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Houston Mayor Says Ballot Measure’s Approval Could Mean Slower Response To 911 Calls

“If there’s an EMS related call, they may not get to you as fast,” Mayor Sylvester Turner says.

Firefighters and other advocates of Proposition B wait outside of the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center, a voting location on West Gray St, on November 6, 2018.

Houston’s mayor says a ballot measure voters approved on Tuesday could lead to delays when residents call 911.

Voters approved Proposition B by a wide margin on Election Day, with about 69 percent of Houston residents voting in favor of the measure that gives local firefighters pay parity with police.

Mayor Sylvester Turner says the measure, which will require pay raises for firefighters, slaps the city with a $100 million per year bill, and that the city will have to make cuts to pay for it.

That includes firefighters, Turner says, which could lead to delays in emergencies.

“If there’s an EMS related call, they may not get to you as fast,” he said during the traditional media availability held after the City Council Wednesday meeting. “If there’s a fire, they may not respond as fast. Things of that nature. It’s in the response time.”

The Houston firefighters’ union, which backed the measure, has claimed the mayor is inflating the costs. The union’s president Patrick ‘Marty’ Lancton tells News 88.7 his side is now ready to hammer out the details of implementing Prop B.

“We stand ready to work with anybody, anytime, anywhere, as we move forward,” Lancton said.

Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund Board Chairman Brett Besselman said in a statement their study of Prop. B indicates its passage will cause a long-term improvement to benefits for Houston firefighters because “it will delay by two years benefit cuts that will likely be required under pension reform legislation passed in 2017.”

Besselman also said that, in 30 years, they project the pension fund will improve to 85 percent funded. The Fund Board’s analysis assumes the Houston Fire Department headcount remains the same and there actually is a payroll increase. 

Mayor Turner is leaving open the possibility of a legal fight.

“…there is a potential for a court challenge on how the prop might conflict with state law,” Turner said on Twitter.

 

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Travis Bubenik

Travis Bubenik

Energy & Environment Reporter

Travis Bubenik reports on the tangled intersections of energy and the environment in Houston and across Texas. A Houston native and proud Longhorn, he returned to the Bayou City after serving as the Morning Edition Host & Reporter for Marfa Public Radio in Far West Texas. Bubenik was previously the...

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