Friday, July 21, 2017

Another shit week for Sylvester Turner

His prized recycling contract -- you know, the one where the city buys new recycled garbage trucks financed at 11%, instead of the under 2% it can loan itself -- got tagged (which means a vote on it is delayed for a week).

Update: The mayor decides to start all over.

Now tags really aren't that big a deal, though Jolanda Jones pissed Bill White off so badly in 2011 with her use of them that he endorsed Jack Christie against her (and Christie won, and was never dislodged from his at-large chair because Harris Democrats kept failing to coordinate an effective strategy to remove him).  In this case however it's Dave Martin we're talking about, who's one of the more pus-filled conservatives on city council.  Odious Republicans aside, Sly's created problems with too many Democrats on the horseshoe, as noted before.

But the mayor has significantly larger troubles with the city's firefighters.

Charles Kuffner had an expanded take on it yesterday, which is filled with all of the corporate and Democratic institutional concerns  -- and subtle threats -- you can think of (and some you probably didn't).  Here's one paragraph excerpted, but you should read his full screed.

Of the establishment groups that tend to get involved in city politics, the Greater Houston Partnership is all in on pension reform and spending restraint. I can’t see the Realtors opposing the Mayor on this, nor the GLBT Political Caucus, nor any Democratic-aligned groups. The one possible exception is labor, but this proposal would be bad for the police and the city workers. It’s not about a rising tide, it’s just shifting money to the firefighters from the rest of the city employees. Maybe labor backs this, maybe they don’t. The Chronicle will surely endorse a No vote. Who among the big endorsers will be with the firefighters?

Kuff was kind enough to publish my comment (as opposed to some other bloggers in our Alliance, who must think ignoring me is going to make me go away, LOL) and for the click-over-disinclined, it contains some of the points I make next.  To do him the courtesy of not continuing a back-and-forth there, or responding to the green-eyed gadflies -- NHNT, Paul Kubosh, Steve Houston; I'm looking at YOU -- who make his comment section their regular stop ... here you go.

Nancy Sims is correct, Campos is -- shockingly -- about half right, with respect to the 'bad blood' to be spilled -- and Kuff himself is just deep-in-the-weeds mistaken.

Warnings about the horrors of busted budgets, etc. fly right over the head of our Republican home-schooled and public education-gutted electorate.  But it's accurate to posit that scaring them with warnings about furloughing hundreds of policemen and women and firemen and women might tap into their lizard brains.  Is that an attack that Democrats want to launch, though?

Do Houston Democrats, their mayor leading the charge together with corporate interests and their deep-pocketed Republican contributors, really want to finance and spearhead a public castigation of working men and women -- fire fighters, mind you --  especially in the current political climate?  Somebody is surely going to make a case about the purported evils of public sector employee unions ... but is it one Democrats want to make?  When I read (on Facebook) the mayor's special assistant encouraging his friends not to sign the petition, and a high-ranking city official calling the petition-gatherers "liars" ... well, the city has already started losing the PR war.

This seems an extremely treacherous path, but if Mayor Turner and his staff want to continue making enemies of allies, it's no longer my business to try to stop them.  I can't see a win for him and them anywhere by taking the tack Kuffner and Campos suggest, but I could be wrong.  It seems kinda Trumpian to me, though.  On the other hand, maybe more Mitch McConnell.

The new (recycling) contract comes just hours before council members are set to vote on the plan that has been met with controversy. The city's housing and community affairs committee was scheduled to discuss the contract (this past) Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in council chambers. Late Monday, members of that committee said the new contract wasn't available to them.

Directly to the source of the firemen's support is the fact they gathered over 50,000 signatures, vetted them for legitimacy, and submitted 32,000, more than enough to make the ballot and let the residents of Houston decide the matter.  At last glance there were 72 comments on my Nextdoor page about the petition, and all of them, save perhaps one, are effusively in support.  Kuff's retort is that Nextdoor might not be the best barometer of vox populi, citing his own Nextdoor page's remarks about the Heights wet/dry initiative (last year?), but he's comparing apples and coconuts in that regard.

The power brokers, institutions, establishment, etc. may be stacked against the firefighters, but they surely appear to have the people solidly with them.  Oh, and former city attorney David Feldman, so they do quite obviously have plenty of money.

(Aside to Chuck: it was a 9.5% increase offered by Turner, not 10.  At least according to the H-Town Chronic you excerpt every single day.  For somebody who loves their numbers so much it's a surprise to see you get an easy one like that wrong.  No bias intended, though, amirite?)

Some observers, like UH's poli-sci prof Brandon Rottinghaus, quoted at the end of the previous link, think Turner has endangered his police pension reforms -- already on November's ballot -- with his back-of-the-hand treatment of the firemen and their subsequent take-it-to-the-streets effort.  If there is to be a backlash against the mayor, that's where it will show up.  And if he loses both the pay equality and the pension reform initiative in the fall, he's left with having to carry out his threats of laying off hundreds of HPD and HFD and other city employees in order to balance his precious city budget.  That's no way to get re-elected, no matter when elections might be scheduled by the SCOTX.

I predict that the resolution to give firefighters a raise they deserve will pass resoundingly, and the mayor and his wretched staff and the motley collection of fools on city council better start thinking about how to deal with it.  They could wreck the entire city with their high-horse bullshit if the voters also choose to send a message by defeating the mayor's pension reform proposal, but there's bound to be a way for Turner to save himself from that fate without continuing to act like a petulant dictator threatening the media.

If approved, the new (recycling contract) elements, including curbside glass, wouldn't start until late 2018. The mayor hopes to have the full approval of the council by the end of the month.

In the meantime, (Ted Oberg at KTRK) spent months trying to get answers on the city's last effort at expanding recycling. The mayor and his team didn't like our persistence.

"If you attempt to bully me, you aren't going to get a good response," Turner said. "I am not going to be bullied by you."

Let's just see what happens going forward.  Good fucking Doorknob, I wish there was an organized progressive effort in this town to put up candidates -- Green, Blue, or Other -- challenging Turner and his neoliberal flacks on city council.


Unknown said...

Good read.

Noah Horwitz said...

Perry is still upset that his preferred mayoral candidate sold out to the highest bidder when push came to shove, so he's focusing on highlighting any nitpicks on the person the actual progressives supported from the beginning. It's funny to watch.

PDiddie said...

No, Perry isn't. Perry ate an full plate of black crow with a large slice of humble pie after that, and then it was behind him. "The actual progressives" mostly sat out the last mayor's race (you really need Pop to buy you a new dictionary, kid) but if my calling out Sly Turner's foibles gives you a chuckle, I'm thinking you're going to have a lot to laugh about from now until November.

Feel free to address me in first person next time, unless this is cut and pasted from elsewhere, and then you should simply make the necessary pronoun revisions. Don;t be lazy.