Two DON’Ts to remember: Don’t make life-changing decisions based on pension rumors, and Don’t trust the negative fodder on the Chronicle’s editorial page

As noted in the recent HPOU eblast, the Houston Police Officers Union has received many calls regarding the current discussions between HPOPS and the City of Houston.  The two are exploring possible solutions for the overall health and sustainability of the Houston Police Officers’ Pension System.

(THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE CURRENT HPOU CONTRACT WITH THE CITY OF HOUSTON REGARDING CURRENT PAY AND BENEFITS.)

Any agreement supported by the City of Houston and HPOPS must also be approved by a majority of the trustees.  The trustees consist of three active HPD officers, two retired Houston officers, the CFO for the City and a mayoral appointment.

One of the active trustees and the chairperson for HPOPS’ legislative committee is Captain Dwayne Ready.  He has assured me that he and the committee are working hard to prevent HPOPS from becoming subservient to any statewide legislation that would seek deeper cuts in benefits or go beyond what is reasonably necessary to maintain the overall health and sustainability of the plan.  He will be the first to tell you that our situation is unique and unamenable to a one-size-fits-all approach.

HPOPS’ chairperson Terry Bratton advised me that he agrees with this assessment.

HPOPS’ recent advisory assured members that any agreement supported by their team would have no retroactive adjustments to benefits earned and DROP would remain in effect for those eligible. But the cost of the program would be moderated.

We anticipate many bills to be filed in the 2017 Legislature regarding pensions across the State of Texas.  The Texas House Pension chairman recently held a hearing in Houston where he clearly stated that Houston must fix its own pension issues or the Texas Legislature would fix them for us “and you probably won’t like it.”

The HPOU team will look at all bills filed in the next session and only support a bill that protects our earned benefits, assures a defined benefit for all members today and into the future, provides relief for the pension inequities for those hired after 2004, requires the City of Houston to pay all deferred money owed to the system and by law prohibit future deferrals, and that ensures a sustainable retirement system now and into the future.

Further, the HPOU team will not support any legislation or agreement that reduces monthly pensions or takes one penny from any DROP account.  Those are both earned benefits.

The HPOPS’ release made it clear that the City must pay the roughly $750 million in past underfunding for any agreement to be reached.  The nayor stated in his press conference that he would do this through pension obligation bonds.  This payment will shrink the unfunded liability of the system, but not solve the overall sustainability of the fund.  Additional adjustments will be required.

I am confident the HPOPS trustees will follow their fiduciary responsibilities and be fair to all members of the system, as five of the seven trustees are/will receive pensions as well.  HPOPS has been regularly working with actuaries and is aware that the current economic situation means that doing nothing is not an option.

The HPOU is/was not part of the discussion details just as HPOPS was not part of the pay and benefit negotiations of our Meet and Confer contract passed last year.

Please do not make life-changing decisions based on rumors you hear.  Many rumors were floating around when the HPOU was negotiating our contract that turned out to be untrue.  Wait for the finished product and see how it may affect your individual situation.

I am certain that HPOPS will advise all members if any agreement is reached, but do not anticipate bits and pieces of information to be disclosed as this is not how negotiations work.

The HPOU will keep you up to date on any bills that appear to have traction beginning in January when the session starts and bills are debated.  These updates will be sent out via HPOU eblasts.  If you are not receiving our eblasts, please contact the front desk at 832-200-3410 and update your email address.

And always remember: We never give anyone our email lists!

No Comment to Chronicle

You may have read recent articles in the Houston Chronicle stating that “Ray Hunt from the HPOU would not comment” or “Repeated calls to Ray Hunt were not returned.”

After the latest hit piece that ran on the Chronicle’s editorial page a few months back, I advised the reporters at the Chronicle that I would be giving no more comments to them for the remainder of my term, which ends in January 2018. I freely give interviews to any other media outlet.

I refuse to assist the Chronicle in selling papers when their editorial page is unfair to the Houston Police Department and, in my opinion, lacks journalism integrity.

The reporters believe I am being unfair since many of them also disagree with the editorial page editor.  These reporters stress that the editorial page is completely separate from the rest of the paper.  While I respect their opinion, I feel that many readers see the editorial page as the “voice of the paper” and I will not assist them in unfairly blasting the Houston Police Department. I imagine the editor of the editorial page has never been in the front seat of a police car, yet he thinks he’s an expert on police matters.

Therefore, you will not see me commenting anymore to that paper.