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Firefighters form new PAC to support candidates

Thursday, September 18, 2014 by Jo Clifton

The Austin Firefighters Local 975 has formed a special political action committee to support eight candidates running for City Council on the November ballot. Firefighters president Bob Nicks told the Monitor that the group had raised $200,000 through membership dues and expects to get another $25,000 from the international firefighters union.

Nicks said the new PAC is called the Austin Firefighters Public Safety Fund.

He said that even though $225,000 sounds like a lot of money, it does not seem so significant when spread among eight candidates. He said the PAC  will not donate funds directly to the candidates but will buy ads in support of them. There had been rumors about the firefighters forming such a PAC for months, mostly relating to support for their former president, Council Member Mike Martinez, who is running for mayor.

On Wednesday, the firefighters endorsed Jose Valera for District 3, Ann Kitchen for District 5, Jay Wiley for District 6 and Robert Thomas for District 10. They had previously endorsed Martinez, Delia Garza for District 2 and Ora Houston for District 1. The group has also endorsed Chris Riley in District 9.

Nicks indicated that the firefighters would probably not be making endorsements in Districts 4, 7 and 8 until after the November election, in expectation of a December runoff in those races.

Last week, firefighters lost a shot at intervening in a federal consent decree in which the city agreed that its firefighter hiring practices have discriminated against minorities. The union has agreed that this practices were inappropriate during one year but argued strenuously that they did not discriminate most recently.

Nicks left a message for his “brother and sister firefighters” on the union’s website stating that they would probably appeal to the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. He added, “Given this ruling it is more important than ever that we seat a good Council in January and hold to our principals (sic) that training standards must remain in the contract.”

Only Martinez and Riley supported the firefighters in their request to ask the Justice Department to reconsider the settlement agreement. The rest of the Council voted in favor of the settlement.

(This story was updated Sept. 18 to note that the Austin Firefighter Public Safety Fund has also endorsed Chris Riley in District 9. The endorsement was omitted from the original version.)


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