Snowmageddon IV: A Tale of Two Cities

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

1 comment

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CityCaucus.com's Mike Klassen made an appearance on CKNW radio yesterday to discuss the issue of how cities in the Metro Vancouver area were managing the impacts of snowmageddon, our record-breaking cold snap and snow & ice build-up.

He raised a number of good issues related to how the City of Vancouver was failing to deal with a series of winter storms that have been hammering the west coast over the last few weeks. Klassen pointed out to host Michael Smyth that the City of Vancouver hasn't issued any kind of formal communiqué to the 600,000 plus citizens of Vancouver since December 24th.

For eight days of the city experiencing near record snowfalls, icy roads, power outages, downed trees etc., there was silence from our civic leaders. Mayor Gregor Robertson is reportedly holidaying in the sun. Unlucky citizens back home are spending their holidays behind a snow shovel.

Given the poor response here in Vancouver, we thought it was worth taking a look at how our neighbhour to the south is handling their snowmageddon-lite. Did Seattle shut down their operations on Dec 24th and stop communicating during the snowstorm? Let's take a look at how Mayor Greg Nickels is dealing with the weather challenges.

Mayor Greg Nickels
Mayor Greg Nickels

Seattle's Mayor is also getting heat from angry citizens disappointed with their city's response to the snow. But Nickels has the political good sense to understand that sinking his head in the sand and hoping the problem will just melt away is a bad strategy. He deserves credit for fielding questions from the media and admitting his city could have done a better job.

If you take a look at the City of Seattle's website and compare it to Vancouver you will be astonished at what you will find.

The City of Seattle held regular media briefings and posted no fewer than 19 separate updates on their website about the impacts of the snow. Multiple daily bulletins have been posted on their website each day (except Christmas day). Remarkably, one of those releases indicated that the Mayor is now going to conduct an immediate review regarding how the City handled the recent snow storm. Now that's leadership!

And remember, Seattle wasn't nearly as impacted as Vancouver by these storms.

What has Vancouver done? Dead air since Christmas eve. No updates or advisories on road closures, slippery hills to avoid, parking provisions, garbage and recycling pickups etc. No call from Mayor Robertson to determine if Vancouver could do better...especially given the city is hosting the Olympics in 13 months.

Putting this bluntly, we think the performance of the City during this severe weather indicates that we're nowhere near ready to welcome the world in 2010.

The taxpaying public doesn't expect our civic politicians to be picking up shovels and cleaning side streets, walks and back lanes themselves. But they do expect them to provide leadership and keep the channels of communication open. It's time for Vancouver to conduct its own review of the failure to deal with the severe weather.

I think once all the snow settles, the public is going to be very upset to find out that Seattle managed to keep their citizens informed about service impacts, while the civic leadership in Vancouver was M.I.A.

FYI: To all of our readers outside of Metro Vancouver, we just received another dump of 15 cm (6 inches) yesterday, with more snow in the forecast! Ugh.

1 Comment

I am a little non-plused by this heavy criticism of the civic government on their response to the heavy snow load.

All I had to do was look out my window. I think the local news did a pretty good job of forecasting, and reporting the traffic situation.

The city has limited resources for snow removal, and this is as it should be. The amount of snow that fell is really exceptional.

Did you really need city hall to hold your hand and tell you everything will be alright? What did you want them to tell you? "hills will be slippery and traffic will be horrendous. Clean off your sidewalk and clear your local storm drain."

Next time it snows here is your civic report: "hills will be slippery and traffic will be horrendous. Clean off your sidewalk and clear your local storm drain." Does that help you out?

Who are you going to look to for help when you have a real crisis? You cannot be so ineffectual that a little snow merits a crisis intervention. Your grandparents would be ashamed of you, hell, I am ashamed for you.

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