Fire, police associations seek public’s help getting pension issue on ballot

MEMPHIS, Tenn. —  Memphis police and firefighters are taking their call for restored pensions and health care straight to the citizens. They are collecting signatures to get a half cent sales tax hike onto the ballot and the money raised would go directly to public safety.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland considers his proposed budget to be focused on public safety. But Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams called those initiatives “hollow” and essentially smoke and mirrors.

“It’s to give the perception to citizens of Memphis that he’s working with the police association, the police department to actually try to solve crime, but that is definitely not the  case,” he said on WREG’s Live at 9 Tuesday.

The city has touted a plan to solidify the pension plan by $2 million, but what they didn’t tell you, he said, was that they cut the police budget by $2.5 million.

What’s more, young officers continue to leave the city of Memphis. So far this year, Williams said 60 have left the force. He said they’ve also decreased the number of commissioned officers at every precinct and they’re just not recruiting the numbers that they thought they were going to get.

The numbers reportedly aren’t much better at the Memphis Fire Department where only a small number showed up to take the last test.

That’s why both organizations have asked for the issue to be put on the ballot.

“We’ve asked Mayor Strickland [and the council] to put it on the ballot, not necessarily to say they support a public safety tax increase, but just for the people to have a say,” said Williams.

So, why is it not on the ballot?

According to Memphis Fire Fighters Association President Thomas Malone, the city council and the mayor took a stand.

“We’re starting to work with their constituents,” said Memphis Fire Fighters Association President Thomas Malone. “They refused to put it on the ballot. We’re now working with the neighborhood groups. Several large groups have contacted us and said we want to be involved, but yet their council person would refuse to put it on the ballot.”

Their next move it to gather enough signatures to show there is an overwhelming support for the issue to appear on the next election ballot.

They need 31,000 signatures.

If you would like to help, you can download the petition here.