Mayor John Whitmire took swift action today, reaffirming his commitment to fulfill campaign promises as he engaged in a meeting with representatives of the Houston Professional Firefighters Association. Within the initial five minutes of the discussion, Mayor Whitmire instructed City Attorney Arturo Michel to withdraw the appeal related to the City’s legal challenge concerning backpay for fiscal years 2018 through 2024. This move signals the beginning of the end for the longstanding legal battle initiated by his predecessor over fair compensation and benefits for Houston firefighters.
“I want the City to distance itself from the court process as much as possible and concentrate on resolving this protracted dispute fairly and expeditiously,” stated Whitmire. “I reiterated on the campaign trail and in my inaugural address that our first responders should not fear legal action during the Whitmire Administration, and I am staying true to that commitment.”
Both Mayor Whitmire and Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association President Patrick M. “Marty” Lancton have directed their lead attorneys, City Attorney Arturo Michel and HPFFA attorney Troy Blakeney, to initiate discussions this week and maintain ongoing communication until a consensus on the way forward is reached.
“Within 72 hours of taking office, Mayor Whitmire is taking decisive steps to deliver on the promises made to Houston firefighters during the campaign,” remarked Lancton. “After eight years of discord, we are finally moving in the right direction. It is challenging to express how much this means to Houston firefighters and their families to have a leader who respects them and follows through on his commitments.”
In mid-December, State District Judge Lauren Reeder upheld the constitutionality of Senate Bill 736, which mandates binding arbitration when collective bargaining reaches an impasse. The judge ordered the city and the fire union to resume contract negotiations, overturning the former Mayor’s challenge to the constitutionality of the Senate bill.