily set aside our concerns for our Gulf Coast brothers and sisters.

Today marks our day of despair, disillusionment and betrayal--the epic kind, and there is no FEMA to come and make it right, there are no disaster declarations to be signed or tweets to mobilize the masses.

Today HB 3158 went into effect.

Instead, there are 10,000 retired first responders and their families abandoned in this Dallas Police & Fire Pension "fix." Our promised pensions are gone. Our money frozen and unobtainable. Our financial futures uncertain.

Then there's our active police and fire first responders who lost any pay raise given to them by having to tithe 13.5 percent to the City of Dallas. A bit outrageous, don't you think, when even our good Lord only asks for 10 percent? The city broke all its promises and failed to meet its obligations to its first responders,  but first responders are still forced to shoulder 75 percent of the financial burden in an effort to shore up the pension.  

Your local politicians and state officials would have you believe that the Dallas police and fire pension system is fixed with HB 3158.

It ain't.

They would have you believe that active and retired first responders and their families are OK with this bill.

We're not.

They would have you believe that the city isn't facing a public safety crisis.

It is.

They would have you believe that first responders caused the pension crisis.

We didn't.

They think we are too old, too tired and too weak to fight.

We're not…We're just getting started.

#StayStrong #HoldTheLine #AStormIsComing

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.

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.


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.