Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Mayor responds

In response to my letter to Mayor Cohen about sidewalks, hizzoner has replied. I appreciate the lengthy response. (The full letter is below.) But, it sorta misses the point.

I have no doubt about the dedication and effort of the Public Works staff. And, I recognize that the city is trying to do the best it can with limited funds. But, I question policies that disproportionately favor streets over sidewalks.

This was an unusual storm. And, it fell just a few days before February vacation. But, still, imagine if the city's goal was to have the streets clear 12 days after the storm.

I'd like to see the city commit to clear school routes within the same timeframe it has committed to clear streets, understanding that it's a zero-sum game and that attention to sidewalks probably has to come at the expense of street clearing.

The letter:

Dear Mr. Roche:

Thanks for your e-mail regarding the deplorable condition along Daniel St. after the ice storm of February 14th. I apologize for the delay in replying to you.

I want to assure you that the poor condition of our sidewalks on Thursday the 15th was not due to lack of concern or effort. I and the rest of the city work force take our responsibility for plowing our sidewalks after snow storms and protecting the safety of school children very seriously.

In the past two years we have purchased an entire new fleet of sidewalk plows. We've increased the number of school route sidewalks that we plow. We've assigned front end loaders to clear out intersections that might otherwise be blocked by our street plowing activities. And in difficult storms like this one, we are committed to continue our snow and ice fighting operations long after the storm has stopped until the sidewalks and streets are in an acceptable condition. We've taken all of these steps because ensuring the safety of children walking to and from schools is so important to all of us.

This storm was almost impossible to fight effectively because toward the end the temperature fell 20 degrees in about two hours, turning rain into sleet and freezing rain and easily removable snow and slush into rock hard ice. As a result, most sidewalks and side streets were icy the next morning.

I was at several schools early Thursday morning, and the most urgent problem facing most of them was clearing the ice and frozen snow from the immediate vicinity of the schools. I personally made sure that crews were sent back to Ward, Bowen, Horace-Mann, and Lincoln-Elliot to complete that work before school got out.

Later that morning we surveyed the city and developed a plan to clear the school walking routes. We re-salted the routes, waited for them to start to melt and sent out the sidewalk plows again. Because the ice was so thick we had to repeat the process several times. Because so much of the routes had to be redone, it took us over a week to complete the job. But we were determined to have the routes cleared by the time school re-opened on the 26th.

I really think that this storm demonstrates our commitment to the safety of our school children rather than the opposite. Despite the difficult conditions, our work force kept at it day after day until the job was done. That is the kind of effort we will always make when it comes to the safety of the children of this city.

Very Truly Yours,

David Cohen
Previously: Dangerous Sidewalk Letter to Mayor Cohen

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