Along with the contests for senator, governor and other elected offices, the Nov. 6 ballot will include two crucial items for all voters who live in the city of Houston. Please don’t forget them when you vote, either in the early voting period that starts Oct. 22 or on Election Day.
Proposition A is about Rebuild Houston, the program that has provided more than $800 million in city drainage improvements throughout the city and paid off $1.1 billion in debt. Essentially, voters will be asked whether to keep in place a “lock box” that allows revenue from a city drainage fee to be spent only for drainage and street improvements, which help control flooding.
I have promised to spend the funds as intended, regardless of the results of the election. But rejection of Proposition A would mean future mayors would be able to use the funds on projects unrelated to drainage, streets and flood control.
Proposition B is about whether Houston firefighters’ pay should be the same as police officers’ pay without the additional requirements on education and work schedules under which police officers do their jobs. A firefighters’ union petition drive put this issue on the ballot.
Approval of Proposition B would require the city to give firefighters pay increases of at least 25 percent along with matches for any future raises awarded to police officers. The initial raise would cost the city $98 million each year. This is more than the city can afford.
The city is operating under a revenue cap. To fund the salary hikes, the city may be forced to lay off employees and cut services. Most of the city budget is spent on pay and operations for the fire and police departments, so many of the cuts would have to come from those departments. The city would have fewer firefighters and would have to reduce service hours at libraries and parks, among other things.
The firefighters rejected a 4 percent raise offered by our previous mayor and a 9.5 percent raise over 3 years that I offered. I have not withdrawn my offer and it remains on the table.
In the Nov. 6 election, voters may make a single selection that casts a vote for all candidates in a political party. But the “straight ticket” option will not cast any votes on Propositions A or B. They should be marked separately.
I am conducting town hall meetings in every council district to discuss the propositions with our constituents. I hope residents will attend, learn and ask questions.