'We need a mediator to step in': City Council proposes new plan for Prop B

HOUSTON – To implement Prop B, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has already laid off 47 municipal employees and 67 firefighter trainees and is proposing to eliminate 220 firefighter positions.

Both Turner and the firefighters union said there’s a way to do it that wouldn’t require layoffs.

But for months, negotiations between Turner and the union have been stalled.

Now some Houston City Council members are saying it’s time to try something different.

Turner said there would be no layoffs if Prop B were phased in over five years.

"Not one single firefighter would be laid off if it was phased in over five years. There would be no layoffs. absolutely none," Turner said.

The firefighters agree but said it should be done sooner, in 3 1/2 years. They're complaining that Turner still hasn’t turned over financial documents they need to evaluate his plan.

On Tuesday, several city employees urged the City Council to break the impasse.

“I’m asking for no more layoffs throughout the city,” city employee Gail McGruder said.

“Love more, hate less, go back to the table and negotiate," city employee Malorie Saxton said.

City Council members Brenda Stardig and Steve Le also think there’s a way to do it.

“We need a mediator to step in. A third party that's not involved in any of these conversations or has any skin in the game,” Stardig said.

There is clearly support on the council for mediation.

“The movement has gone so far off the tracks that neither side trusts the other,” Mike Laster, Council District J, said.

Turner threw cold water on the idea Tuesday, saying a mediator isn’t the solution.

“Mediation is not binding," Turner said, “and bringing in a third party or fourth party or a fifth party, it's just a delay and this budget must balance and it must balance by the end of June.”

Firefighters have provided no comment on the matter. Turner told the union the financial document they requested will be available by Wednesday.

If that happens, it could also move the negotiations closer to a less-painful solution.