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Houston firefighters won't get November vote on pay as deadline passes

The clock ran out on the petitions citizens submitted backing the firefighters push for "parity" with police officers of corresponding rank

By Mike Morris
Houston Chronicle 

HOUSTON — Houston voters will face $1.5 billion in city bonds and nine community college or school board races this November, but will not be asked whether to give firefighters a raise.

Monday was the last day on which a candidate can file for the November ballot, and on which local governments can call an election. That means the clock ran out on the petitions citizens submitted backing the firefighters push for "parity" with police officers of corresponding rank.

There are exceptions to Monday's deadline. Houston ISD trustee Manuel Rodriguez's death in July means candidates looking to fill his seat have until Sept. 6 to file for office, for example.

In broad terms, however, the fall election campaign largely is set.

That was upsetting to Marty Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, Local 341. Mayor Sylvester Turner's "petulance" had kept their pay parity proposal off the ballot, he wrote in a letter to members on Monday, while vowing to continue the push for "fair wages, benefits and working conditions."

"The mayor refuses to say when the petitions will be counted," Lancton wrote. "We note that, as the submitted petitions sat in the city secretary's office for weeks, the mayor rejected at least three offers, including ours, to fund overtime pay for city staff to count the petitions. Others volunteered to count petitions. The mayor smugly ignored the offers and the City Council took no action on the issue."

Turner's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The mayor's top priorities this fall will be the $1 billion in pension bonds that must pass to secure the landmark reforms that have been the chief accomplishment of his tenure. In the bonds fail and are not injected into the underfunded police and municipal plans, negotiated benefit cuts may be reversed.

The $495 million in general obligation bonds council also placed on the ballot would fund improvements to libraries and parks, as well as items like new police and fire trucks.

In all, the package asks for authorization to issue $159 million in public safety bonds, $104 million for parks, $109 million for general government improvements and $123 million for libraries.

 Copyright Houston Chronicle 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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