Sylvester Turner told City Council members last week that he intends to lay off 400 firefighters and trigger the layoff of another 100 employees in other departments to pay for the increased cost of Proposition B.[i] Turner claims there is no other way to fund Proposition B. It is a despicable lie and one that will endanger the public safety of all Houstonians.
The new $80 million estimates are 1.5% of the City’s total budget. Turner would have us believe the absurd proposition that there is no expenditure in the City’s $5.4 billion budget that is less critical than public safety.
Last week, we also learned that Turner approved $400 million in payments in FY2017-2018 alone that were made pursuant to contracts that were not approved by City Council. That is five times the amount needed to pay for Proposition B.
I can only imagine the amount of graft and cronyism hidden in that $400 million. We know this mayor has a penchant for showering his buddies with contracts, like the $6.7 million, no-bid contract he gave to his former law partner whose firm has four lawyers.
It is outrageous that hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent without Council approval or disclosure to the public. It is time for City Council to stand up and do its job. Council should refuse to approve the budget this year (i) without an in-depth review of the contracts Turner has signed without Council approval, and (ii) unless all contracts under $50,000 are prominently disclosed on the City website.
Not one employee, and especially no firefighters, should be laid off until Turner discloses every one of the $400 million of contracts he approved last year and every contract on which funds have been spent this year.
[i] Turner is now estimating the cost of Proposition B to be $80 million, a far cry from the $120 million he touted during his campaign against it. You may recall my estimate before the election was $80 million. [Click here to read my previous estimate of the cost.]