The Houston City Council voted 14-3 to approve a $650 million non-voter-approved judgment bond for backpay to the city’s firefighters as a part of a larger settlement. The total settlement includes a 5-year collective bargaining agreement, with both issues totaling $1.5 billion. 

The vote came after two hours of debate mostly concerning whether or not the public should have the right to vote on the bond. Council Members Edward Pollard and Tiffany Thomas proposed amendments to place the item on the November 2024 ballot, but both were ruled out of order. The mayor also warned that any delay would likely lead to the firefighters walking away from the agreement, instead taking it to court where the amount could be lower or higher than the agreed upon $650 million.

Council Members Pollard, Thomas, and Mary Nan Huffman voted against issuing the bond. 

The collective bargaining agreement was also set to come before the council, but City Controller Chris Hollins has not yet certified the item—a requirement for the city council to vote on it. Both items were originally set to be considered last week but were delayed when the mayor found out they weren’t being certified. 

Hollins sent the mayor a letter this week with 44 questions he would like answered before certifying the deal. The mayor responded in kind saying he would only answer five of the questions, those he felt were within the scope of the Controller’s Office, and would not answer the rest.

Hollins has not issued a public response or said when his office will have the deal certified. 

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.