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A very special Council meeting

Who knew there was such a thing?

In a rare maneuver that sidesteps Mayor Sylvester Turner’s authority, five city council members have called a special meeting this week, hoping to force the issue of Houston firefighters’ push for a referendum on pay “parity” with police.

The council members aim to secure their colleagues’ support for a resolution calling on Turner to place an item on the council’s July 24 agenda to schedule a November election on the petition, which seeks to grant firefighters the same pay as police officers of corresponding rank.

In Houston’s strong-mayor form of government, the mayor generally has sole authority to decide what appears on the agenda for the weekly council meetings.

The lone exception allows three council members to set the agenda of a special meeting. Such gatherings — including this one — typically are organized without the mayor’s approval, and often struggle to muster a quorum, as many of the 16 council members are loathe to invite the mayor’s wrath.

Council members Greg Travis, Michael Kubosh, Brenda Stardig, Martha Castex-Tatum and Dwight Boykins signed a Monday memo calling a special council meeting for Friday at 10 a.m.

Turner is on a trade mission in South America and will not be back in time to attend the meeting.

Kubosh said he signed the memo to help ensure the issue was discussed, noting that several elections have passed since the petition was submitted.

“They were successful last year at stalling it a whole year, so, yes, I think that’s possible,” Kubosh said, referring to the Turner administration.


[CM Dave] Martin [who chairs the Council’s budget committee] said he does not intend to attend Friday’s meeting and doubts the organizers will have the quorum necessary for a formal vote.

“If they don’t show up, they don’t show up,” Kubosh said. “But I’ll show up.”

It is unclear what the impact would be if the proposed resolution reaches a vote and passes.

City Attorney Ron Lewis declined to address whether that outcome could force the mayor to act, given that the city charter gives Turner control of the council agenda.

“As a practical matter,” Lewis said, “the item will go on an agenda that’s timely, and the mayor’s committed to that.”

Insert shrug emoji here. The petitions were certified in May, and one would think the vote would be in November. According to Mayor Turner’s chief of staff and confirmed by CM Martin, this was to be discussed at the budget committee hearing on July 26, with the item for placing it on the ballot to be on Council’s August 8 agenda. I don’t know what else there is to say.

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  1. Rusty says:

    I’m glad to see these council members stepping in to ensure that the will of their constituents is allowed to be decided at the ballot box. I get the feeling that more than anything this is an attempt to keep this issue in the spotlight so that Turner is unable keep attempting to “run the clock out” on parity as he has already tried to do. Quorum or no quorum, I would classify it as an attempt to compel him to step aside and let the issue play out at the ballot box through a bit of public shaming. Unfortunately, it has become clear over the past years and most acutely the past week that you can’t shame someone who is absent the moral qualities necessary to have shame.

  2. Jason Hochman says:

    Interesting, although, to be fair, Turner inherited these disasters from the Parker regime, but who can say why he has been so recalcitrant toward the firefighters. I am not sure why the council members would be so worried about incurring the wrath of Mayor Turner. Although the voluntary compliance agreement with HUD signed in March states that it is “not to be construed as a finding of any wrongdoing” by Mayor Turner or any other city official, the council could certainly impeach him and therefore, holds the trump card during his tenure. Although, he could resort to lawsuits, as he did with Wayne Dolcefino, who ultimately appealed and triumphed.

  3. David Fagan says:

    It shows who does not have the time to care (Martin) and who cares to perform their elected duty (Kubosh).

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    Putting the matter to a public vote seems like the easiest way for Turner and the Council to dodge the bullet and let the voters make the hard choice. The only thing Turner and Council really need to do is give an estimate of how much it will cost and what will be cut to pay for it.