With the dispute over pay still raging, Houston fire fighters gathered by the hundreds to march on city hall and rally on its steps, urging the mayor and city council to stop stalling on implementing equal pay.
Both mayoral challengers, Bill King and Tony Buzbee, came to show their support, along with council members Dwight Boykins and Michael Kubosh, the Houston Federation of Teachers, and some citizens frustrated with the mayor for not honoring their vote.
“I care less about the fire fighters’ pay and more about the fact that Turner is ignoring what we voted on,” said one Houstonian who took the day off of work to show up.
Boykins, who took the podium to much applause, said during council tomorrow he will offer three amendments to implement a garbage fee and avoid the mayor’s plan of laying off 500 fire fighters.
According to the mayor, to absorb the cost of implementing equal pay, or pay parity, between the Houston Fire Department and the Police Department, he needs to find $100 million. To do so, he has proposed laying off at least 500 fire fighters as well as some municipal employees. Boykins says his plan will alleviate that need.
Boykins’ amendments would all establish a Solid Waste and Recycling dedicated fund and are as follows:
Amendment 1: $27 per month garbage fee
Amendment 2: $24 per month garbage fee
Amendment 3: $19 per month garbage fee
Each amendment exempts seniors aged 70 and above as well as disabled veterans. Boykins says the fee revenue wouldn’t go directly to the fire fighters; rather, it would go to a Solid Waste department fund, allowing for general revenue funds to be made available and redirected to fire fighter pay increases.
This standoff started following the November election, when Houstonians approved the fire fighters’ ballot referendum to implement equal pay for them and police. Turner has hesitated to implement the referendum, and fire fighters have grown increasingly angry towards the administration. More recently, the Houston Federation of Teachers came out against Turner and said until this issue is resolved, they will not issue any endorsements for sitting council members or the current mayor in the upcoming election.
Turner said he intends to begin implementing Proposition B and recently released a schedule for implementation. He said the initial adjustment paychecks will be issued in May and fire fighters will receive back pay dating back to January 1. The total for that will be $31 million.
He contends that this is going to force the city to have a budget gap of $197 million heading into the next budget cycle and fiscal year, which begins on July 1.
While Turner claims to be implementing Proposition B, Boykins, Kubosh, and the fire fighters have made it clear that they will continue this fight until the issue is resolved without laying off current fire fighters. At the last council meeting, Boykins vowed to “tag,” or delay, every item on the agenda from that point forward until the issue is handled. Time will tell if that remains true.