Yesterday while the city sent out layoff notices to more than 200 firefighters, Mayor Turner’s office sent out a press release announcing the city has selected it’s 4th official “Poet Laureate”.
The city’s poet laureate receives $20,000 for the two year term through tax money collected through the city’s Hotel Occupancy Tax dedicated to the arts.
According to the press release, the Mayor says “Contreras Schwartz will work closely with the Houston Public Library and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs to carry out her community outreach project focusing on outreach to people with mental illness and mental health workers. She will also conduct eight workshops in partnership with Houston Public Library and mentor the Houston Youth Poet Laureate.”
Turner says “the appointment speaks to the great work that this poet has done and will do as an ambassador of the City though poetry.”
News of the city’s latest poet laureate came as more than 200 Houston Firefighters received layoff notices.
ABC 13 spoke to one of the firefighters who received a layoff notice, telling them “it's a gut punch." They report that the military vet and father of a young family moved to Houston to be a part of what he called "the best fire department in the country."
That firefighter hits Mayor Turner for his behavior, saying “he's going to double down and give us the worst deal possible.And he's going to make everyone suffer for not bending a knee to him."
Turner claims the city cannot balance the budget without these layoffs yet we’ve got an official City of Houston Poet Laureates being hired at taxpayer expense.How many other wasteful items, programs and people could we eliminate instead of Firefighters.
In a written statement, firefighter union president Marty Lancton wrote, "From the city's founding to the Great Depression, to two world wars and deep downturns of the energy industry, no fire chief had taken this course of action until today. Chief Peña now is alone among all Houston fire chiefs in that dubious distinction... The fire chief is carrying out Sylvester Turner's slash-and-burn plan for HFD."