For the second Houston City Council meeting in a row, District D Council Member Dwight Boykins utilized a controversial method March 20 to stall proceedings by “tagging,” or postponing, all new items on the agenda.
“Tagging everything makes a mockery of the process,” Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen said. “It’s insulting to the citizens of Houston.”
Sparking multiple heated exchanges and interruptions among council members, Boykins used the maneuver as a last-resort effort to get Mayor Sylvester Turner to swear in fire cadets who recently completed training at the fire academy. The cadets are awaiting getting sworn in while city staff determine how to implement Proposition B’s voter-approved pay raises for the entire department—and possibly issue layoffs as early as April.
“The purpose of my tagging is just to stand up for who I believe and what I believe is right,” Boykins said.
A few agenda items Boykins said he deemed too crucial to tag were then tagged by District G Council Member Greg Travis, who said while he disagreed with Boykin’s methods and called them “extortion,” he said Boykins should be willing to commit to tagging the entire agenda to prove his point.
“I am here today putting these tags on [items]9, 10, 11 and 12 to save Council Member Boykins from himself,” Travis said. “… If you’re going to have a set of principles, then live by those principles.”
The agenda items were proposals for general property insurance for the city of Houston as well as one agenda item that proposed a terrorism insurance contract for the city. Turner said while he wanted to make progress on the items, delaying votes on them by one week would not immediately impact the city’s public safety.
Following the meeting, Boykins spoke with reporters, saying he stood by his tagging and also went into details of three amendments he hopes to have approved as agenda items for next week’s meeting. The amendments, which offer varying levels of citywide trash collection fees, are aimed at curbing the cost of implementing the firefighter pay raises without requiring layoffs.
“All I am trying to do is present an option,” Boykins said. “It may not be the answer but until we get sustainable information that makes sure we do the will of the voters.”
Turner and Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña briefly hosted a joint press conference after the meeting, during which Turner said he does not oppose the idea of the amendments getting added to the agenda; however, he would not vote in approval of them.
“It is regressive is nature,” Turner said. “It will hurt the poor and low-income families in the city of Houston, but nonetheless, that is his proposal to pay for Proposition B.”