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Firefighters petition for a raise


Houston firefighters are launching a campaign to place on item on the November ballot asking voters to mandate parity in pay between corresponding firefighter and police-officer ranks.

The petition drive to amend the city charter, slated to launch Saturday morning, follows the fire union’s decision last month to sue the city over stalled contract talks, alleging Mayor Sylvester Turner’s administration failed to negotiate in good faith.

“I don’t know what else to do. We’re trying to find a fair and reasonable solution that affects 4,100 members and their families,” said Marty Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association. “Let’s let the voters decide what’s fair and we’ll see.”


A 1975 City Council motion did set the goal of achieving parity in the base pay of equivalent ranks in the public safety departments, and the topic spurred regular fights throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Typically, firefighters and their supporters on council were in the position of working to ensure their salaries kept pace with police pay, though they were not always successful.

Parity was regularly mentioned into the mid-2000s, but the late 1998 contract negotiated by the newly recognized police union began to dismantle that system, recalled Mark Clark, executive director of the Houston Police Officers Union.

That police contract, Clark said, began adjusting HPD’s personnel structure so that the city could grant raises to, for example, 38 police captains without having to also boost the salaries of more than 120 fire personnel of corresponding rank.

“I know they’re desperate and they’re my friends, but this is a non-starter,” Clark said of the firefighters’ petition drive. “They’ve got an important job, but police and firefighters do not have the same job, and their rank structures are completely different. Just to come in and say, ‘We want what they’ve got’ – certainly I understand asking, but where in the world would the city of Houston come up with the kind of money that it would take?”

Apparently, something like $40 million per year, according to the story. This is an easy No vote for me, if it comes to one. We elect representatives to make these decisions, and it is generally my preference for that system to be allowed to do its thing. There’s a place for letting the voters decide on things, but this is not one of them. The cost, the difficulty in setting up a system to match job ranks, the fact that this is an obvious retaliatory move for the recent political setbacks the firefighters have experienced, those are also factors. I have no idea what happens from here, but if this does get on the ballot it will be interesting to see how a campaign plays out. The potential for it to get ugly is very high.

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  1. neither here nor there says:

    Signed the petition on Saturday, was planning to go to a station but they saved me the trouble by walking the neighborhood.

  2. Jack Rhem says:

    You would use the word “retaliatory” to describe seeking redress via a referendum for massive pay problems ?

    Really ?

    Retaliatory is the behavior exhibited by Turner. It’s self-evident.

  3. Bob Jones says:

    This is essentially the problem with public unions negotiating / endorsing candidates. It is defacto vote buying. Our public employees need to be paid a market wage with a 401(k). Firefighters and police and all public employees need to realize that their salary comes from my paycheck — and I didn’t get a 17% increase that I can recall. We the private sector employees simply don’t have the money – wage stagnation, O&G layoffs, etc…

  4. Steve Houston says:

    So if this were to pass and be upheld by the courts, would their pay also be subject to being lowered further when the inevitable happens; ie: “adjusting HPD’s personnel structure so that the city could grant raises to, for example, 38 police captains without having to also boost the salaries of more than 120 fire personnel of corresponding rank…”? The police pay contract is up next year so what is to stop the city from further adjusting their pay structure to lower base pay and/or to double healthcare premiums for HFD while factoring that in as a “raise” for the police that won’t fall under this parity clause?

  5. The Other Guy says:

    I’m not exactly sure what you would expect the firefighters to do here. The basis for HPD outpacing their salaries was always contingent upon the city having their feet held to the fire to meet pension obligations. Since that’s out the window now, what reason should they accept for treated as the step-child? Both are civil service jobs, FFs have more Line of Duty Deaths, work more hours per week, and have the highest taxpayer satisfaction rating. I’m not saying to open up the coffers, but I feel like they’ve more than earned their seat at the table. As for Mr. Clark’s statements, whenever Peter is being robbed to pay Paul, Paul will always have the theif’s full support.

  6. Howard S Hoover says:

    Where can a signed petition be emailed?

  7. Bill Daniels says:

    Why not just lower HPD salaries, and raise HFD salaries equally until there is parity? I’m sure HPD wants to be fair, they won’t mind helping out.

  8. Jack Rhem says:

    Steve, my layman understanding is that, as much as possible and comparable, the total compensation package would be subject to parity.

    Besides the base pay, HPD has done an awesome job in negotiations by garnering big raises via incentive pay.

    E.G. As an HFD employee, I can get credit for certification pay or education pay, but both both. HPD on the other hand gets both. They’re not mutually exclusive.

    Additionally, HPD gets paid 2-3times more for an incentive than his/her counterpart.

    EG. I get $69 biweekly for total for having a BA from the University of Texas and a MS from OK State. HPD gets $240 biweekly for the same.

    One could make the argument that we have different jobs and should be compensated differently (though no one from the HPOU has been able to articulate that IE Ray Hunt). However, there are plenty of instances where we are compensated differently for the exact same resume.

  9. Jack Rhem says:

    Bob, your salary comes from my paycheck too were I to be a customer of your firm.

    A 401 (k) is all well and good, but you would have to pay substantially higher wages.

    The 17% proposed is a symptom of how poorly compensated we are. That doesn’t even bring HFD to any semblance of the market rate. If we use just nearby cities as a comparison (Beaumont, Baytown, Sugarland, Conroe) HFD would be due a major raise.

    Now of course, that’s an asinine comparison as what the average Sugarland Firefighter does on a regular basis pales in comparison to a 3rd Ward firefighter, Sunnyside, SW Houston, etc.

    Really HFD should be compared to its peers – NYC, Chicago, LA, etc. and then simply adjust the compensation down with a cost of living coefficient.

  10. Steve Houston says:

    Jack, I’m acquainted with a lot of city employees. None of them have ever claimed pay parity included all forms of compensation, though right about now, many hundreds of cops would appreciate getting the boost needed to have similar pensions to HFD even after all the recent changes. It’s been awhile but the whole design of those separate pay components in the late 1990’s was to break parity, threats of lawsuits made even back then but went nowhere. To this day, when I’ve asked questions regarding parity to either police or firemen, not one could explain the statutory duties of their counterparts, nor could they describe exactly which ranks equated with each other and that included active union members from both groups. The only rank where they seemed comparable was during training, even the top rank of Chief not able to compare since the cops have so many more employees. I’m not suggesting any of you in either group be happy as the lowest compensated in the state of Texas for a big city but there are just too many ways for this referendum to go south on all of you, much like the pension issue did. The Bill’s of the world are out there in force trying to save every penny they can at your expense so I just don’t expect nearly as favorable an outcome as you do.

  11. Jack Rhem says:

    The pension argument is a moot point at this time. My benefits have been largely halved unilaterally after 9 years of opportunity costs of working in a different field.

    In addition, were the FD’s legacy pension system in place, current PD employees would have similar retirement compensation with a vastly superior current compensation.

    The fact that I would have received a higher percentage of a much smaller base salary than my PD counterpart while he/she received a lower percentage of a much larger salary goes way over the head of almost anyone in this discussion.

  12. The Other Guy says:

    I guess that “de facto” vote buying didn’t work out with Sly, huh?

  13. Steve Houston says:

    Other Guy, you raised my curiosity so I looked a few things up. Apparently, HFD has had about 70 line of duty deaths while HPD has had over 110; neither number amounting to enough to justify demands both groups routinely make but for the record, your claim was incorrect about HFD. As far as hours worked in a given week, Bob Lanier used to comment how firemen were the only group of employees that were paid to sleep over 40% of their clocked hours (I’m paraphrasing) on average, so you might want to change your phrasing a little. Both having civil service only means they are provided due process in management decisions.

    Jack, as sad as it sounds, your pension benefits are still better than theirs and most existing employees in their department took the cuts 13 years ago. That puts your department well ahead of them in that area but I can see both sides have valid points. None of those hired since the first round of cuts all those years ago will be getting giant retirement checks on top of monthly checks like you will if you stay but given the structure of the city’s corridor provision, I believe all of you will be giving up more in the future at some point. I’m still waiting for one of you to provide a rank by rank comparison for parity purposes as well as any kind of legal basis for total compensation to be compared because the petition makes no mention of it, hence my belief that it won’t work out the way you plan it to. What’s the city’s current offer to you, almost 10%? That’s better than most people expect to get but I’m sure if city employees had their way, your comparison cities would be those out of state cities you mentioned, it will never happen any more than you will get paid as well as Austin.

  14. Everyone relax…they are not going to get the signatures in time. The last two successful petition drives were done by the same group of people who put together the Red Light Camera Petition drive and the anti ero petition drive. Guess what? The firemen are not using any of those people. They are never going to get it done for this election cycle. Not enough time.

  15. The Other Guy says:

    Should have qualified, since 2000 15 LODDs to HPD 14 to be exact. No misleading intended.

  16. C.L. says:

    If I were a Firefighter, I’d be working on my resume and filling out an application for the Sugarland or Conroe or Beaumont FD…

    I see HPD driving the Heights all the time, my assumption being they’re looking for perps. Haven’t seen a HFD truck driving the Heights, looking for a fire…

  17. Steve Houston says:

    PK, given the time constraints (60 days to gather signatures, 30 days to validate them), I tend to agree with you. Some were allegedly getting signatures where many living outside of Houston were willingly signing, so even then they best get ample extra signatures to cover the ones that won’t count.

    Other Guy, since you used it as a major selling point, the difference of a single death seems pretty cheesy. Given the total numbers weigh so heavily in the other direction and proponents are also making it a major selling point in their fliers/website, I’d go so far as to say this was another case of willful misrepresentation. There are ample arguments supporting better compensation to leave crud like that out of the mix.

    CL: Jack tells us he has 9 years on so I’m sure he’ll want to vest with 10 before finding a better position elsewhere. Historically, CoH pension cuts have led to waves of retirements that saved the city tens of millions of dollars, surrounding communities hiring almost any of the employees that wanted to continue working. The police gravitate towards the various constable offices, their management ending up running most local departments, or sheriff offices, public works employees with 5 or more years of experience rarely out of work for a week before offers came in, and so forth. Mike Morris at the Chronicle claims that this past year, almost 3x the number of cops retired as usual and he’s waiting for final data on firemen so those who act fastest will fill any available slots quickly.

    But in terms of the actual petition, aside from legal questions, it seems way out of line to compare an arson investigator to a police captain, I’d suggest the position would be at most in line with a sergeant assigned to the city homicide division or an officer assigned to fatal accidents, according to what Scott/Grits tell us, the entire body of investigative work in arson investigations is full of junk science. Another example would be their staff assigned to the big dispatch center working as dispatchers, the call takers and dispatchers for police are all civilians that get compensated about a third as much. These are merely two examples.

  18. Steve Houston says:

    Getting to 10 years will have little to no difference on my retirement prospects. Municipalities (many state and federal pensions too) generally don’t have to comply with ERISA vesting schedules. If I leave at any point before 20 years I get 0 contributions from the city at all whatsoever. I literally get back my contributions and a simple 5% interest (which I probably don’t have to tell you is atrocious. Going off the pensions long term success, they would have been making just under 9% a year on that compounding).

    Additionally, I wish people, once they understood how wrong they were about their assumptions, would realize they shouldn’t comment – that their mistakes show their (understandable) ignorance on the subject. Being ignorant on a subject isn’t a sin, but having a poorly informed opinion is.

    There is no free market for firefighters. By civil service statute, you cannot be hired after the age of 36. Attorneys, physicians, welders, investment bankers, garbage truck men – whoever can “vote with their feet” and let the free market work when they get treated like crap. We have no such freedom. The municipalities have a captive market and can take advantage of it.

  19. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    I’m becoming a bit tired of the discrepancies between the treatment of government workers. I just don’t see the same concern for the other government workers. If this ‘deal’ is something that provides special benefits to certain city employees over others, I’m inclined to oppose it. And by other city employees…I’m including non-first responders in that as well. I don’t work for the government btw.

    I’d also like to see any raise be contingent upon some common sense rules for the HFD employees. They shouldn’t be double dipping. If they get a pension based upon the fact that its too hard on them to work after 20 years, then perhaps the pension and health care benefits should be deferred if they continue to work for another fire department. Or not accruing if they’re covered by another pension or health care plan if retired from another department. Also, I’d like to see some sort of priority be given to City of Houston residents in department hiring.

    By the way, the HERO petition drive would not have been successful, had there been a real validation of the petitions.

  20. Jack Rhem says:

    Hi Tom,

    Regarding the “20 year” issue you raise, the city of Houston addressed this years ago when they, not the fire pension, proposed the DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Program) to retain people past 20 years. It was very successful in that almost all firefighters after that point stayed around 30-35 years.

    This will no longer be the case as the DROP ceases to exist for new hires. Further exacerbating it, the potential returns you can earn in said DROP are realistically in the 0-4% range now. Long story short, there is no good reason to stay past 20 years unless you really just have no good prospects for an encore career.

    Additionally, we don’t have any real health benefits after retiring. You can stay on the city health plan, but you pay the full cost of said policy. In effect, you can stay on a COBRA type plan till 65. I could get a cheaper health plan working part time at Starbucks than staying on the CoH health plan after retirement. I, for one, don’t have strong feelings one way or the other about an employer offering health benefits after I’m no longer an employee. Just don’t tell me I am getting some great benefit when that is not actually the case.

    PS. Above is a post at 6:39P for July 11 by “Steve Houston.” That’s actually me – Jack Rhem responding to Steve. I’m not sure why, but my comp is auto populating his name in the response field. Weird.

  21. Steve Houston says:

    Jack, I don’t see the post in question, maybe you included a link and it is stuck in limbo. Regardless, you are not quite accurate in some of your latest comments. Mayor Lanier gave you public safety employees the deferred retirement program instead of a raise, Mayor Brown later extending it to the rest of city employees before Mayor White took it away from everyone but firemen. Those of you at HFD hired before this month will be able to accumulate a massive amount of money in addition to your monthly checks and healthcare subsidies via this program but the cops and other city employees hired since previous cuts over a decade ago lost the benefit. While truncated from the glory days, it is still a huge perk to keep employees past their needed 20 years (for HFD) that virtually every other city employee would love to have.

    11 years from now when you have 20 years on the force, you will be unlikely to move to another local department to make better total compensation than you will make by staying with Houston, the sole exception possibly being if you obtain high enough rank to be hired elsewhere as a chief. Starting over from scratch in your 40’s will really only pay off if you find a better paying career.

    You also don’t seem to be aware that the city still subsidizes retirees to the tune of 40 to 50% for their healthcare, the specific amount varying depending on which plan you select. If you want the Cadillac plan for out of state and include a spouse with a bunch of dependents, the subsidy is less as a percentage but why should you get the lump sum, the monthly check, and a great deal more on top of that when you could leave so young? Civilian employees must stay until they are in their 60’s, have none of the perks you demand, and average a great deal less; perhaps as Tom suggests, you should get pay parity with them. If you believe part time Starbucks workers get a better rate, by all means look up their benefit package to see they get a 401k program, far less per hour than you get, modest health benefits that are tied to the ACA which is subject to change, and little else.

  22. Steve and Jack – The comment in question should be visible now. It was in the moderation queue because the name didn’t match the email address for previous comments. I had been wondering about that one – I didn’t want to publish it if it was someone trying to impersonate someone else. Jack’s most recent comment clears that up. Thanks, and sorry for the confusion.

  23. Steve Houston says:

    Thanks Charles!
    Jack, if you leave after obtaining 10 years of qualified service but before achieving a full pension, you can choose between the refund and a smaller pension given you in the future. It will still be better than most people get, including your peers you want parity with on pay but not pensions. It’s okay though, your assumptions can now be corrected so no need to beat yourself up. One other thing, if you dislike Texas as a right to work state that favors employers over employees, you can always apply for one of those departments from another state that you wanted pay parity with, most of them are always hiring and no court action will ever get you paid as well locally as you would get by moving to where the better paying positions are at.

  24. Bett says:

    For those who are interested, you can download their petition at

  25. David Fagan says:

    Kubosh, please look at the news today. Statements about firefighters ‘sleeping 40% of their shift’, the opposite is true, staying awake and lifting, moving, and performing an extremely demanding job 24 hours throughout the day is a daily occurrence, every shift in Houston this occurs.

  26. Steve Houston says:

    David, wouldn’t the opposite of firefighters sleeping 40% of their shift be that they were sleeping 60% of their shift? Mayor Lanier and others used to claim something along those lines but I’m not sure if it was formally proven.

  27. David Fagan says:

    The point to be made, Mr. Houston, is that every shift there are fire fighters awake 24 hours out of their 24 hour shift performing a very demanding job. So, someone wants to point out that fire fighters may rest a fraction of their shift, but every fire fighter has experienced 24 hours straight of demanding public service. In a city like Houston, there are fire fighters today, the very day you read this statement, who are not going to sleep, and will perform jobs like helping people who cannot get up by themselves, full cardiac arrests, drug overdoses, vehicle accidents involving other vehicles, people, or structures, violence against other citizens and non citizens, structure fires, car fires, water rescue, electrical hazards, flooding incidents, trapped persons, forcible entry for the police department, and the various unknowns that are figured into every day a fire fighter reports to duty. To hear people talk about ‘sleeping on shift’ or being at the grocery store is a flat out joke and makes some fire fighters shake their heads and laugh like they’re beyond human. EVERYONE needs rest and EVERYONE needs to eat, but there are fire fighters who may not do both of these, in a given shift. So if you want to criticize, first go ride 24 hours on some of these units: 25, 35, 46, 51, 68, 73, 34, 28, 60, 55, 82, 59, 19

  28. Steve Houston says:

    David, not to belabor the point but given the semantical hoop jumping, I’d be willing to bet that on any given shift drawn at random, the likelihood is that a great many more firefighters are sleeping a large portion of their shift than are working 24 hours straight. Don’t get me wrong about the big picture, I’ve bought plenty of meals for some of y’all over the years but it sounds like you’d be happier switching to 9 hour days 5 times a week, shifting more resources toward the EMS side where over 80% of your calls come from, and other structural changes so that you won’t have to ever work those tiring 24 hour shifts ever, however rare they may be where

    On that note, currently the city has offered your representatives close to 10% raises, more than doubling their original offer. At the same time, your people’s counter offer went from around 21% to 17%, all of this unrelated to the referendum proposal. Is there any hope for a compromise or are you being sold an “all or nothing” gambit based on the referendum despite comments by the mayor that he’ll have to lay off hundreds of you if forced to follow the referendum? Everyone appreciates your service but even that seems on the high end given current city finances moving forward, should the bond measure fail later this year, I doubt even that much will be left on the table, the lawyers likely to end up with better money than any of you.

  29. […] Steve Houston on Firefighters petition for a raise […]

  30. David Fagan says:

    Like I said, everyone needs rest and everyone needs to eat, but the thing about your comment is it is an attitude based on stereotype, not on numbers. People can project the idea of the lazy firefighter that only eats and sleeps, but where are your numbers? Using such specific ideas as ‘most’ or ‘many’ is nothing but an idea with no support in fact. If people want to point their finger at firefighters and say firefighters are always the problem and are far, lazy, good for nothing, then find the figures to back it up, or else the stereotype is just a prejudice.

  31. Steve Houston says:

    David, since you are advocating voters spend a great deal of money either through contract talks or via a referendum to increase your compensation, the burden of any numbers or argument is on you, not those you want to take exception with. Remember how well the legislative session worked out for your style of demands? The all or nothing attitude doesn’t serve your best interests and nobody said most firefighters slept their entire 24 hour shift but by structuring a shift that long, it reasonably demands the city accommodate your need to sleep, your need to eat three meals, and all the other aspects of life that are best left on your personal time.

    If you have studies that show a significant amount of time is not spent on tending to your personal needs while being paid, by all means share them with people when the subject is raised, otherwise you are just playing semantic sleight of hand games. So again, the city has an existing offer on the table of almost 10% and your representatives have counter offered 17%, is a compromise somewhere in the middle possible or have your people drawn another line in the sand with the referendum? The track record for lines in the sand of late hasn’t fared so well so while I think the city should be willing to go a little higher, I don’t see you winning much more without layoffs and structural changes you aren’t going to like.

  32. David Fagan says:

    This isn’t a an all of a sudden issue, but a culmination of issues. The city cried before about budget items and layoffs in 2011 and for fighters voted down benefits to ‘save jobs’, and the very next week the then mayor found $50,000,000 just laying around somewhere. Then there were brown outs, then there was a time fire fighters could not use the holiday time they accrued by working the holidays everyone else had off, not to mention constantly being told they are the crux of the financial problems of the city. Throw in some line of duty deaths and some more talk about the city going in financial ruins while financing a Super Bowl and the number of TIRZ skyrocketing, the city robbing from Peter to pay paul, fire fighters have made enough sacrifices. If the mayor was serious about a 9.5% raise then I paraphrase councilman Boykins, why didn’t he come out with it in the beginning of the negotiations? People talk about that like it was there the whole time, but his offer remained 2% a year for two years, which, in the light of the sacrifices made, is an insult. That is what is becoming sickening, I cannot speak for the body, but I personally do not trust the city anymore, and they have earned that distrust. Maybe there will be changes, but what choice is there when there have been so many sacrifices already amidst a city that is exploding, which means more responsibility for emergency workers. Divide 9.5 over 6 years, the time the raise was foregone, and you’ll get roughly 1.6% per year since 2011, since that time inflation is cumulative at 8.9%. So how is that a raise from 2011? .6%? The fire fighters are playing catch up.

  33. Steve Houston says:

    David, how many layoffs did classified HFD personnel take in 2011? Other municipal workers took unpaid days off each month and their layoffs amounted to around 800 as I recall but none of you had to worry. And exactly what benefits did you “vote down” in 2011?

    I dislike the TIRZ program as much as anyone but it has never skyrocketed in growth, merely slowly creeping up in size and amount over the last 20 odd years. Since the revenue cap was put in place, any TIRZ increases could not have helped your pay in the slightest since the program is really just a dodge to avoid the cap.

    As far as negotiations, isn’t that how they work; each side makes some wildly odd number, employees ask for the moon while management offers much less? Given you have mediation and arbitration clauses built into your negotiations, it is no surprise that the Mayor started low while you started incredibly high. But you can forget about water under the bridge and lost opportunity costs because those years are gone and it’s time to look forward.

    I don’t pretend to have walked a mile in your shoes but I’m a pragmatist, you have a standing offer that is considerable when viewed in light of city finances. If you want to address every slight, right every wrong, and go back for years to look for every hit you took, that is your choice. It won’t change the fact that your representatives are gambling an awful lot of late and their track record is not nearly as good as some of you seem to think it is. Unlike PK and others, I don’t generally make predictions of outcomes but your chances for this to resolve itself quickly are rapidly diminishing. Turner was your buddy for decades and you supported him over all the other candidates so you’re going to have to live with the consequences.

  34. David Fagan says:

    I’m proud of what the Firefighters have done, not only in word, but in action. I stand with them. This conversation is over.

  35. Steve Houston says:

    Typical non-answer. The group did not have layoffs, took no unpaid leave like most workers did, made no concessions, and is turning down a significant pay raise in favor of rolling the dice with voters. Even if they “win” at the polls, the matter will be tied up in the courts for years, all over “pride”. Gotcha!

  36. David Fagan says:

    The group didn’t have any layoffs because fire fighters voted down their own raise, under the guise of the threat of layoffs and a city who could not afford it. The very next week the then mayor “found” $50,000,000 just laying around somewhere. If you would like to support this kind of behavior, then vote for it, I cannot, nor can I continue to educate you in this area. Please do a little more research Mr. Houston, this is not a conversation if you are being educated in the history of the subject, so, as I’ve said before, this conversation is over.

  37. Steve Houston says:

    David, the city will always “find money” for pet projects unfortunately, it cannot fund raises with lump sums of money, only ongoing revenue streams, at least according to state law/city ordinance. But your group’s fights with Mayor Parker are legendary, the only trouble is, she’s gone and you’re still fighting that fight. Rest assured though, I will remain here to educate you on the basics you so lack, whether or not you respond.

    You want pay parity but only with the cops, apparently others that do your jobs for much less are beneath you. I looked at the chart offered up for parity and it was stunningly obtuse, one might even claim positions were tied to “comparables” by throwing darts randomly. Those with intimate knowledge of police duties can jump in on that subject as they see fit but I’ll throw a few out there to start the ball rolling. How many HFD captains and above are working in the city’s dispatch center? They do the same work as civilians but get none of the grief while getting substantially more in pay and benefits, no facing fires or providing medical assistance. Or arson investigators being compared to cop captains + a percent on top of that pay. Excuse me but I’d be willing to say that a homicide investigator or fatality crash investigator is more comparable, both positions handled in part by officers or sergeants(sp?).

    You have a good offer on the table. It involves no risks and could take place quickly. Instead, you seek redress for grievances going back 6 years or more because your feelings are hurt. And just so the laymen out there won’t forget what $50 million you’re talking about: From the Chron archives:
    The $50 million decrease in the budget gap for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is due primarily to $16 million more in projected tax revenues, $13 million in savings from a new employee health care contract, $7 million in property sales and the movement of $7.6 million in utility debt service that will now be paid from utility revenues instead of the general fund, Finance Director Kelly Dowe said.

    That money wasn’t sitting in a cabinet marked “long overdue firefighter raises”, it was the result of more cooking of the books in some cases and in part due to the recovery after the near economic collapse of 2009. If you think Mayor Turner is sitting on large sums of similar monies, by all means point it out to him.