When the last vote was cast in the November 6 election for Houston’s Proposition B, Mayor Sylvester Turner’s war against his own staff shifted into a war against voters.
Nearly 300,000 Houston voters said yes to the proposition that gave fire fighters pay parity with their police officer brethren, putting an (apparent) end to a contentious few months of citywide debate. The day after the election, the city should have started the process to implement the voters’ decision.
But Turner hasn’t.
In the days since, he’s instead continued his campaign-style tactics in an effort to delay and seemingly altogether prevent Proposition B from being enacted.
And Turner’s dishonesty about his administration’s intentions have made matters worse.
When questioned by council or the media in public, he has repeatedly claimed to be “in the process” of implementing Proposition B, insinuating his administration is moving forward with the will of the voters without interruption. Even his deputies have been parroting that line.
But his actions have said otherwise: Turner has most recently tried to have a court deem Proposition B unconstitutional.
Why has the city’s chief executive, as Turner often refers to himself, trapped himself in a never-ending workplace war with one of his two public safety forces? And furthermore, he continues to drag taxpayers into lengthy legal battles, this time challenging something they already overwhelmingly supported.
Instead of declaring war on voters, Turner could’ve utilized the slew of options at his disposal to deal with Proposition B. He could’ve started implementing the proposition in January, or he could’ve enacted a number of the cost-saving reforms available to him in the $500,000 tax-funded audit report. He also could’ve just followed through with the layoffs he spent months warning would come if Proposition B passed (but in reality, he’s actually hired more employees since then.)
Indeed, Turner decided against all of these options and instead opted to ask a court to invalidate the voters’ decision.
Turner’s efforts are no more than an attempt to vindicate himself and win a political proxy war with a group he has been unable to bend to his will.
And while trying to pressure the fire fighters into conformity, he has defied the citizens.
Sadly, at every turn in this winding saga, Turner has shown blatant disregard for the people he serves. On multiple occasions he has ignored rightfully submitted petitions, running roughshod over citizens’ most basic right to contend with their government.
And when those efforts have failed, Turner has had no qualms using tax dollars to continue fighting the will of the voters.
If Turner focused on his real duties with a mere fraction of the fervor he now uses trying to defeat the fire fighters, the city wouldn’t be facing a $260 million deficit or our other post-employment benefit unfunded liability problem would be taken care of.
The truth is, the mayor’s first term has been centered around consolidating and flexing the power of his office.
As a former member of the Texas legislature—despite his seniority—he was just one voice in a sea of 150. But as mayor, he has displayed a penchant for using the power of the office to be the loudest voice and to disregard the 16 other duly elected voices surrounding him.
Yet there’s one important thing Turner seems to often overlook: his voice does not overrule the voice of the citizens who hired him.
And if Turner continues to trample on their voice, he may just find himself fired by them.
Mayor Sylvester Turner
Houston City Hall: 713-837-0311