I'll be the first to admit that many times I accentuate the negative. That is what in many cases it takes to embarrass or stimulate action to correct problems. This post is going to be a combination of negative remarks as well as some strong praise.
The first comment is going to be the decision by Mayor Segarra's Communications Director, Maribel laLuz and her e-mail to the 5th and 7th Districts of the Hartford Democratic town committee. How could anyone that has any management sense not want a debriefing of the operations after the storm. Somethings seem to have gone well, but so much also seems to have gone wrong, a debriefing seems like it is extremely necessary to figure out what worked and what didn't.
To ignore that things went terribly wrong in some critical aspects only promises that we will repeat the same mistakes next time, probably with a couple of different key players missing though. You may not like the criticism, but it will hopefully avoid the same errors happening next time.
As far as the praise, in this storm the true praise needs to go to the Hartford Police Department. Last Friday afternoon as the storm began to build, at about 6:00PM I was at the Public Safety Complex and spoke with Chief Rovella. I invited him to come join me outside to build a snowman. He declined my offer. I keep hearing about a jacuzzi in his new office and he probably didn't want to come out into the cold. ( just kidding on that one taxpayers, there is no jacuzzi, at least not that I have seen)
During our conversation I told him how impressed I was with the snow plowing downtown, the streets looked great and there were plenty of trucks out. He agreed and told me that he was being told the entire City was in good shape. That all came to a screeching halt around 11:00PM as the storm intensified and DPW shut down.
The Hartford Police did not shut down, in fact they went into high gear for the next several days. While DPW trucks were headed for the garage in their vehicles that are intended to make it through the snowstorms, HPD was sending officers out into the storm in their 2 wheel drive vehicles , some equipped with tire chains. HPD never shut down and the calls for service continued to come in while the DPW trucks sat idle.
After the storm was done, HPD Officers in 4 wheel drive vehicles were pulling out stranded motorists as well as police vehicles that were stuck. They were even plowing streets to get EMS vehicles and fire vehicles into neighborhoods left impassable by the DPW hiatus. Yet no one at the Hartford Fire Department or the Dispatch Center sent their crews home because the weather was bad. They fulfilled their commitment to the people of Hartford while DPW did not.
For days after the storm, Hartford police Officers were trudging through feet of snow to make sure no one was trapped inside vehicles left abandoned on Hartford's street. Then the process of towing the vehicles to clear the streets of the igloos began. It was hard to find a plow truck to clear the streets after the cars were towed, But it seemed that HPD Officers stepped up and started taking charge of the snow removal operations.
That is not their job, but it was clear by this time that to get the City opened and alleviate the risk to Hartford residents by impassable streets, someone had to take charge. I spent a little time Sunday afternoon with Sergeant Bremser from the Traffic Division as they towed vehicles and coordinated efforts to get streets plowed. Bremser continued at what seemed almost around the clock Monday , Tuesday and Wednesday getting streets cleared one by one, calling for plows and loaders and keeping contractors moving to where they were needed most.
Bremser wasn't the only one though. HPD had almost 30 officers committed to snow plowing operations and as I travelled around the City and listened to radio communications, I kept wondering why Police Officers could figure out the priorities while those who should be doing it and managing the plows didn't seem as though they were.
One person who was in the EOC for most of the weekend told me that the decision to pull the plows off the road was a decision DPW realized was a critical mistake they could not recover from. I think there was also a lot of bad information that was being relied upon to make decisions in the EOC. Sunday afternoon I texted Mayor Segarra "where are our plows?". Within a few minutes he called me and told me "they are out there' we are making progress." I replied to him that they may be out there , but they sure weren't in the Asylum Hill area.
The Mayor said that he was told that almost every street in Asylum Hill had at least one path plowed through it. I told him I had just come back from checking for myself and he needed to go out and check for himself because most streets were still buried and hadn't been touched at all. To Pedro's credit, he called me about a half hour later and said I was correct. He had just driven through the Farmington Avenue area of Asylum Hill and agreed it was bad.
Whoever was giving the Mayor the inaccurate information hopefully won't be around the Mayor again anytime soon. Again to the Mayor's credit, he called me at about 11:00PM and said he had just driven through Asylum Hill again and the side streets were "sloppy" but passable. That's all I was asking for . If fire, police or EMS needed to get somewhere I wanted to know that they could.
Wednesday night I again travelled around the City just to see how the operations were going. The outside contractors and the large snow blowers brought in by the City were working like fiends. Farmington Avenue, Asylum Avenue, Park Street and the areas around Hartford Hospital were all being cleared by the crews. Again, it was interesting to me to note that these operations were being directed by HPD. I understand the police presence for traffic control and safety, but the police radio traffic channel was busy all night determining what crew would go where, where they would be dumping snow and determining where the crews would head next.
The efficiency of the operations were a credit to the police Supervisors and Police Officers working in the bitter cold to get our streets clear. One location , Asylum Avenue through Asylum Hill was being cleared curb to curb by the huge snow blower that made me cringe as I thought about the damage that thing could do. I don't think there would be any surviving a snowblower accident with that thing.
Not a DPW vehicle was in sight as I noticed Officer Mike Allen from HPD directing the movement of the trucks and loaders like General Patton during the War. The only thing missing were the pearl handled grips on his weapon like Patton had. I think they made record time outbound on Asylum, making the turn by Elizabeth Park and headed back toward downtown to clear the streets for the morning rush.
The same thing was going on all around critical traffic areas of the City, Lt. Mefferd, the Commander of the Traffic Division was doing a Mike Allen impression around Hartford Hospital and Washington Street and truckloads of snow were hauled away. Again no DPW supervisors anywhere in sight and I couldn't help but wonder why the Snow Removal Operations had suddenly become a Police Operation.
Mefferd, Allen and numerous other Police Officers were getting it done when DPW wasn't so , let it roll, Our streets are passable today.
Maribel, I know it is not your call , but please rethink that debriefing, this can't be allowed to happen again