Mayor Gets Firefighters Flaming Mad
By an anonymous city of Houston employee
Art by Blake Jones
The mayor is suing the Houston fire department. You know those guys that are often referred to as everyday heroes in other cities. Yes, that’s right…our mayor is after those guys. Personally I have a deep respect for firefighters, because that’s a service that I can clearly see being done. When there is a fire it HAS to be put out. When there is a crime, they don’t have to be solved. In fact, there have been whole TV shows dedicated to unsolved crimes-there maybe be a whole network, now that I think of it.
Regardless, Parker has twice failed to convince state legislators to grant her the ability to negotiate the Houston firefighters’ pension, so she’s suing them. Now I am all for the city making budget cuts, but Parker and a host of others have blamed the Fire Department as the meat of this budget problem.
But local media has failed to address a number of issues when it comes to the Mayor Parker’s efforts in saving us money. We could start looking at Parker’s increased pay to executives by 8%. Or Parker herself accepting a pay increase of 12% in 2004. Between 2009 and 2011, Parker’s chief of staff, Waynette Chan, was awarded half a dozen pay increases, lifting her salary from $123,000 to 180,000. In a three year period, beginning in 2009, Finance Director Janet Evans’ salary went from $ 76,000 to $128,000. But to add to Parker’s failure in economics, city employees also recently changed health providers to Cigna. This new plan has costed the city millions. The prescription benefit portion of the plan indicates that its role as middleman Cigna kept somewhere around $4 million dollars in rebates. This money could have gone to the city had Mayor Parker’s staff done a better job of deal making.
But Parker’s pay raise to the city attorney seems the most interesting. The city’s attorney David Feldman, who of course is a major player in the suit against HFD, was recently given a major pay raise. How much of a raise? Oh just about 43% more. Feldman is the second highest paid city attorney in the nation. Houston firefighters are ranked 139th in nationwide firefighters pay (and we are the 4th largest city?)
Last fall Parker also granted large raises to her senior staff, several of whom have incurred pay increases of 30% since assuming their duties. So why attack the fire fighters’ pension?
The mayor wants to regulate overtime work and as well as limit the number of firefighters on duty in surrounding areas such as Alief and Acres Homes. One big issue with the firefighters’ contract is that they are required to staff four people per engine and two per ambulance. But take into account unexpected absences and moved resources and there is quite a bit of overtime pay. The goal for both sides is to limit overtime pay so the department doesn’t go over budget. Why doesn’t the city just hire more firefighters if overtime is such a problem?
That seems fair, until you look at Mayor Parker’s role before she was Mayor. Annise Parker was the City’s controller from 2005 to 2007.
What is the function of the City Controller?
The city controller serves as the city’s chief financial officer and is responsible for ensuring that the assets of the city are properly accounted for and expended in a manner consistent with applicable laws, policies, plans and procedures. To accomplish this goal, the city controller performs various functions including but not limited to the following:
- ●certifying the availability of city funds prior to council approval of city commitments,
- ●processing and monitoring disbursements which total 2.4 billion dollars annually,
- ●investing the city’s funds,
- ●conducting internal audits of city departments and federal grant programs,
- ●operating and maintaining the city’s financial management system,
- ●conducting the sale of the city’s public improvement and revenue bonds, and
- ●producing a comprehensive annual financial report.
- I literally copied and pasted that from the city of Houston website. If anyone is responsible for our city budget falling short, it would seem like all fingers point to Ms. Parker.
- In addition to the dangers firefighters face in their immediate job roles, selflessly serving the community, as well as the long-term physical and mental toll the job places on their health and wellbeing, it seems like there should be other ways of looking at the budget.
- The city is required by law to make its full annual payment to the fire pension, yet they don’t want to honor that. Now the city is filing a lawsuit stating that they want to break this law, in order to get them out of debt. Increasing the salary of a city attorney seems more in line with a mayor who has been making questionable decisions, rather than a mayor who is saving us money.
by Guest Author