We Just Ask For Fairness And Some Consideration On Fire And Police Pension Reform

Sunday, February 9, 2014

I have the honor of being a firefighter for the city of Chattanooga.  I have served the city for 27 years.  The men and women who serve to protect this city are some of the bravest, hardest-working individuals I have ever had the privilege to know.  Thank you each and all. 

     As all are aware, the Fire and Police in this city are in the middle of pension reform negotiations.  For better or worse our pension is going to change.  The way this seems to be coming about is through the Mayors' Task Force and our own Pension Board.  It was to be an open and upfront  process to achieve this.  For the most part it was.  Some closed-door sessions occurred that may not have been the best format.  Some feel there may have been some shady dealings.  Some think people were" bought off".  I don't think anyone was.  Turning on our own will solve nothing. Unfounded personnel attacks solve nothing.  Misinformation is rampant on both sides.  Transparency will end a lot of it. This process is ongoing.  Nothing has been set in stone.  Please keep that in mind.

      What I do believe is everyone has worked hard using their own judgment in what is fair to both the city and the departments.  We will never all agree on what is "fair".  The bottom line is we will work longer for less.  What we get at retirement will change.  The Cost Of Living (COLA) will change.  If this will fix the pension for all retirees, active and future employees, then fix it.  Do it right once and be done with it.  But do not make our rally cry be "It could have been worse."  Look at the problems we face longer and consider other ways.  Other ideas.

     We will have given, and now maybe the city can give some back.  Let our retirees use the Wellness Clinic and Pharmacy.  The city used their best years, now take care of them in the later ones.   Our health care was cut off at age 65.  At least let them use this facility for life.  Fix the Fire Department's crippling Injured on duty policy where, when we are hurt saving life or property, our pay is cut.  In this job it is not "if" but "when" and how bad.  Someone in the ICU needs full pay for themselves and their family.  If a few abuse this, then deal harshly with the few and not the masses. How about a cohesive pay plan?  How about market basing the COLA?  The money the city recoups from our pension reforms will be spent.  Spend some small part to help us.

     To the Mayor and City Council, we are not your enemy, nor you ours.  We all want a better city for everyone. We all want trust and respect.  I once said, "Lead us, lead us well and we will follow. Lead us all to a better tomorrow. Together we can move mountains.  My voice is a small one that carries only a small sound.   But with enough small voices the sound is thunderous.  And this great roar can lift up angels...or raise hell.  Me ,myself,  I look toward heaven.  I hope you do too.

Richard Meier



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