Irresponsible Pension Bill Writers and a Responsible Police Chief

As the NBA playoffs continue to see who will be the next basketball champion, the only full court press you should be concerned about is the one by those trying to take away your earned pension.

Many of you have probably heard the barrage of radio advertisements asking listeners to call their senator or representative to support Rep. Jim Murphy and Sen. Paul Bettencourt as they try to bring local control to your earned pension.  The advertisement attacks mayoral candidate and state Rep. Sylvester Turner and sounds very similar to statements in mayoral candidate Steven Costello’s website.

Interestingly enough, Mark Clark and I recently visited Murphy’s office and observed Costello leaving.  Costello has visited the Capitol several times this session opposing our pensions.

Local control in Murphy’s bill would allow the term-limited Houston City Council to determine your benefits instead of the diverse pension board, which consists of active Houston police officers, retired HPD officers and Houston citizens.

Murphy’s idea of local control would be a disaster for all active and retired officers.

While Murphy’s bill recklessly allows Council to determine benefits, Costello went even further when he was screened by the HPOU PAC.  Costello wants the mayor alone as the “City CEO” to determine your benefits.  He said he fully expects the HPOU and HPOPS to have input in any changes, but fails to see the danger in allowing someone who has a six-year window to set retirement benefits.

Mark Clark and I met with Rep. Murphy before the start of the session and he assured us both that he fully understood the earned benefits police receive and also understood that the City of Houston does not have to pay Social Security for police.  He said he had no intentions of taking any earned benefit away.

That’s not what he said at his news conference in Austin a few weeks back when he started the full court press against our pensions.

He completely failed to even mention that police and fire do not pay Social Security and led those in attendance to believe that Houston pensions are constitutionally protected, which they are not!

He continued this misrepresentation of all the facts when he laid out his bill to the pensions committee later that day.

Many lined up to speak against the Murphy bill, including representatives from the San Antonio pension system, Houston Fire pension system, HPOPS and myself.

The persons opposing the bill greatly outnumbered the few that Murphy and Bettencourt were able to produce to support their stripping of benefits.  The pension committee chairman took no action on the bill and it continues to be pending.

Our united front will continue to fight Murphy’s bill and we fully expect reasonable minds to prevail.

Bettencourt’s bill would put all future employees under a 401K-type plan instead of a defined benefit pension.  His bill has yet to receive a hearing.  The same unified force will oppose his bill as well.

Let these two lawmakers hear from you about their pension attacks.  Jim Murphy’s office number is 512 463 0514 and Paul Bettencourt’s is 512 463 0107.

Be professional, but let them know that you rely on this earned benefit to protect your family and that many of you will not receive Social Security or will receive a drastically discounted amount.

While we are confident we will be able to fight off this latest attack, rest assured the attacks will continue even after this session ends. Billionaires have given seemingly limitless funds to their lobbyists to fight public sector pensions.

If you are not a PAC contributor, we urge you to stop by the HPOU and sign up for PAC.  Nearly every cadet signs up for a $5 per monthly paycheck deduction to fund PAC and hope those veteran officers who do not contribute will sign up as well.

 Responsive Police Chief

Over several months and many meetings, lieutenants and sergeants were asked for input to improve the Houston Police Department.  A list of over 300 suggestions was the result of those meetings.

Last month Chief McClelland scheduled an all-day command staff meeting and invited the HPOU.  During that meeting the chief went over each suggestion and obtained input.  It was very clear to us that this chief is doing everything possible to listen to those closest to the problem to make the HPD an even better department than it already is.

During the chief’s April media briefing, the issue came up regarding staffing.  The chief made it clear that Houston continues to have a staffing deficit and that retirements are outpacing police hirings.

This means our department will continue to decrease and staffing will continue to suffer unless funding allows for more cadet classes.   At that same briefing the chief warned those calling for changes to our pension system that their rhetoric could easily send even more officers running to retire.

Finally, at the April 28Crime Strategy Meeting, the chief addressed the issue in Baltimore.  He made it clear to all the captains that we would allow persons to exercise their 1st amendment rights and peacefully protest, but that HPD would not allow damage or destruction of property.

He stressed that swift action must be taken against anyone who willfully destroys or damages property in our great city or intentionally places our officers or citizens in danger.

Kudos to the chief for being responsive to suggestions made for improvement, for keeping the staffing issue on the front burner, for sending a clear message to those wanting to be our next mayor to be responsible with their comments, and for showing true leadership in keeping our officers and our communities safe.

Police Week Ceremony

On Friday, May 8, the ceremony honoring the 112 fallen HPD officers at the police memorial will begin at 7 p.m. The HPOU will be hosting a reception before the ceremony around 5:30 p.m. We will have food and drinks in the hall for all who attend.

We will then walk in a procession from the HPOU down Memorial Drive to the ceremony.  Transportation will be available for those who choose not to walk.  The ceremony lasts around an hour.

Hope to see many of you there as it is very comforting to the families of the fallen.  If you have never attended this, I encourage you and your family to come.