John Arnold has been all over Bloomberg lately. He was the protagonist of two articles last week. You’ve heard plenty from us about Arnold before. The Bloomberg Business profile didn’t reveal anything new about the anti-pension billionaire other than that he is playing the long game: Arnold says he hopes to see “results in a decade.” The result he’s hoping for, of course, is reduced retirement security for public workers.
Also last week, we told you about the gubernatorial election in Louisiana. The Bayou State is not the only place in the South with an important runoff election. The city of Houston, TX, will be having its mayoral runoff election on Saturday, December 12. Like Louisiana, this runoff election features the top two vote-getters from an earlier all candidates round of voting. The two candidates for mayor of Houston are state representative Sylvester Turner and attorney Bill King. Again, like Louisiana, this election has important implications for public pensions in Houston.
Here’s where the connection to John Arnold appears. Houston is John Arnold’s hometown and has been since his days as a trader at Enron. His foundation, the source of so much anti-pension money, is headquartered there. And Bill King is Arnold’s choice for mayor. Both are actively attempting to gut pensions for Houston’s public workers. The Arnold Foundation recently ran a full-page ad in the Houston Chronicle attacking Houston’s public pensions. Bill King emailed all of Houston’s public employees, telling them he will privatize pensions for new employees if elected mayor.
The stakes in the Houston mayoral election are high. Bill King and John Arnold claim the sky is falling, but the truth is more nuanced. This chart from the Wall Street Journal shows that politicians have been underfunding Houston’s pensions for years:
As we’ve learned in other states, closing Houston’s pensions and moving to a 401(k)-style system would actually make the problem worse, not better. Rather than a mayor who is going to gut retirement security for working families, Houston needs a mayor who will responsibly fund the pensions to ensure retirement security.