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Judge Orders City Of Houston To Implement Prop B, Houston’s Murder Rate Rises In 2018, And Abbott Selects Texas Secretary Of State

These are some of the stories Houston Public Media is covering.


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Top afternoon stories:

Judge Orders City Of Houston To Implement Pay Parity For Firefighters

Houston firefighters will get their raises starting January 1. A Harris County district court judge has ordered the City of Houston to implement Proposition B, requiring pay parity between firefighters and police.

In his decision, Judge Randy Wilson wrote that nothing about Proposition B violates state law, as both the Houston Police Officers' Union and Mayor Sylvester Turner's administration argued. The judge acknowledged pay parity may cost the city more than $100 million a year and require layoffs of police. But he noted the Turner administration made those costs clear in the run-up to November's election, and Houston voters approved the measure by an overwhelming margin.

"I think the question really now is, ‘Will the mayor continue to defy the will of the voters and keep punishing firefighters and their families?'" said Patrick M. "Marty" Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association.

The Houston Police Officers' Union issued a statement that said: "We have done everything in our power to stop the catastrophic effects of Prop B. Fire union leaders have said the Mayor is only bluffing and the layoffs are a scare tactic. We shall see."

Mayor Sylvester Turner released a statement saying that, based on the judge’s ruling and as the case proceeds through the legal system, “the City will start the process to implement Prop B — pending a final court determination on whether it was pre-empted by state law.”

Turner added in his statement that “the stakes are extremely high” and noted that, given that the HPD-HFD pay parity will cost the city $100 a year, the measure “will trigger the layoffs of less senior firefighters to pay the salaries of firefighters who have been employed longer.”

Houston's Murder Rate Rises In 2018

Despite a nationwide trend of declining murder rates in big cities, Houston is expected to see an uptick in total murders in 2018, according to a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice.

In 2017, the total number of murders in Houston was 269. Based on current data, the Brennan Center for Justice predicts this number will increase by 24.7 percent to 335 murders in 2018, though the number could vary slightly depending on the data that comes in.

"We produce these reports with the most recent data we're able to obtain at the time," Ames Grawert told Houston Matters. He said the Houston estimate is based on data provided through the third quarter of the year, and that it's likely the murder rate will vary slightly based on year-end data.

"[The murder rate] probably won't be down, I'd expect it to still be up somewhat, but it could be less of an increase than what we're expecting," he said.

The annual report looks at murder rates in the 30 largest cities.

Abbott Selects Deputy Chief Of Staff As New Texas Secretary Of StateAbbott Selects Deputy Chief Of Staff As New Texas Secretary Of State

A high-ranking aide to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is poised to become Texas' newest top election official, The Texas Tribune reported.

Abbott on Monday appointed David Whitley, who served most recently as the governor's deputy chief of staff, as the next secretary of state. Whitley replaces outgoing Secretary of State Rolando Pablos, who stepped down Dec. 15 after nearly two years in the position.

Whitley will need to be confirmed for the position by the Texas Senate. The secretary of state is Texas' chief elections officer, assisting county election officials and working to uniformly apply election laws across Texas.

Whitley began working for then-Attorney General Abbott in 2004. Whitley holds finance and law degrees from the University of Texas at Austin, according to Abbott's statement.