City Councilwoman Jolanda Jones has been at odds with the Houston Fire Department, it seems, almost as soon as she won her seat in 2007. Most notoriously, she quoted a description of Jeff Caynon, head of the firefighters union and a black man, as being a "House Negro."
So you'd think she'd be on her best behavior when she visits a fire house, but according to some firefighters, she stirred things up again when she came to downtown's Station Number Eight Friday.
Jones disputes the claims, but Canyon tells the Houston Chronicle that the councilwoman used profanity, suggested the newly built firehouse was too nice, and said firefighters sit on recliners and watch TV all day."
Update: Here's what Caynon told us, admitting he had heard it secondhand and slightly cleaning up the alleged language: "She walks into the station and says 'You get all these effing refrigerators and effing stoves and we spend all this money on you. I'm supposed to ask what firefighters do, but I already know -- you sit on recliners and watch TV all day.""
(We've got a call in to Caynon but haven't heard back.) Jones released a statement on the visit:
"This is an obvious misunderstanding," she said, saying she and her staff had visited various city facilities that day. "I'm particularly baffled, since at Fire Station 8, we asked what we could do to help."
It's easy to see how some lighthearted kidding may have been misunderstood; it's also easy to see why attempts at lighthearted kidding may not have been a good idea to begin with.
Caynon says not everyone at the station is upset about it, and some think Jones was just trying to fit in with the workers.
Caynon has asked the city to look into the situation.
"She is not one of the firefighters, she is an elected official and an elected official who has been particularly critical," he says. "If one of our members had acted unprofessionally like she did, she would be the first to criticize."