Yes, it is winter from sea to shining sea. Just in case you could not tell. And like every winter it seems we in the north, where snowfall is more prominent, are getting the same old song and dance from our elected officials. Without fail this is the time of year for exposés and news reports about how those who are supposed to be good stewards of our tax dollars are scrimping and scrounging for money to make sure that the roads are clear after every snowstorm that hits. It is hard to go even a day without hearing about how some city or municipality is struggling to make ends meet with regards to this matter.
Again, this is for those of us in the north. We are not talking about some fluke occurrence here such as four snowfalls in Miami of 20 inches each! I could understand how that would take those poor souls used to dealing only with hurricanes by surprise. No, we are talking about cities like New York which allotted apparently just enough money to cover clearing one big snowfall from its streets for the entire winter.
That is hard to believe since the city had $38.8 million set aside for the task for this winter. That is a lot of money but apparently it does not go very far in the Big Apple. In a flash it was gone to clear the 20 inches of snow from December according to reports.
The city is defiant though. Despite blowing its budget New York announced it will keep the streets clear for the rest of the winter. Well, that is great! Yes, especially with the city already $2 billion in the hole. What is a few more million among friends, right?
Here is my question though. What moron only budgets enough money for 20 inches of snow removal in New York City for an entire winter? Heck, the average snowfall in New York City (in Central Park) from November through March is 27.5 inches! Oh and that does not include the 0.9 inches on average that falls in April of each year.
Now I understand that it costs a lot more to deal with 20 inches of snow that falls all at one time than if that same amount were to fall over the course of a whole month. But seriously, every year do not we get at least one big hit in terms of snowfall for anyone, living anywhere in the north?
In Pittsburgh, where I live, we get about 40.8 inches of snow over the course of the colder months (again, November through March). And if you do not plan for at least one big dump of at least nine plus inches at a pop you are pretty much a dullard. I am not saying that we get that much every year at a single time but you need to plan for it because it does happen. Like last year when we got 26 inches in one fell swoop.
We often get the short end of the stick too. That first big snowfall, which usually happens here around Christmas, is almost always taken care of lickety-split. But one thing that you notice as the winter goes on is if there is another big storm, the roads are never as good as after that first snowfall. Never. If we get four or more storms of four to five inches plus you might as well forget seeing the roads cleared in any sort of timely manner from that point onwards.
And why? Because no one plans adequately for these sorts of events, they spare no expense on the first storm and then as the season drags on money becomes more and more scarce. I cannot tell you how many times we here have heard local politicians whine about not having enough salt for the roads. These howls of woe-is-us start like clockwork around mid-January if two or more major storms have hit.
After all, snow removal and keeping the streets clear in winter just is not that sexy to your local politician. Sure they get a lot of angry calls for a couple days if the roads are not cleared but that anger fades quickly. There are much better things to spend all that loot they have collected from the tax payers on. So when they sit down to make out their budgets each year they look at the cost to remove that annual average snowfall, assume that it will not come all at once and then cut that by 20% or whatever they think they can get away with before putting that line item in their budgets.
Some municipalities and towns are, without a doubt, better than others. It would be smart to say that you have to budget to be able to remove twice your average annual snowfall if you are a politician anywhere in the northern latitudes. Sure, you will not spend that budget every year if you do that. That is not the point. The point is to be prepared. Instead however, we have politicians more worried about where they can spend some of those dollars they should be spending on true public services. After all, what are a few angry calls three or four times a year? Especially when you can buy votes with the money you saved.
Copyright ©2011 J.J. Jackson