HOUSTON (FOX 26) - For the second time in as many meetings, consternation reigned at Houston City Hall.
An outspoken crusader for first responders, Councilman Dwight Boykins employed his authority to "tag" proposals under consideration to delay nearly every item on the agenda. Boykins says it's a protest over Mayor Sylvester Turner's decision to leave 68 trained fire cadets unsworn and undeployed.
"This issue can be resolved. All we have to do is seat the firefighters, the cadets who are trained and prepared and ready to go. That's all I'm asking," said Boykins.
Around the Council "horseshoe", frustrated colleagues reacted with scorn.
"Tagging everything makes a mockery of the process. It's insulting to the citizens," said Council Member Ellen Cohen.
"I don't like these games," complained Council Member Karla Cisneros.
"What I just heard a few minutes ago was extortion," accused Council Member Greg Travis.
And yet, for another week, the Mayor couldn't muster enough support to override the protest, as just enough members viewed a vote against Boykins as undermining their own capacity to use the same leverage in the future.
"I am prepared to die on the hill of protecting the tag as a council member. It is the only tool we have," said Council Member Mike Laster.
During a week when the festering controversy over impending firefighter layoffs led to a march on City Hall, the Mayor did deliver one concession - a vote next week on Boykins' proposal to fund pay parity for firefighters with a city-wide garbage collection fee.
"I think it's important for the Mayor to get the votes, because it's good for the City. It will prevent layoffs in the City of Houston," said Boykins of the fee proposal, which would add between $19 and $27 to the monthly utility bills of property owners
But after Wednesday's meeting, the Mayor repeated his opposition to Boykins' revenue generating plan.
"Let me be very clear, I don't support it and I won't vote for any one of those amendments. I think they are regressive," said Turner.
Also Wednesday, the International Longshoreman's Association announced it was rescinding its political support of the Mayor as a show of solidarity with the Firefighter Union.
In a statement, the ILA claimed Turner had "turned his back on the labor movement".
On March 1st, the Houston Federation of Teachers withdrew its support as well, citing City litigation challenging collective bargaining rights.