My opponent is now the only person on the Dallas City Council who has said out loud that we should ditch the current Dallas Police and Fire Pension plan. He said so at last week’s Dallas Morning News editorial forum, which I will comment on later.
Just wipe our hands of it.
This isn’t what he said in Austin, of course, when he was testifying to the pension committee. No, then he told Representative Dan Flynn, who has authored House Bill 3158, that he was committed to finding a solution.
I spoke with Dan Flynn, or “Dan from Van”, yesterday. He told me the bill he filed, a remake of our current pension plan, is on it’s way to the House for a vote with, he says, the full support of the Dallas delegation. But now our Mayor and my opponent are busy trying to stop the bill.
Lee Kleinman, says Dan, is completely out of touch with reality.
“The first time I met him, he asked me for $1.8 billion to bail out the pension,” says Flynn. Kleinman did not recall that request, of course, when he was testifying in Austin last week.
Does Lee Kleinman not understand, said Flynn, that there are 93 pensions in the state of Texas? Bail out one in Dallas, you’ll end up bailing all of them.
House Bill 3158 is now headed to the floor. Flynn says the behind-the-scene dealings (maybe not so behind the scenes now) now to stop or change the bill are ongoing. If the City of Dallas cannot stop it, they will refuse to pay for it once it becomes law, creating more lawsuits and mess.
The Dallas delegation in Austin says they will support it, and Flynn says his bill revamps a twenty-year, ongoing problem with the pension that should have been taken care of years ago by previous leadership.
If the bill doesn’t get passed, then the pension will die. And 10,000 retirees will lose their benefits. Actuaries cannot agree but likely it’s three to seven years before the funds just flat run dry.
So many voters say to me, but I don’t think we should bail them out. They screwed up.
My response is, yep, they did, but we will bail this out one way or the other.
“It’s a bail out because they didn’t do what they should have done,” says Flynn, referring to past mayors and city councils. “There was no oversight, so members enhanced themselves. It was the fiduciary responsibility of the people on that board to perform oversight for the citizens of Dallas.”
As I told Flynn, some city council members say they tried to voice concerns.
“They were not loud enough,” he said. “If you are afraid to voice your concerns and be loud enough about them, then you shouldn’t be a leader.”
In the case of my opponent, he didn’t voice concerns. He quit. In April, 2016, after 3 years on the Pension Board, after training paid for by the board, he just quit.
Is that a leader?
And let’s take the scenario of not “bailing out” the pension, as many don’t want to do. As I don’t want to do really, either. I’d rather kick the pants of those who created the DROP program so sloppily that the inmates ran the asylum. Kick those who found the great real estate investments, took the junkets, and charged ridiculous management fees. Kick ’em all.
So what happens if we let the Dallas Police and Fire Pension fund die? About 10,000 current and former employees of the City of Dallas lose their pensions, collecting only from the federal government’s Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp.
What happens to Dallas? Do we save money? Are we a better city?
Lawsuits: the police will likely sue the city for failure to meet obligations — the pension is a contractual part of their compensation, recall. We will lose police and first responders. We will find it difficult to hire police and first responders. Criminals will know this and visit us more often.
With a shortage of police staff, they will be told not to moonlight on the private Neighborhood Patrols. Those of us who enjoy our private police patrols will either pay for for less experienced police or no longer have them.
Is this the quality of life we want in Dallas? Or is it just another way to pass the cost back onto the highest paying taxpayers in Districts 11, 12 and 13?