My prom­ise to po­lice and fire­fight­ers

I will de­liver a work­able pen­sion so­lu­tion for those who stand to pro­tect Dal­las

The Dallas Morning News - - VIEW POINTS -

Two years ago dur­ing the last leg­isla­tive ses­sion, I au­thored a bill to pro­vide a 25-foot halo of pro­tec­tion around po­lice of­fi­cers so that when they were work­ing to pro­tect our com­mu­nity they would not be as­saulted or ha­rassed by free­lance video jour­nal­ists. The bill did not pro­hibit film­ing, nor did it limit in any way the use of footage ac­quired by such ac­tivists.

It did, how­ever, in­cite thou­sands of peo­ple from around the coun­try to pro­claim me an en­emy of free speech. Dur­ing that time, my fam­ily and I re­ceived more than 100 death threats. Most threats were the be­nign mus­ings of an­gry blog­gers. Some, how­ever, were quite spe­cific, such as the threat to nail my new­born to a tree.

Dur­ing those mo­ments, as my wife and I prayed for peace and safety, a mem­ber of the Dal­las Po­lice Depart­ment was parked in front of my house en­sur­ing that no harm would come to me or my fam­ily. For sev­eral weeks, the Dal­las po­lice stood vigil over my house so that my wife and my lit­tle ones might live their lives, never know­ing that they were un­der con­stant threat.

My story is unique. But all res­i­dents of Dal­las rest com­fort­ably in their beds tonight be­cause of the sac­ri­fices of men and women in blue. You will never know their names. You will never have the op­por­tu­nity to thank them for all they do for our fam­i­lies and our com­mu­nity.

Dal­las made a prom­ise to th­ese men and women. We asked them to sac­ri­fice ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing some­times their lives, so that we might sleep peace­fully at night. So that we, by merely press­ing three dig­its on our tele­phones at any hour of the day or night, might sum­mon them to pro­tect our prop­erty from fire or en­sure that our moth­ers and fa­thers can get to the hospi­tal be­fore their bod­ies ex­pire.

I’m go­ing to keep my prom­ise to our first re­spon­ders. And no ac­coun­tant, lawyer, fancy busi­ness­man or mayor is go­ing to keep me from do­ing so.

Three months ago I asked the city and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Dal­las Po­lice and Fire Pen­sion Sys­tem to come to­gether to craft a work­able so­lu­tion to the rapidly de­plet­ing fund. I noted that if it ended up within the purview of the Texas Leg­is­la­ture, where I am a mem­ber, no party would be happy with the out­come.

Rep. Dan Flynn, chair­man of the Pen­sions Com­mit­tee of the Texas Leg­is­la­ture, never re­ceived a vi­able plan.

Flynn and others, in­clud­ing me, have worked for more than two years to come up with a cred­i­ble and ac­tu­ar­i­ally sound so­lu­tion. Af­ter thou­sands of hours of ne­go­ti­a­tion, count­less drafts of pro­pos­als sent to the city and the pen­sion fund, and long white­board ses­sions with ac­coun­tants from all sides, Flynn and the Dal­las del­e­ga­tion to the Texas Leg­is­la­ture have found a plan that works. The plan we have crafted:

Keeps Dal­las’ prom­ise to our first re­spon­ders. Is ac­tu­ar­i­ally sound. Pro­tects the fund for more than 30 years. Is not a tax­payer bailout. En­sures that man­age­ment of the plan will be con­ducted by sea­soned third-party in­vest­ment pro­fes­sion­als.

Has been de­vel­oped with the best and bright­est ac­coun­tants and fi­nan­cial spe­cial­ists in the coun­try.

No doubt, there will be naysay­ers who claim this plan is a bad deal for Dal­las tax­pay­ers or is a tax­payer bailout.

To the naysay­ers I say this: I was born and raised in Dal­las; I rep­re­sent Dal­las in the Texas Leg­is­la­ture; I watched ev­ery one of my ba­bies be­ing born in Dal­las; and I will most cer­tainly die a res­i­dent of our city.

I keep my prom­ises to those who sac­ri­fice ev­ery­thing for my fam­ily, and you can be as­sured that this plan is the best, most re­spon­si­ble pro­posal sub­mit­ted.

Fel­low Dal­l­a­sites, sleep in com­fort tonight know­ing you are safe and you have done the right by our first re­spon­ders.

Ja­son Vil­lalba is a Repub­li­can mem­ber of the Texas House rep­re­sent­ing Dal­las County. Email: ja­son.vil­lalba@house.texas.gov

COM­ING MON­DAY: Dal­las Cit­i­zens Coun­cil Chair­man Jere Thomp­son on why the pen­sion bill is a dis­as­ter. Can't wait? Read it online at dal­las­news.com/ opin­ion.

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