Firefighter Pay, Drainage Placed on Houston Ballot

Houston city voters will see a pair of potentially costly ballot initiatives this November.

Much to the disappointment of Mayor Sylvester Turner, city council unanimously agreed to place the firefighters' pay parity initiative on the ballot -- potentially raising their pay by 25 percent.

“If you want to pay them more, simply tell me 'mayor, this is how much more we think we should be paying them,' and then you tell me how we shall pay for it, what services we shall cut or what fees we shall impose,” Turner told council Wednesday.

“I will not allow you to place blame on this administration because the firefighters' union decided that nine-and-a-half percent was not enough and they wanted more,” he added.

Union president Marty Lancton says that's not at all how negotiations went down.

“The last day of negotiations under collective bargaining law, the city's team told the firefighters to turn out the lights when they're done and got up and walked out,” he says.

Lancton says what city leaders have not disclosed is the concessions firefighters were unwilling to accept.

“Concessions that basically would have net negative effect on any type of pay raise,” he says. “And firefighters have received only a three-percent pay raise in the last seven years.”

Meanwhilem, Houston city voters also are being asked to re-vote on the "ReBuild Houston" program to fix the drainage system. A judge ordered a re-do because of confusing language the last time around.

“There's a lot of people out in my district who wonder where all the money is going on ReBuild, and they don't see they're actually paying down a lot of the debt,” Councilman Greg Travis said Wednesday. “In addition to putting it out on the streets and the drainage, we're also paying down debt that incurred years ago.”

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