Mayor goes after pensions Houston pension guarantees gone

HOUSTON – This city’s mayor, Bill White, hastily called a municipal election early in his term so as to hold a referendum on Proposition 1. Its passage allows the city to opt out of a state law protecting city employees’ pensions. According to the Houston Chronicle, White said he “needed the flexibility to reduce city employee retirement benefits because of a $2.7 billion pension benefit shortfall.”

Only 8.5 percent of the voters went to the polls on May 15 and approved Proposition 1 by 72 percent to 28 percent. The opposition, led by Harris County AFL-CIO, Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association and the Houston Federation of Teachers, was unable to sufficiently mobilize working people to vote against it.

Meanwhile, a slick campaign featuring television and newspaper ads and mass mailings, combined with Chronicle editorials promoting the mayor’s support of this reactionary proposition, mobilized right-wing voter turnout. Wealthy, conservative Republican voters turned out heavily to support their class interests.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org.