It’s been a rough week for Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. Someone outs him for paying his close friend $95,000 a year as an intern. He denies knowing the guy. Tony Buzbee produces a letter of recommendation that Turner wrote for the intern and says that he has heavily redacted text messages between them. Turner has an oops moment and blames his lie on the fact that he wasn’t expecting the question from the reporter. Today, the Houston Chronicle has to walk back their defense of Turner’s record on violent crime, reporting via Twitter that violent crime has increased 6.1% during the Turner administration. Where to start.
Let’s start with the friend, the guy that Turner talked the airport system into hiring for $95,000 a year to learn on the job. Turner’s (mis)communications team issued two separate statements. The first one says “For reference, there are a total of 94 Senior Staff Analysts positions in the City of Houston, of which 15 are at the Executive Level. The current salary range for Senior Staff Analysts is $74,256 – $131,325.” and that “The City of Houston is proud of our record on recruiting, hiring and retaining qualified individuals. We are especially proud of our intentional outreach to attract millennials who bring innovative ideas and energy to our workforce. As we compete with the private sector for qualified employees willing to learn and excel, we are amazed at our good fortune to attract such talented young men and women committed to a life of public service.”
Think about that for a minute. As Bill King pointed out, Turner’s intern earns more than 95% of city employees, 99% of Houston firefighters. But it is far worse than just this one intern. Turner’s own statement shows that there are 94 of these “Senior Staff Analysts” in total. He doesn’t give us an average salary but the range is so broad that I’ll just use his special intern’s salary of $95,000. That equals $8.93 million taxpayer dollars just so that Turner can hire millennials. How many potholes will that amount fill? How many police officers or firefighters would that amount hire? It’s absurd.
The second statement is even stranger. In that one, Turner says that waiving job postings is normal and routine and that he has done it 122 time during his administration. Goodness. How many special friends does this guy have? A basic HR requirement in any large business is that positions are posted so that everyone has a chance to apply. That should be an even stronger requirement for government positions.
Another absurdity was the insane reaction when Tony Buzbee questioned the relationship between Turner and the intern. People on Twitter went nuts, saying that was off limits. Let me ask you something. In any other corporation, if a 65 year old manager hired a 31 year old intern at an excessive salary, would it be off limits to inquire about the nature of their relationship when you are given heavily redacted text messages between them? And the manager at first lies about even knowing the intern? No, it certainly wouldn’t. You want equality? You got it.
Pointing out that violent crime is up is not fearmongering
When Tony Buzbee and Bill King started focusing on violent crime in Houston, the Houston Chronicle decided that they had to protect Turner. On September 14, they ran an article with this headline: Houston’s mayoral candidates say crime is getting worse. The numbers say otherwise. Then a columnist had this headline on September 29: Buzbee should stop fearmongering about Houston’s crime rates.
Turns out that Buzbee wasn’t fearmongering at all. As Bill King noted at last night’s debate, the 2018 numbers hadn’t been released by the FBI. Well, they were today. And guess what? Buzbee and King were correct. I’ll let King’s email from this morning explain it.
FBI Crime Statistics for 2018 Confirm Violent Crime Up Significantly Under Turner
Yesterday the FBI released the crime statistics for 2018. Those numbers confirm precisely what I have been saying on the campaign trail. Violent crime, after years of decline has gone up dramatically since Sylvester Turner took office.
As opposed to the guesstimate reported in the Houston Chronicle earlier this month, here are the actual numbers from the FBI:
Violent crime in Houston had been on long-term decline prior to the Turner administration. But in 2016 and 2017 we saw a dramatic reversal of that trend. In 2017, there were 25,609 violent crimes. That was the highest total since 2009 and the second highest since 2000.
According to the new data, there was about a 6% decrease in violent crime in 2018 compared to the elevated levels in 2017. However, we still had 9.4% more violent crimes in 2018 than in Parker’s last year in office, not 4% as erroneously reported in the Houston Chronicle.
Of course, the number that jumps off the page here is the 68% increase in rapes. That number is somewhat exaggerated because in 2014 the FBI changed to a more expansive definition of rape. That change resulted in a third increase in the number of rapes that year. But even if you compare the number of rapes in the Parker administration after the definition was changed to Turner’s years in office, there is still a 42% increase. It is hard to know what is going on when you see this kind of dramatic increase. There may be some change in reporting behavior. But the fact that four of our fellow citizens are being raped every day in our City is unacceptable.
We certainly don’t need any fearmongering about crime. But neither do we need anyone minimizing crime to support their political agenda. If you want a mayor that will tell you the unvarnished truth, the good and the bad, I’m your man.
But wait, you say! That’s a candidate and he didn’t even use crime rates, he used actual numbers. Okay, I say, then look at the same information that was put on twitter this morning by one of the reporters that tried to convince you on September 14th that violent crime wasn’t a real problem in Houston.
This one shows that violent crimes per 100,000 Houstonians is up 6.1% during Turner’s term in office. Astonishingly, rapes per 100,000 Houstonians are up 24.2%.
The bottom line is that Tony Buzbee and Bill King are correct. Violent crime is UP under Sylvester Turner. And they are also correct that a lot of non-violent crime is no longer reported because it is a waste of time in this administration. I was glad to see that most of the candidates at the debate last night will immediately hire a new police chief if they are elected. I liked Dwight Boykins term for HPD Chief Art Acevedo: Hollywood. Acevedo is a blowhard that focuses on getting media attention instead of solid community policing. He has to go.
Cindy M says
I believe these numbers are inaccurate. Crime rates are a lot higher than this and this chart does not reflect all the violent and nonviolent crimes committed so far this year. As someone who has been a victim of three crimes within the past 1.5 years and seen violent crimes in Northwest Houston sky rocket in the past few years, I can tell you something is not right about these numbers. I don’t believe these numbers reflect all reported crimes in Harris County. Due to changes implemented by Harris County is officials, officials’ political affiliation and the policies of their party, citizens can not trust HC officials to provide accurate and honest information to the public or to state and federal agencies collecting the data. I hope citizens of HC will pay attention to the crimes happening in their neighborhoods and consider their families’ safety and security first when voting in the upcoming election. Just within the past 2 years Houston & Harris County have become a very dangerous place to live.
Allen Portman says
Turner is so corrupt and such a scratch-my-back and I’ll scratch yours, that there’s no telling what really lies beneath the daily wheeling and dealing! It’s time for that entire administration to be replaced with leadership that knows how to lead in a transparent, fair, and equality manner!!!
Allen Portman says
This is screwed up bad and needs to come to a screeching halt! This intern can get in line like the majority through sacrificing, earning, and deserving $95-$100K annual job! Not lazily sucking freely off taxpayers $$$!
Someone really should have spellchecked that headline. This article provides constituents very valuable information, but I’m certain there are people out there completely devaluing the writer and/or information because of the typo which is extremely, extremely unfortunate.
Warren Fawcett says
No city officials should make a six figure income. If they want that kind of money, go to the private sector.
You obviously have no clue how much people in certain jobs make. I wouldn’t hire someone as Director of a City department who was willing to work for less than $100k. Government agencies compete with businesses for employees. That means paying the going rate for people with desired skills.
The headline is misleading. The money paid to airport employees can’t be used to pay firefighters. The airport system is a separate enterprise, and keeps its own books, etc. Firefighters are paid out of the general fund, which can’t be increased enough to give pay raises for HFD, especially Prop B sized raises.
John Coctostone says
You do not want to “not hire anyone above $100k” – if I need a director of public works and engineering, I need the best in there. That is a huge job and a ton of responsibilities. Someone wanting to do it for $50k is not someone you wan to hire. Especially if you are competing against the private sector in a city this size. Now an Intern – a role designed for inexperienced people to get experience at low pay – that should not go over $30k in a city this size.
howie katz says
Holy shit! $95,000 for an internship? An internship is supposed to be a learning experience at minimal pay, if any, and not a cash cow for a friend of the mayor with no experience for the job he’s been gifted.
Something smells rotten in Sly’s office. But since Houston is a Democratic stronghold, Turner seems destined to win another term.
That Jasper Scherer is up to his eye balls in fake news. His column that was printed as an article actually stated that there was a crime increase buried deep in the article.
The Chronicle will lose all credibility if it endorses Turner at this point. His more liberal opponents don’t have credibility to run the city, either. That puts the Chronicle in a bind and is likely why so much propaganda is being spewed right now.
Speaking of fake, biased news… that Gary Polland hit piece on Bill King that I got in the mail last week was vile and revolting Was this the same guy who did the hit piece on Dan Crenshaw for Kevin Roberts? I’m concerned if Buzbee makes the run-off that all his skeletons will get data dumped on voters in November.
Tom in Lazybrook says
You fail to understand that Turner is going to run against Trump, not Buzbee. Buzbee doesnt help himself either with his massive donations to Trump, his flashy and borderline vulgar displays of wealth, his history of questionable political activity, the DUI thing, and recent judgement lapses. Buzbee hasnt moved to the center either, politically, which lets Turner define him as a Republican. The GOP is probably underwater by 40+ percent in Houston. In 2015, that might not matteered in 2015. I think it does in 2019.
Turner is probably the most chalkenged Democrat to run for mayor in decades. His habit of playing hardball when softball would have worked to alienate wide swaths of the electorate that otherwise would be fully unsupportive, there are legitimate issues with hiring, contracting, and city operations under his watch, and he appears tone deaf to public opinion. Buzbees 500k donation to Trump is Turners sole lifeline. It will be an interesting exercise to see if that, in an of itself, can propel a candidate otherwise unreelectable, to a second term.
If Turner wins reelection, expect to see anti Trump ads all over the map next year, against candidates running for seats from Senate to dogcatcher in Harris and Fort Bend. And that would be a very bad development for the GOPs hold on the state House, SBOE, the Texas appellate court, and multiple other races.
I’m not sure what I’m missing. King is a viable leader, Buzbee is not. Turner is gone.
Tom in Lazybrook says
King has to make the runoff first. He has been sitting at around 10 percent in the polls. For him to win, he will need to pass Buzbee. The anti Turner moderates that I know appear to be breaking for Buzbee. If the polls are correct, King has his work cut out for him. And even if he passes Buzbee, he is likely to be flat broke. Sure he can raise money, but it will take time for him to apply that money. Lots of Democrats have problems with Turner. I just wonder if theyre actually going to vote for the Republican aligned King or Trump donor Buzbee. We shall see.
Bill Daniels says
Dan Crenshaw is proving to be no friend of MAGA. I would like to see him primaried.
I’m beginning to agree with you. Ted went soft in that seat as well.
Ross is correct about the Airport Fund. It is an enterprise fund that is mostly money paid by airlines for gate space, hanger space and suchlike Most of the airport facilities like terminals are financed with revenue bonds which are in turn covered by airline rent payments. So, when Terminal E at IAH was built, Continental Airlines really was the one on the hook for the bond payments. The bondholders know going in that tax funds aren’t going to cover their bonds.
A few years ago (well not that few anymore), when the airport system had its own police force paid from the airport fund, I won a case when the airport cops were doing their thing off airport property. The traffic stop was a violation of state law because it was based on spending funds for non-airport reasons.
As for the salaries of city employees being over $100,000, a lot of government employees earn welll over that including lots of police and assistant district attorneys (I know, they ‘re county employees but they’re local government employees).
Some salaries paid to elected officials are way too low to attract and keep good people. Judges don’t make nearly enough to keep good civil judges. They can sit on the bench for about 10 years, qualify for a judicial pension, then go to work for a big firm making tons more money. That’s why there is such a turnover on the Texas Supreme Court.
Take former Chief Justice Phillips. He resigned shortly after he maxed his judicial pension and he’s now at a big firm where his expense account probably is more than he made as chief justice. And, Judge Phillips was a smart, principled judge. I often disagreed with his rulings but I respected and liked him.
Fat Albert says
All of which fails to explain why the City of Houston (or one of its subsidiaries) is paying a freaking INTERN $95,000 per year!
That’s what interns going to/finished law school make. A friend’s daughter interned at a big law firm Diwntown over the Summer, and made $12k per month. Her offer to come back after graduation was $190k per year. Smart people don’t come cheap. We can talk about the chosen person’s suitability, but the compensation is not out of line.
my mom’s daughter has a that brother that thinks you’re a goofball
Ross, I assume that your friend’s daughter passed the bar and can practice law. This guy hasn’t.
Nope, she’s in her third year, and graduates in the Spring. She’s a straight A student at a top 10 law school, and has had two internships, one in Houston, one in NYC. Both paid $3k per week. The Houston firm offered $190k after her first Summer, the NYC firm something above $200k.
@DanMan, it doesn’t matter what you think, I’m stating facts here,
Turner baked the pensions into the Texas legislative process along with Mario Gallegos and John Whitmire. He has done as much to destroy the future of this city as he possibly could with that alone.
Since he’s been mayor he has successfully divided the public employee unions in the city so to me that is a good thing. While I respect the job a policeman does, and fire fighters too, I think their slavish devotion to their unions and the demands they were promised with their unwavering votes for all these dem mayors that have shafted them is pure justice. But let’s face it, the firefighters did vote to more robustly fund their pensions while the other two groups played their hand for raises now with more promises in their pockets. Sorry ants, as long as these mayors can float bonds for pension debt the grasshoppers are the winners. Especially given he has also raided your well funded nest egg.
The city is about 3 times it’s annual revenue in debt. This $95k pet of his is a minor nugget in the scheme of things. Turner will remain in office for another term. But now more than 10 miles away so not my problem.
Virginia Jones says
Sylvester Turner and Texas Organizing Project paid Senior citizens and many minority voters 20 dollars per vote to vote straight Democrat ticket as evidenced at Ripley House voting place when Turner won for Mayor. Don’t let Texas Organizing Project and Turner buy the election again
Anonymous Fire Captain says
Fyi you were told that the city could not afford firefighters’ raises by none other than Turner himself.
He stated that it would cost the city 80-100 million dollars a year.
Guess you didn’t see the final Budget and Fiscal Affairs meeting where the Comptroller laid out that the city would have a surplus of extra money to the tune of about $300 million in this past fiscal year alone.
So yes, this city CAN afford to pay its public servants, both police and fire, competitive wages with other cities… and STILL fix potholes, and improve flooding, and pick up trash.
On top of sheltering away millions, maybe tens of millions of YOUR taxpayer dollars to his family, friends, and special interests, this mayor literally lies to the faces of every person he comes across, including citizens.
I sure hope the fed up moderate to conservative citizens show up in force. Ive never seen so much complacency with elected officials stealing money, then asking for more.