Pension compromises lead to sufficing tensions

Originally published  Sept. 17, 2014

Three months after the Memphis City Council revoked city retirees pensions, tensions and emotions still are running high among police and firefighters even after some of those benefits were restored on Sept. 16.

The Council meeting hosted a full-house crowd of public safety workers. The focus of the discussion consisted of the complications of the workers retiring under 65,when government healthcare intervenes and the accommodations that the current and former employees demanded

Many current and former workers are threatening to leave the city. Matt Taylor, a Memphis police officer, said the reality of the situation and assured the council that, for him and many others, this is not a bluff.

“I left a great stable job to come here eight years ago at Southhaven. If I had stayed there I would be in  a lot more stable state. People came here for the great benefits, now you’re forcing them out of a career. I will be out of here in about eight weeks. This isn’t a joke, this isn’t a scare tactic. Everyone is going to leave,” Taylor said.

Followed by an applause Taylor continued by speaking of ill retirees, and how the cut has and will continue effected them.

“There are people with cancer who can’t work and neither can their spouses because they’re at home taking care of them,” Taylor added. “I can’t live in this city knowing that our politicians are the ones killing them.”

Councilman Joe Brown warned of the council of a possible state audit that could arise from the situation. He warned that an audit could reveal of closet skeletons and a political disaster.

“I tell you what, I heard somebody say the state is going to get involved somewhere. This city doesn’t want a state audit.” Brown paused as the crowd interrupted with applause. “In all fairness to the mayor, George Little, Ryan Collins. We don’t want a state audit. It’s going to reveal things that haven’t been revealed from this council and this city. We need fix this before that happens and I’m going to stand by the prevailing side.”

Councilman Shea Flinn noted the complexity of the situation and stated that this is not the end, but it’s the best the city can do.

“I know this doesn’t go as far as some council members had wanted it, but I strongly encourage some of you to work with these numbers. It’s hard, it takes effort and it’s not as simple as some people think,” Flinn said. “I wish we could’ve done more too, but the finances are what they are. This is not the end, but this is the best we can do right now. If you can do better, God bless you and go for it.”

Claims of complexity, inhumanity, lies and threats echoed of the chambers walls Sept. 16 and although not all of the demands of the city employees were met, citizens, employees and councilmen can agree that this is a start to solving the financial, humane and legal aspects that tribulate the situation.

By the end of the meeting the council agreed to continue providing insurance for the select retirees for the next year and approved a $2 million “safety net” for retirees under 65 in favor 8 to 3 members. In the words of Councilman Flinn and many of the current and former city workers, “This is not the end.”

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