Archive for March 1st, 2017

Not in My Book

Carlos Beltran had a spring training dinger yesterday. We all know he has 421 career dingers. How many of his 421 are as a pinch hitter?

So, a fella has been a genuine arsehole for 70 years. One hour long speech does not change this. Not in my book.

Commentary thinks I might be talking about this at least until the end of the legislative session. I mentioned yesterday Mike Morris’ piece in the Chron on the firefighters’ pension board and the H-Town Mayor. So here is the full statement from a few days ago:

February 24, 2017 – Update from Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund (HFRRF) Chairman David Keller

Dear Members:

In recent days, Mayor Sylvester Turner effectively has instructed city staff to end discussions with the Houston Firefighters Relief and Retirement Fund.  After more than 30 formal meetings with the city, scores of emails and phone calls, countless legal and actuarial analyses, and dedicated nights, weekends and holidays working toward a solution, our Mayor, the former state legislator, has decided to use the insider’s game of the legislative process to pursue his own one-sided plan. 

In light of the mayor’s disappointing decision and misleading public comments, I wanted to update you on where things stand and our own plan for protecting our pension system.  

First you should know that we tried in earnest to achieve a reasonable deal for you, our members, with the city. We went into discussions fearing the Mayor would use our well-funded, well-managed system to pay for the other funds’ shortfalls and his other priorities. Our fears now seem well-founded.

As the process wore on we sensed that the other pension systems were getting information, deal language, and negotiations ahead of us. We were not included in the first rounds of discussions. The city returned our drafts slowly or incorrectly using ambiguous language, often with new features and provisions favorable to the city and needing new discussions. On several occasions, when we thought an agreement had been reached, the Mayor’s staff would introduce new items outside the original framework or other “non-negotiable” items. Every maneuver presented more evidence the city was not truly interested in reaching a reasonable deal with us. Looking back, we now believe the city purposefully dragged its feet to use the March 10 deadline for filing bills against us. 

We mention all this background because the Mayor’s recent statements blame us for the current impasse. We view this as a clever attempt to justify to his former legislative colleagues why they should accept his plan despite our serious reservations and objections on points the city insists upon and will not discuss. The Mayor declared, in this week’s council meeting, that the plan he submitted for our fund is similar to one for the Houston Police Officer’s Pension System (HPOPS) — we do not know what his plan is exactly because he has not shared it with us.  Effectively introducing a parity in pensions while there has been no parity in pay for nearly two decades is fundamentally unfair.  If the Mayor’s plan for us is the version we last saw or worse, we will absolutely oppose it. It was punitive and failed to reflect the HFFRF’s strong financial position relative to the other systems.

Since our inception 80 years ago, HFRRF has made sound financial decisions and earned solid returns to ensure your benefits are here now and throughout retirement.  The money which the city owes the firefighters’ pension is less than one-fifth its overall obligation to all Houston pension systems. The Mayor and city staff have ignored the inconvenient fact that firefighters have opted for more in deferred compensation of retirement benefits than current salary.

In coming weeks we will be addressing this situation and will advise you when events in Austin warrant further update. We have many options as to how we will inform legislators about our concerns and the unfolding situation. We refuse to sit idly by while attempts are made to bulldoze us. We will protect our pension system – the best funded among all Texas pension systems with more than $1 billion in assets – so that you do not suffer for the city’s track record of fiscal mismanagement.  We did not dig their holes. We should not be forced to fill them with our retirement funds. While we never expected nor advocated for the status quo and still do not, we are 100% committed to protecting the retirement security of our members. Unfortunately, the city’s priorities do not align with ours. While we have been and remain willing to work with the Mayor to reach amicable language to present to the legislature jointly that would result in adjustments to the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund’s statute, it does not appear that the Mayor shares this willingness. 


David L. Keller, Jr., Chairman, HFRRF Board of Trustees

Name the only H-Town voter who sits on the seven-member House Pensions Committee?

City Council District E (Clear Lake) voter, State Rep. Dennis Paul is a member of the House Pensions Committee.

State Rep. Dan Huberty, who represents Kingwood, also in District E, also serves on the Pension Committee. Rep. Huberty resides in Humble.

Of Carlos Beltran’s 421 dingers, 2 are as a pinch hitter of course.

From yardbarker.com on the ‘Stros, nice:

Would it really be a surprise to see the Astros get better in 2017? Well, no, but this is a team that could legitimately win 90 games and be a huge factor in the American League. We’re barely over a year removed from them nearly knocking the eventual World Series Champion Kansas City Royals out of the playoffs in the ALDS, after all.

The 2016 Astros were undone by a dreadful April which saw them start 7-17. After that, they were 77-61, and the only four AL teams who had a better record than they did all made the playoffs.

Houston made big offseason moves to bring in the likes of Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick, and Brian McCann, while their rotation should improve if Dallas Keuchel does the same. Like the Diamondbacks, there’s a bit of a post-hype factor here; the success they had in 2015 may have come a touch too soon than some of them were prepared for, and the weight of expectation was tough for some of the younger players to deal with in 2016. Now they’ve coped with it. They’re exceptionally talented, with Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa anchoring a lineup full of young studs mixed with veteran experience. Their bullpen should also improve now that highly-touted acquisition Ken Giles has settled in a bit.

The Astros aren’t just a playoff team. They could, if things go right, be a legitimate World Series contender. Don’t be surprised if they fly high in 2017.

We will see.

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