He has a free shot, he knows both sides of the aisle in Austin (pretty well), and he can't get along with some of the usual Democratic constituencies in Houston. Seems tailor-made for the job.
Simmering tensions and acrimony between Houston firefighters and Mayor Sylvester Turner have boiled over after the mayor erupted at firefighters who spurned him at two recent public events.
The most recent incident, which took place at a Houston Rockets game Thursday, prompted the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 341 to send Turner a letter warning him not to threaten the association's membership.
"Twice in the past week, you threatened firefighters that declined to engage with you in public settings," HPFFA President Marty Lancton wrote in a Friday letter sent to Turner and city council members. "We believe these confrontations violate state law. If they occur again, we will take appropriate action."
When asked about the incident, Turner said the firefighters had engaged in unprofessional and inappropriate behavior.
That's the pot calling the kettle you-know-what-color. It's getting hard to tell who the mayor hates more: the firefighters or the homeless.
The tensions come amid a worsening relationship between firefighters – who campaigned extensively for Turner before his election in 2015 – and the mayor, particularly over recent moves to rein in looming pension obligations and what they see as the city's failure to bargain in good faith during contract negotiations.
"Firefighters deserve a good contract and a raise," said Gaylon Davenport, president of the Houston Black Firefighters Association. "They do a good job and everyone knows that. They deserve a raise and it hasn't happened and because of that it's toxic."
Why do these odd confrontations always happen at Rockets games?
Lancton said a fire inspector had been working at the Rockets game Thursday, which Turner was attending. The firefighter – who has been with the department for 15 years – saw the mayor approaching and tried to walk away.
"You don't walk away from me," he said Turner yelled, threatening to make sure he wouldn't be able to work security at the stadium in the future, and making him give his identification details to several cops working on his security detail.
"It's absolutely inappropriate from anyone in power to intimidate and aggress someone -- a classified member of the fire department -- when they're trying to diffuse a situation," Lancton said. "There are clear guidelines and laws, if someone felt someone was behaving inappropriately. There are ways to handle that situation."
Just days before, another firefighter had gotten crosswise with Turner at a National Night Out event in Gulfton, Lancton said.
After Turner spoke, he tried to speak to some firefighters also participating in the event, one of whom declined to shake his hand.
Turner apparently told the firefighter, "I'm still your boss," and stormed off, Lancton said.
Read on at the end of that piece where the mayor didn't have to call for backup from two Republican members of council. Just a couple of weeks ago, Turner and a couple of Democratic CMs (prior confrontations blogged) quarreled again in too-personal fashion, this time about Harvey-related debris removal. It's probably a good thing for his relationships with Paul Kubosh and Dave Martin and Brenda Stardig and Mike Knox, et. al., that the study on Confederate monuments got interrupted by the hurricane.
So Hizzoner seems like a bipartisan kinda guy, someone who can work well with conservatives and crack on Democrats when they don't show proper deference, or something. For all the hard work Turner did and the goodwill built up during his crisis management in the aftermath of this year's 500- year storm, it sure seems as if he could spend that political capital more productively than in an unnecessary extension of a pissing contest with the city's firemen and women. Why, he's even got fresh experience at forcing Greg Abbott to knuckle under, and that's kind of a big deal.
There are, after all, some difficult and expensive questions emerging that somebody down at Bagby will have to answer, and Turner won't be able to wield that tax hike cudgel twice. And if the New Democrats running the TDP can't get Joe Straus or Joaquin Castro to run ... who better than Sly?