Houston Fire Department vs Mayor Sylvester Turner
The Houston Firefighters’ disagreement did not start with a petition to change the City of Houston charter. It did not start with a lawsuit in State District Court Judge Dan Hinde’s court on parity. The issue began with the first negotiation as the smaller of the two Houston public safety employee unions. Understanding this story requires a knowledge of the history of both public safety employee unions. It is a complicated history, but it has set up the scenario we have today, which is the Houston Fire Department versus Mayor Sylvester Turner in the November 2018 election.
Turner was forced into placing the Charter Amendment on the ballot-shamed is more like it. Passage of the parity issue prevents Mayor Sylvester Turner from removing Bruce Hotze’s property tax cap for two years. The propaganda machines that pose as news organizations have told you little of the political operations of the public employee groups over the years. These labor organizations have enormous impact on our city, which is bad for Houston taxpayers.
City candidates battle over the public service union endorsements because they are very important in a strong mayoral form of government like the City of Houston. The police union has a larger membership and more money, so they are preferred. The police can undermine the mayor and city council in many ways including the narrative of crime statistics.
The sad reality is that Houston’s mayors have routinely given away taxpayer funds in exchange for union endorsements. Over the years, one or both public service unions endorsed the winning mayoral candidate. In 2015, Sylvester Turner was endorsed by both police and fire.
During the 2017 City of Houston bond election, the media failed to accurately describe the largest bond in City of Houston history. This was a disservice to taxpayers because voters were left with the misimpression that the bond was somehow tied to public safety. In reality, the funds were used to pay the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) accounts [some with millions of dollars] of police officers.
As I have written about for many years, during the collective bargaining process, the police union always advocated for pay raises over pension funding. In direct contrast, the firefighters were good stewards of taxpayer dollars and always elected to fully fund their pension.
The great news about the 2018 parity referendum is this – for once, the media will be forced to discuss city spending. A spending discussion will not be positive for the mayor. This week, the mayor was in Chicago getting advice from Rahm Emanuel.
This particular struggle is a competition between the public safety unions – police and fire. The municipal employees union typically keeps a lower profile, but it is important to recognize that the politicians are included in the largess of this particular union. The municipal employees union is paying for Annise Parker’s multi-million dollar mansion in Colorado. Yes, our former mayor has a multi-million dollar home in Colorado. The Chronicle will never tell you this fact.
The unions spread their power and influence to the state capitol over the years for a variety of reasons. This influence peddling was particularly visible with the Speaker and the Lieutenant Governor. Of course, Patrick was easy because his longtime political consultant was already the lobbyist for the police union. State Representative Dan Flynn leads the House Committee on Pensions and Senator Joan Huffman championed the controversial Senate Bill 2190, which is a cause of the current problem. Both Huffman and Flynn and are both large beneficiaries of the unions. Again, none of this is good for the taxpayers.
Senate Bill 2190 threw the firefighters under a bus. Allen Blakemore, and Kevin Shuvalov, a Straus operative, finessed Senate Bill 2190 through the house. Allen and Dan Patrick covered the senate. The firefighters never had a chance.
Of course, none of these politicians or operatives could explain Senate Bill 2190. The bill itself was 200 pages of legal gobbledygook written by union labor lawyers designed to benefit the police union. Specifically, it was designed to give the police $750 million of your taxpayer dollars.
The firefighters wanted no part of Senate Bill 2190. This is because this law only benefitted the fiscally irresponsible police union. Remember that the firefighters had a solid pension while the police pension was in dire straits – close to a $10 billion unfounded liability related to the police DROP accounts.
Sylvester Turner is a politician and potentially the most corrupt mayor we have have ever had in Houston. As a former representative, Turner worked all of his magic at the capitol. It was very Orwellian watching Turner, Patrick, and Huffman casting aside the well being of City of Houston taxpayers to help the police union.
There was no way the firefighters were going to let the injustice stand and sought to petition their government for parity. Because, after all what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
The firefighters have good lawyers and consultants too. It was a great tactical move to go to the voters. Who doesn’t love our firefighters? We call them when we need them and they show up quickly. In Houston, we have a very good fire department – an essential need in a big city. They jump in boats and rescue us in high water and they climb up on tall buildings when needed. Heck, who doesn’t like our firefighters? They put their lives on the line for us every day too-just like the police.
I will support the firefighters in their fight with the city. This fight will not be good for Turner because it will highlight his unfair treatment of the firefighters.
There is lesson here – if you are going to run over people at the Capitol with a bulldozer, make sure that the bulldozer works back home too. Especially when your opponents have shiny red trucks with lights and sirens that attract voters. No one likes a bulldozer on city streets.
Worst day in the history of Houston Fire Department
Friday, May 31, 2015
Finally, the truth comes out!!! THANK YOU, Donald Hooper!!!
Thanks for providing the citizens of Houston the true story!
It was Friday May 31, 2013
It was Friday May 31, 2013, not Sunday May 31, 2015
Lary, I will change it immediately, my apologies.
Sylvester Turner promised the firefighters he would not touch their pension. Obviously he is a lying politician.
I have heard that fire department employees could stand to suffer big cuts in income because parity would mean working 5 8 hour shifts a week, rather than 3 24 hour shifts.
We currently have department employees who work 3 days a week for Houston and 3 days a week in San Antonio, or some other city, and they live half way between the two cities. Parity means this will no longer be possible.
It should be mentioned that fire fighters also have DROP accounts and a City actuary estimated that the net present value of retirements of fire fighters who retired last year was about $1.6 million!
If you have information on Mayor Turner being potentially the most corrupt Mayor in Houston history, I think it would be fair to ask that you share that information, rather than just throwing out an unjustified claim. He will be up for re-election next year and such information should be made public.
Apart from being involved with a man who presumably drowned and Sly tried to collect on his life insurance and this person was later found to be alive and living abroad, there are several examples. I will link one of my favorites. Understand, I am pretty much aware every time old Sly called the DA’s office to intervene on behalf of a friend. I view this as corruption and Karun Sreerama’s time as Tuner’s public works director spoke volumes. If you read this story you will see that Sly’s ex-wife was the only Harris County ADA ever to go to prison. https://bigjolly.com/ahoy-sylvester-turner/ Thanks for asking! I have more if these disappoint you, let me know or are not convinced.
You actually think HFD members want to work two jobs, LOL…. I work two jobs out of necessity to pay the bills and provide a decent life and education for my three daughters…. currently a member of HPD at my equivalent rank get paid 45% more than I do…. with pay parity I will actually make more than I currently do working two jobs and averaging between both 360 hrs a month… that comes out to 90 hours a week…. so if you think working five 8 hour shifts weekly for more money than working 90 hours a week sounds bad to any of us you’d be beyond wrong…. you think working a 0700-1500 a day is unappealing lol… we could actually have real quality of life
Doug, I cannot speak on the shift/work hours rumor you mentioned. Because at this point they are just that; rumors. I would like to address the DROP, though. Yes, firefighters have a DROP account. However, they have never had an UNLIMITED DROP like HPD. Meaning that after 20 years of service, an officer could enter the DROP and remain in it until he/she retired. I know that HPD has a few different pension plans now and do not have a DROP anymore. But all that was negotiated away by HPD in lieu of pay raises. HFD was limited to a 13 year DROP and passed on smaller pay raises to keep the pension benefits that the City AGREED to. And until last year, HFD still had a single pension for all employees. All that was TAKEN away by Turner, including the DROP for new employees. And depending on years of service, the DROP was modified. Oh, did I mention that benefits for RETIRED firefighters were also cut? I know because my mom is a widow and depends on my dad’s pension. So now, it’s time that they be compensated fairly. I suggest you do a little more research on Turner and stop worrying so much about fire fighter pension/pay. And, I find it interesting that you did not include the present value of the police retirements.
You are wrong about the amount FFs leave the City with in their DROP accounts and you’re wrong re/ FFs not ready to work a five day, 8 hr day. Bring it on. It’d be great to be home with the family while making a good salary from just one job.
Nice work, let the truth prevail.
Then way are you crying about low pay when your union passed on pay raises in lieu of pension money.
Mayor Turnerbis corrupt and a liar. The info on the drop accounts disclosed above is incorrect. A Turner flunky probably wrote it.
Please explain what is incorrect
Stevo, didn’t you read the editorial? FFs were happy as long as they had their solid pension. As the editorial said, FFs passed on pay raises in lieu of funding their pension. Once Turner reduced many of the benefits of the pension, doing that to retirees as well, they decided that since their pension was raided along with many of their benefits, they would petition for their pay to be brought up to standard. The City would never have been in this situation has Turner not lied to the FFs and robbed and changed their pensions. Now, he’s mandated to upgrade their pay to what HPD makes and he’s dragging his feet on it. It will happen, either by Turner just doing it, or the courts ordering Turner to do it. My guess is Turner will have to be forced to do it and will owe FFs backpay as well as interest on it. He’s just a little man that is trying to be the CEO of a great City; he’s was over his head. He’s utterly incompetent and immature as he demonstrates practically daily with his actions against FFs.
We need to help the firefighters and the city of Houston. It’s about time the truth gets out to the public so long over due.
Parity will cost the city well over 300 million dollars in the first 3 years. More than 900 firefighters will be terminated immediately to reduce costs. This still won’t be enough and the police department will be forced to cancel future academy classes which will push response times through the roof in a department that is already 1500 Police Officers short. Every city department will be effected and services reduced to absorb a 32% raise for senior firefighters (doesn’t effect those in the academy).
The Mayor, Fire Chief, Police Chief and City Council all agree that Parity is bad for Houston. Vote “no” and let the firefighters take the more than reasonable 9.5 % raise with no consessions that had been offered.
That’s what happens when you elect a man who has been running for office for the last 30 years.
He is a sick joke of a leader.
He even ran on becoming the pothole mayor, how is that going?
Dominos pizza does a better job.
thank you donald ! it seems many years the firefighters have been the bastard stepchild for the city. little or no pay raises. what hasn’t been mentioned, why the firefighters have turned down pay raises is because when certain mayors in the past (and brown was one of em) is because we would have to give up too much. there was ALWAYS a catch, and in the end, when you get down to the nuts and bolts, (even though technically it was a pay raise) when it’s all said and done — IT WAS ACTUALLY A PAY CUT …. how, we had to give up a lot, and YOU CAN BET YOUR MONEY (and win) AS SURE AS THE SUN COMES UP OUR INSURANCE IS DEFINITELY GOING UP. along with everything else, and after taxes, it’s a pay cut. one mayor,(whitmire) CONNED the citizens by telling them she gave the firefighters a 3% raise, THEN RAISED OUR INSURANCE, AND THREE MONTHS LATER TOOK OUR RAISE BACK, AND ALONG WITH EVERYTHING ELSE, IT ACTUALLY WAS ABOUT A 3% PAY CUT. DID SHE TELL THE CITIZENS THAT ? HECK NO !!! AS FAR AS THEY KNEW, WE GOT A 3% PAY RAISE. AFTER THAT WE WENT YEARS …. WITH NO PAY RAISE AT ALL. ( THE CITY’S EXCUSE YEAR AFTER YEAR — “WE DON’T HAVE THE MONEY FOR THAT —- BUT !! WHAT’S WEIRD WAS – AFTER SAYING THAT, THE CITY BUILS ALL THESE NEW STADIUMS. AS ONE CONTROLLER SAID, WE PULLED A RABBIT OUT OF THE HAT FOR THAT. funny, it seems when the city wants money for their pet projects, THEY ALWAYS CAN FIND THE MONEY FOR THAT,, BUT, FOR THE FIREFIGHTERS (SOME NOW ON FOOD STAMPS I HEAR – ACTIVE MEMBERS) THEY CAN’T FIND THE MONEY TO FUND A PAY RAISE FOR THEM. TURNER IS A LIAR !! A LYING POLITICIAN !!! ASK A LOT OF US WHO WERE WITH HIM WHEN HE LIED AND STABBED THE FIREFIGHTERS IN THE BACK, WHEN HE SAID, ” Y’ALL HAVE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT, I GOT Y’ALLs BACK” ……… (what we didn’t know was HE SHOVED A KNIFE IN OUR BACKS !!! (when he got firefighters to help him get elected) …… he’s a worthless, lying politician in my opinion and a sorry excuse for a man in my opinion. and check into the harvey funds that were missing, it looks to me like he set someone up to take the fall for him, she barely got a slap on the wrist for that, WASTED TAXPAYERS DOLLARS !!! NOT TO MENTION THE SUPER BOWL TICKETS…. IF THE CITIZENS WANT MORE CORRUPTION THEY VOTE HIM IN AGAIN…. this is how i see it….. their’s an old saying, YOU KNOW HOW YOU CAN TELL A POLITICIAN IS LYING? — HIS LIPS ARE MOVING !!! THAT TOTALLY SEEMS TO BE THE CASE HERE. especially in front of the camera. TURNER H A T E S THE FIRE DEPT (HFD) you can tell because he cut the fire dept budget (already too low) in half. LOOK AT THE HFD SHOP, THEY CAN BARELY KEEP THE RESERVE UNITS RUNNING. MUCH LESS THE 1ST LINE APPARATUS. WHICH SHOULD BE OF GREAT CONCERN TO THE CITIZENS, BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT WE NEED TO SAVE THEIR LIVES ! DOES HE CARE, NOT AT ALL…. IT SEEMS THIS IS HIS WAY TO — GET BACK AT US — FOR US GOING TO AUSTIN OVER AND OVER AGAIN TO FIGHT HIM ON SENATE BILL 2190. NOW, IT LOOKS LIKE THE FIREFIGHTERS ARE MARKED TILL HE GETS VOTED OUT OF OFFICE. as all of know all of us could go on and on, this is the tip of the iceberg as they say, but, the point has been made here…. FIREFIGHTERS DO THEIR JOB NO MATTER WHAT, WE NEED THE CITIZENS TO HELP US OUT BY VOTING FOR PAY PARITY FOR FIREFIGHTERS AND POLICE. thanks….