No more Snowmageddon, blackouts says Gregor Robertson

Post by Mike Klassen in

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new trucksThis morning Mayor Robertson reveals his new fleet of snow removal vehicles

Ah, Snowmageddon. It brings back some fond memories for everyone here at CityCaucus Tower. It heralded our first TV appearances on CBC Newsworld and GlobalTV as political bloggers. It created our first "captive" audience as seniors and shut-ins couldn't leave their homes for weeks, and Vancouver City Hall and Mayor Robertson went on vacation.

We didn't begrudge Gregor a little fun in the sun, we only suggested that if he picked up the phone poolside in Mexico, that maybe the city would be running a little better during the storms. No such luck however. It was a complete failure of leadership for the newly elected administration.

Our series of posts on Snowmageddon still stand as a testament to how bad things got here last winter, and the embarrassing failure to respond to the crisis politically. We pointed out that City Hall didn't post one communiqué for nine dark days while many of us remained trapped in our homes. We learned that as little as one-fifth of Vancouver's snow removal equipment was in service at any one time because most staff were on vacation.

Well, in a recent press release and in a press conference this morning, the City is trying to assure us they won't drop the ball this time. Apparently, in advance of his departure to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, Mayor Robertson will be showing off some shiny new snow removal equipment (example pictured above).

It begs the question – was the lack of equipment ever cited by anyone last year as a reason for the poor response? No. It was because there were no workers thanks to inflexible vacation scheduling. Has the Mayor and City Manager addressed this issue? We certainly don't know this based upon his media release.

City council promises that new by-laws requiring snow clearing by 10am will really make a difference, but most of us here remain skeptical. First of all, what effort has been made with homeowners and streetside businesses to notify them of these rules? Many households around Vancouver have little or no English language spoken within, so how can a press announcement keep them informed?

How aggressively will this policy be policed by the city's inspectors? I have a nearby neighbour that hasn't raked a leaf or shoveled his walk in six years, and the same goes for several other homes and businesses in my community. What will compel these folks to get into the spirit of the season?

What about garbage services? One of the challenges last year was arbitrary collection schedules and back alleys impeded by dense snow. Also, what about 311? Why is Vancouver so loathe to promote the perfect system for reporting abuses in multiple languages?

We can hope that Vancouver responds better to the impact of heavy snowfalls. In Seattle, where they received less snow and responded overall much better to the crisis, a good mayor was removed because of a perceived poor job handling the snow. Gregor Robertson managed to skate through his first big political fumble thanks to an accommodating media. Do it again, and he may not be so lucky.

Here's the city's release:

All Vancouver sidewalks need snow, ice removal

With cold weather blanketing the region and the potential for snow in the days and weeks ahead, now is a good time to ensure you have a snow shovel and an ice-melting product following Vancouver City Council's passage of by-law changes that require all property owners and occupants to remove the snow and ice on the sidewalks adjacent to their properties.

"Last winter, Vancouver received one of the heaviest snowfalls ever which made getting around the city by foot or vehicle very difficult," Mayor Gregor Robertson said. "We have reviewed City policies and made changes that will improve snow-clearing efforts and require citizens to clear the ice and snow from sidewalks outside of all homes and businesses."

Under the new requirements, all city sidewalks must be cleared of ice and snow by 10 a.m. each day.

The City has also purchased several pieces of specialized snow removal equipment, adapted existing vehicles and adopted new procedures for snow treatment on local streets.

These include:

  • improved clearing of windrows and snow accumulations around busstops and crosswalk intersections;
  • the addition of more secondary routes to the clearing plan to respond to BC Ambulance and Vancouver Fire and Rescue recommendations;
  • the spot use of a sand/salt mixture for the few areas where buses have traction issues;
  • snow and ice treatment for all bicycle routes and the trial of a brine solution to more effectively address ice on bike routes; and,
  • a contingency plan to plough side streets in the case of an extreme and prolonged snowfall, like the one experienced last winter.

The City will also improve communications with the public through web-site, media and other updates. In addition, over the coming days, the City will establish a web registry of volunteer groups and individuals who are willing to assist persons who are unable to clear their walks.

"It's really important that people are prepared before the first snow falls," Mayor Robertson added. "Snow shovels are in stock in our hardware stores, ice-melting products are also available and the first snow of the season may fall soon.

"People need to be prepared to clear their own walks and to give a hand to neighbours who can't do snow clearing. We want people to be able to move around the city during snowy spells and being good neighbours will make that possible."

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