One month ago, the city quietly laid off 51 workers who weatherize poor people's homes, paint curbs and maintain subway grounds.
The layoffs, prompted by federal and state cutbacks, went unannounced by the Schmoke administration, even though they effectively cut the city's weatherization program in half.
All of the workers laid off were part of the so-called City Builders program, which serves as a construction contractor on behalf of the city.
Bill Toohey, spokesman for the city's housing department, confirms the layoffs. The employees lost their jobs June 28 -- five days after Mayor Kurt Schmoke announced his candidacy for a second term.
Toohey says the city did not intend to "dodge the issue" of the layoffs at the time they occurred. "The assumption was that the press would hear about it and then we would tell you. That did not happen," says Toohey. Housing commissioner Robert W. Hearn has refused to discuss the layoffs.
The laid-off workers included 22 employees of the weatherization program. The program was cut from $2.3 million to $1.1 million, Toohey says,
Last year, the workers weatherized 1,550 homes. The
money remaining this year after the cutbacks will provide only enough money to weatherize 694 homes, he says.
Another 18 workers were part of the "Kurb Keepers" program, painting curbs and mowing grass along the edges of city streets, Toohey says. Their budget was cut back when a $432,563 contract with the state's Department of Transportation was eliminated, he says.
Toohey says none of the workers at City Builders is paid through city general funds, but the program depends on outside government contracts.
Another three workers lost their jobs maintaining the subway grounds when a $215,000 contract with the state's Mass Transit Administration was ended, he explained.
Eight other people in administrative, clerical and payroll positions for the three programs also lost their jobs.