No Cops, No City

The Dallas Police and Fire Pension Plan looms over this election. It is the basis of the major differences between me and my opponent, and one of the top five reasons why I entered this race. That’s why I refer to this story by Jim Schutze in The Dallas Observer.

Aside: have you noticed how there are now only two editorial viewpoints in town? That would be The Dallas Morning News and The Dallas Observer. The Dallas Morning News editorial board and most reporting is now crafted at city leadership’s whim. Being a journalist myself who graduated from Joseph Pulitzer’s name-sake school, I refused to believe this, until my own editorial forum two weeks ago. Whoever wrote the DMN endorsement of my opponent was not even in the room. The editors debated him more than I did, disagreeing with him on the cost, inefficiency and subsidization of DART, his non-proven theory to repair streets without a bond program, and several other items. But because he now wants to eliminate the Dallas Police and Fire pension entirely, and because he is for a grand downtown Trinity park (which we cannot afford) and the Trinity Tollway, he is their man.

I never really believed editorial news in this country was biased. Now I am convinced of it.

Fortunately, many people have called to tell me the News endorsed HIM means victory for me.

Back to the pension plan. Take a gander at what Schutze writes in this piece, from a publication not shrouded in the dictates of city leadership. He makes complete sense.

People in my district, District 11, are mad. They don’t want to bail out the police. And I cannot blame them. They say, there is no bail out for me if I screw up. And that is the truth. So why bail out the police and fire folks? Why did we bail out General Motors?

If one person fails — royally screws up their portfolio — it hurts that person and maybe a few on the periphery. But we are talking a city and 10,000 people. We are talking a reputation, a message to the world: Dallas cannot manage their finances. That is a message that will resonate to hurt us far more than a bail-out will cost. It will hurt our property values. It will hurt our security. It will hurt our city for years to come.

I want to be the adult in the room who says, let’s roll up our sleeves and clean up this mess using existing resources. The DART money is but one option on the table.

Ran into a friend last night at Central Market. No bail out, he says. They made their bed, let them lie in it. All you need to do is hire some 19 year olds and put them in suits, he told me and voila, police force. For a minute, I was like, yes.

But then I recalled that former Chief Brown, who told people that DPD was hiring shortly after the July 7 massacre in downtown Dallas, got something like 500 applicants that sifted down to maybe 25 actual candidates. You’re going to ask someone to be a law enforcement officer plus a shrink plus a father figure (or mother) plus a social worker plus know how to handle a firearm 24/7 and do this for $50,000 a year? I recall how hard it was to get really great employees when I ran my husband’s medical practice: you’d interview ten for one or two great candidates.

Anyone who says we need bodies in a police suit ought to go interview “bodies” for a few days and see what’s out there. I think the folks saying this are not mean, they are practical. They are successful men and women who work with the bottom line, they are fiscally responsible.

But someone else has been doing their hiring for them.

We spend $150,000 (or more) to train police. Then they leave us and go to work for more money somewhere else. The DROP program was meant to retain officers. Well here’s a bottom line solution: why don’t we borrow a technique from the private sector and require officers to stay on for a certain length of time if they get that training? If they want to leave early, they have to pay a portion back.

We need to fix the pension with current resources, a tax increase not being an option. We need to implement best business practices into the system, and then we need to move forward and never repeat these mistakes again.

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