One Houston City Council member is demonstrating his support for 68 Houston firefighter cadets in an unusual way: by locking city hall in a standstill.
Council Member Dwight Boykins recently “tagged” nearly every item on the council’s agenda as a protest to Mayor Sylvester Turner delaying the swearing-in of new firefighters for the city.
Boykins warned Turner that unless the mayor reverse course and swear in the firefighters, he would tag every item beginning at this week’s council meeting going forward.
And that’s exactly what Boykins did.
As council moved through the agenda, Boykins tagged every item on the agenda except for a few that concerned after-school programs and healthcare.
In the midst of the meeting, and Boykins’ tags, Turner released a statement saying:
The city always honors the efforts of potential firefighters who complete their academy training. The fire cadets who completed training are on the city payroll, but are not receiving probationary firefighter classification pay while negotiations continue between the city and the firefighters’ union on how to carry out Proposition B.
Prop B calls for an approximately 29 percent increase in payroll for about 4,000 firefighters without creating a way to pay for the increase of $113 million in the first year alone.
Employee layoffs and cuts to city services would be necessary without a negotiated agreement about how to bear the steep costs.
Boykins’ move drew criticism from Council Members Greg Travis and Ellen Cohen, who called it “an insult to the public” and said it was not the way to govern the city.
Council Member Jack Christie attempted to use a rarely initiated provision to override the tag, which requires a two-thirds majority vote by council, but he failed to garner enough support.
Turner argues that the cadets need to remain in limbo until the administration can address current budgetary matters, such as the looming deficit going into the 2020 budget. However, Boykins contends that the full probationary salaries for these cadets was figured into last year’s budget, so the funds should already be available.
And as far as city council business goes, they’re still on hold. The council is off next week for spring break, so the items tagged today will have to wait two weeks before any action can resume.