Top Stories

Turner Says Firefighter Layoffs Aren’t Punishment For Confrontation Over Pay Raises, Harris County Settles DOJ Lawsuit, And 156 Parole Violators Arrested In Houston Region

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

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Top afternoon stories:

Mayor Sylvester Turner (right) was interviewed by Houston Matters host Craig Cohen (left) on March 12, 2019.

Turner Says Firefighter Layoffs Aren’t Punishment For Confrontation Over Pay Raises

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told Houston Matters on Tuesday that the hundreds of potential layoffs the City would execute in order to implement pay parity between the fire and police department is not a “punitive” or “vindictive” measure against the firefighters’ union. The city is expected to cut as many as 400 firefighters, and 100 municipal employees in the coming weeks.

The pay raises, which Houstonians approved under Proposition B in last year’s election, would equate to a 29 percent pay raise for firefighters and will cost the city approximately $100 million a year.

“I’m not against firefighters,” Turner told host Craig Cohen and added: “We have to operate within our means, we have to balance our books.”

The mayor noted that Proposition B didn’t specify a revenue source to pay for the raises, and said that “it’s a matter of we have more obligations than we have revenue to pay for it and we’re trying to balance the two.” 

Turner said the firefighters will get the first raise in May, with retroactive pay to January 1, and the first six months of raises will cost around $31 million. That amount will be taken from the city’s Fund Balance, which increases the financial gap for next year. That’s why Turner’s administration says the layoffs are necessary.

A Harris County election clerk works at the polling location at McNabb Elementary School, in Spring, on election day.
A Harris County election clerk works at the polling location at McNabb Elementary School, in Spring, on election day.

Harris County Settles DOJ Lawsuit Over Polling Locations

Harris County has been facing a lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department over polling stations that don’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Now, the federal government is dropping the suit under a settlement with the county.

The Justice Department investigated Harris County polling locations in both 2014 and 2016. In each case, it found multiple sites with architectural barriers violating the ADA, ranging from steep curb ramps to locked gates.

“For a period of four years, there will be regular inspections made, and the Department of Justice will work with Harris County and Harris County will work with the Department of Justice to make sure that these goals are being met,” said First Assistant County Attorney Robert Soard.

The settlement requires Harris County to re-survey all of its polling locations, in order to ensure the sites are accessible to voters with disabilities.

 
 

As part of the ongoing collaboration, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is sending more information about parole violators to HPD’s command center, particularly about those who are deemed the most dangerous and have cut their ankle monitors.

Acevedo said the plan is to conduct these special operations every three months.

Here is a breakdown of the arrests:

Share