HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Outraged by Mayor Sylvester Turner's refusal to swear-in 68 graduated fire cadets, Houston Councilman Dwight Boykins exercised his right to "tag", or automatically delay, nearly every item on the Council agenda - an extreme protest he considers justified.
"You have these men and women who cannot afford to feed their families, they are moving to Houston from Vegas and other places to become a member of the Houston Fire Department to put their life on the line, and we are playing politics. I don't like it and I am going to stand up for what I believe is right," said Boykins, who vowed to continue tagging agenda items until the cadets are elevated into service protecting the public.
Triggering Boykins protest was the recent swearing in of more than 60 Houston Police cadets.
The Mayor says the City needs 600 to 1000 additional police officers, but could absorb a reduction of 800 or more firefighters.
Backing Boykins in support of Firefighters was Councilman Michael Kubosh, who spoke directly to the Mayor.
"Let’s just swear them in! Every time I look at this I think of Pharaoh. 'Let my people go' is what Moses said to him. So Mayor, let’s let these cadets go," said Kubosh.
An effort by Councilman Jack Christie to block Boykins' delay tactics failed when no other member would second the motion.
Boykins did draw some fire from the Mayor and fellow members of Council who see his protest as politically driven and counterproductive.
"Tagging all these items is an insult to the public. This is not the way to conduct the business of the City," said Councilwoman Ellen Cohen.
"If we are going to do this next week and the next week and the next week, go for it, but it's just going to sit there and backfire. I don't think it's going to achieve the goal you want to achieve," said Councilman Greg Travis who labeled Boykins tagging as "abusive'.
"I leave it up to the Council members. That is their right, to tag. The question is - is it the responsible thing to do?" said Turner after the meeting concluded.
The Firefighters Union welcomed Boykins' crusade while fiercely objecting to the Mayor's contention that public safety wouldn't be comprised with a drawdown of force at HFD. The firefighter cadets remain on the City pay roll and are earning $28,000 per year. If sworn and deployed within the department, their annual salary will rise to $40,000.
With the fire cadet issue directly related to the voter approved pay parity mandated by Proposition B, Boykin's action drew comment from mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee.
"I applaud Council Member Boykins for this action. I’m calling on all the other Council Members to join him. It’s high time that this Council stopped letting this mayor bully them and stood up to this mayor. The mayor is imploding. He is bleeding support and at this point isn’t electable," said Buzbee.
Mayoral candidate Bill King made the following statement on the issue via Twitter on Wednesday.