News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Inside A Tumultuous Week For The Dallas Police And Fire Pension System

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings in 2014. He went before the Texas Pension Review Board last month to talk about the pension fund issues.

Issues with the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System came to a head this week. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings sued the pension board – as a private citizen – to try to stop pension members from withdrawing money from the fund early.  

In this week's Friday Conversation, Rawlings calls that a "run on the bank" spurred by fears the fund could become insolvent in a decade without changes. 

Yesterday, the pension board voted to stop those withdrawals, and the city also unveiled a proposed plan to fix the fund.

Rawlings says a lack of transparency from the pension board and a weak system of governance set up by the state contributed to those problems.

Interview Highlights: Mayor Mike Rawlings…

…On why it took so long to address pension issues:

“There was not transparency on the numbers. When I became mayor in 2011, about three months after that I realized that there was smoke coming out of that pension fund. I tried to get information and when I couldn’t get the information, when it took me years to get auditors in there to mark the investments correctly, I realized there was a problem.”

…On Moody’s report on the pension shortfalls:

“If we’re second [in the country] to Chicago in this situation, we’re the worst governance in the nation [on the Police & Fire Pension Fund]. I don’t believe there’s a worse governance in the nation and I’ve been told this by pension experts. There’s no checks and balances, the police and fire get to vote in their own benefits, and the older officers get to vote in big benefits and leave the younger officers slim pickings.”

…On Dallas’ mounting troubles with affordable housing and infrastructure, even during  an economic boom:

“I don’t see this boom ending anytime soon. I think we’ve got a few more years in the run, and we’re growing so fast…Because we’re so successful, we have a lot of people moving in who are poor, and poverty is the big issue we’ve got to deal with. Affordable housing comes out of that, blight comes out of that. That’s why we’ve got to get this pension issue off the table and back to fixing the streets, and doing some things that I think are important to the city.”

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.