HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Even as she admitted she would like to send firefighters and the city of Houston to their rooms without dinner until Prop B is solved, a Harris County judge conceded she does not have the power to do that. However, she can force warring legal adversaries to talk, and Judge Tanya Garrison did.
Everyone has to answer to someone, and late Thursday afternoon, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner was ordered to mediation with firefighters over Prop B.
Wednesday, Turner said no to the idea twice. This time he doesn't have a choice. He has to go.
RELATED: Council delays layoff vote as Houston firefighters say details are still missing
Thursday morning, lawyers for the city of Houston, firefighters and police were in court arguing over the constitutionality of Prop B, the voter-approved firefighter pay parity issue.
The city and police officers argue the ballot measure is unconstitutional. They suggest firefighters must use options aside from a public vote to get a pay raise, and further object to fire salaries being tied to police into the future.
Police officers brought the first legal action in this round of the fight.
Firefighters told the judge the connection between police and fire salaries set up by Prop B is the start of negotiations, not the only consideration.
SEE ALSO: Leaked Houston Prop B proposal documents show millions in slashed firefighter incentive pay
After more than three hours of legal argument, Judge Garrison told both sides how hard this argument will be to decide. She said she "had gone back and forth several times," and hinted she may need 30-60 more days to determine her ruling.
Based on press accounts, she told firefighters and the city she thought they were close to a deal and suggested mediation. City Attorney Ron Lewis told the judge he did not think it was the best course. Kelly Sandill, the lawyer for the Houston police union, similarly did not think mediation was best.
Firefighters were willing to try.
Firefighters' Union President Marty Lancton told reporters, "Firefighters had been absolutely clear on record for months and months that, not only do we ask the city to go to arbitration back when their collective bargaining was an impasse, we've asked to go to mediation. We have said 'Yes' to every time the city wants to do it."
The judge's order forces a mediator to be selected by Monday.
Mayor Turner said in a statement, "What is important is that the mediation occur as soon as possible, preferably Monday or Tuesday (April 22-23). By law, the City budget must balance by the end of June, and where a reduction in personnel is necessary to balance the budget, employees must be given a 60-day notice prior to July 1."
The Houston Police Officers Union was also ordered to the mediation. Their interest may not be in a deal on Prop B pay parity terms. The union continues to believe Prop B is the improper method for firefighters to be given raises.
For the latest investigations, follow Ted on Facebook and Twitter.
Have a tip for Ted Oberg? A problem to solve? Get in touch with us on our tip page, or send a tip below. (On mobile? You can open our form by tapping here.)
City of Houston sends layoff notices to 66 fire cadets
Mayor Turner says Prop B is cheaper, can be implemented faster, but union calls it short on detail and 'improper'
Mayor chides media for not asking union his Prop B questions
Firefighters hope Houston judge will implement Prop B pay raises immediately
Mayor re-proposes 5-year Prop B deal as council kills trash fee
Firefighter pay scuffle delays Houston City Council again
13 Investigates finds questions in city's Prop B offer
Houston mayor lays out plan for Prop B firefighter raises
Protest over firefighters stops business at Houston City Council
In fight for Prop B pay parity, clarity between mayor and union disappears
Mayor Turner writes open letter to Houston regarding Prop B
City of Houston filing seeks to invalidate Prop B pay parity for firefighters
'You're pushing it, so be careful' War of words at Houston council over Prop B
Houston's trained heroes are stuck chopping wood, pouring concrete
Fire union to Turner: It's past time to implement Prop B
Prop B implementation has mayor sparring with fire union
After judge's decision, city's Prop B planning remains stalled
Judge denies police and city's request to delay implementation of Prop B
14-day hold granted on Prop B implementation in Houston
Council narrowly agrees on law firm to defend against Prop B
Campaign against firefighter pay parity raises nearly $1 million
Campaign against fire 'parity pay' funded by mayor, police union, reports show
Judge orders city, firefighters and police into Prop B mediation
TED OBERG INVESTIGATES