Houston voters made themselves clear regarding Proposition B, with nearly 60 percent supporting the city charter amendment to give firefighters equal pay to police officers of similar rank.
Putting the idea into action, however, has become a muddy mess.
More than four months after the referendum passed – by a margin of more than 91,000 votes – the pay raises have yet to be implemented amidst an ongoing legal dispute involving the city and local unions for the firefighters and police officers.
Citizens in the area, where 54.6 percent of voters supported Prop B, weighed in on the topic on Facebook this week.
“If the voters have spoken, why is action not being implemented?” Mary Heffernan said.
Mayor Sylvester Turner has challenged the legality of Prop B and said, if implemented immediately, it would cost the city more than $100 million annually and lead to a significant reduction in city services and personnel. According to a statement released by Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen, a city councilwoman who represents Garden Oaks, Oak Forest and much of the Heights, the job cuts could include approximately 400 firefighters.
Turner has proposed phasing in the pay raises, estimated to be about 29 percent on average, over a period of five years as a means of avoiding widespread layoffs. Cohen said she supports that idea and asked the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association to agree to it.
“I’m for the firefighters being paid more,” reader Ashley Jean Jackson said. “However, I think a 2-5 percent raise over the next 10 years is appropriate for everyone to keep their jobs.”
The firefighters union, in a March 8 statement on its Facebook page, called out Turner for his “hatred of firefighters” and said his “defiance of Prop B voters will have terrible consequences for us and for the public.”
Turner, in an open letter to the city early this month, said, “We love and respect our firefighters and want them to be appropriately compensated.
“Having said that,” he continued, “I don’t believe the voters intended to place our city in financial turmoil, cause our credit rating to tumble and increase the costs of city debt.”
Right or wrong, Houston voters had their say in November. They’ll have another opportunity to voice their opinions this upcoming November, when Turner will seek re-election.
The firefighters who successfully rallied support for Prop B could campaign against the mayor.
“They deserve equal pay for the dangerous job they do,” reader Jim White said. “Time for Turner to go.”