March 18, 2015
Mayor Oscar Leeser and City Council Members
300 N. Campbell, 2nd Floor
El Paso, TX 79901
Dear Mayor Leeser:
I am writing this letter in support of our El Paso Fire Fighters. I was extremely discouraged to see that the City of El Paso was unable to reach an agreement with our firemen and women, who provide such a valuable and many times vital service to our community. I understand that both you and the leadership of the El Paso Firefighters must exercise this responsibility every three years; however, this is the first time in recent history that I have witnessed negotiations breakdown so dramatically.
During the legislative interim, I took an interest in the contract talks and attended several meetings between the fire fighters and the city. On the dates I could not attend personally, I sent members of my staff to attend. Much of the time was spent caucusing on the City’s part, which I assumed meant there would be a resolution quickly as had been in years past. Clearly, this is not the case.
Now that the process has reached its final stage, City Council has called for citizens of El Paso to settle a contract. It is unfortunate on how far apart both sides are on the issue of wages and the increase in health insurance premiums for our public servants. Our first responders, our fire fighters are being asked to take a cut in pay and benefits.
I understand the difficulty of budget constraints. At the state, we have many of the same concerns, but we as public officials must always consider the well-being, health and safety of our citizens in these discussions. For example, this month, the House Appropriations Committee approved a 10% pay increase for correctional and parole officers whose service is integral in keeping our communities safe. We adopted a 2.5% pay increase for all state employees, individuals that provide services and guidance to Texans ranging from healthcare assistance to workforce development. Lastly, we appropriated almost $800 million to keep our Teachers Retirement System solvent and are actively looking for solutions to maintain these levels in the coming bienniums.
I do believe the City has the ability to support those men and women that selflessly serve our citizens. I believe you can openly understand the concerns on both sides and work with the firefighters to negotiate a contract that is fair and just, recognizing also that the firefighters have been good stewards to our taxpayers in times of economic hardship.
On behalf of the citizens of House District 77, I stand firmly with the firefighters and their efforts for a fair contract, a contract that recognizes their fundamental role in our community’s health and safety. Should you have any questions or would like to discuss this issue further, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
State Representative, District 77
Texas House of Representatives