From today's Hartford Courant, Bob Englehart's cartoon
In 2011 Hartford was a joke with its snow plow operations, now we are repeating the same actions with the same criticisms. Would we be unable to operate as a City if there was preparation and things went smooth, or do we thrive on the incompetence?
Let's start with a few questions. In a conference call last night between the 5th and 7th Districts of the Hartford Democratic Town Committee, many good questions were raised. You might ask why two Districts of the Town Committee are asking questions. The simple answer is because that is what we do. We were elected to represent our neighbors and these are our neighbors that can't get out of their homes. These are our neighbors that can't get ambulances and firetrucks to them.
More importantly, the elected officials that are failing our neighbors now are the same people that we endorsed for their respective offices to serve the people of Hartford. Hopefully we will remember these failures when we are asked for endorsements again and remember the angry phone calls all weekend from our neighbors .
The first question I have, and most of the callers on the conference call wanted to know is who made the decision to pull our plow trucks off the road? Governor Malloy made it quite clear he told his DOT Commissioner to keep state plows on the road for the duration of the storm. I think anyone that knows the Governor would agree that if his DOT Commissioner failed the people of Connecticut like Hartford's leaders failed us, there would be an immediate opening for a DOT Commissioner.
It is called leadership and with leadership comes accountability. A foreign concept to Hartford City Government. Why do we have a DPW Director if the Mayor's Chief of Staff is on the radio from the EOC barking orders directing snow removal operations. He probably has a hard time finding most streets in Hartford without GPS.Maybe they use the campaign donor lists to decide which streets to hit first, that might help explain the strategy. What is his experience with Snow Removal Operations and why weren't they being run by the people that are paid good salaries at DPW?
Another question the Town Committee members on the call had was if they could attend the debriefing held to discuss the storm response. The reply to our e-mail from Mayor Segarra's spokesperson was "We are not planning on having a blizzard debriefing event. " How do you not have a debriefing after an event like this to discuss what worked and what didn't and attempt to provide better service in the future? That is basic management, or do they not want to discuss their failures?
And the EOC, another joke and a colossal waste of space in the Public Safety Building. As of Thursday night, less than 12 hours before the Emergency Operations Center was ready to open, none of the brain trust we pay to deal with emergencies, not the Fire Chief who also loves the title of Emergency Operations Director or the Director of Emergency Telecommunications had bothered to do a dry run of the EOC before it was needed. Imagine the embarrassment at about 7:00pm Thursday when they suddenly realized there was no Wi-fi for internet connectivity and cellular coverage was sketchy at best in the room.
Luckily for Larry Bezel, a HPD employee who handles their network and computers was able to scramble into the night to get internet Wi-fi up and running for the opening of the EOC the next morning. Probably no one will be held accountable for this potential colossal failure.
And the technology that was built into the EOC also came in very handy. The front wall of the EOC is comprised of smaller flat screens for projecting television. It can be used to reproduce images on computer screens or any video that needs to be shared. Apparently it came in handy Saturday night for those being paid overtime in the EOC to watch a Hockey game on the wall in perfect living high tech color while the viewers dined on catered food from Salute Restaurant.
The EOC TV, better than any flat screen, great for watching Live with Kelly and Michael
That television wall also came in handy as freezing rain was blanketing the City and I-91 was being shut down due to numerous accidents Monday morning. A source in the room at the time said that those there, after they finished watching the Today Show, switched to LIVE with Kelly and Michael on the lifesize 10 x 12 wall.
Now I know you might think that maybe traffic cameras or maybe even the local radar might make sense for those managing our Emergency Operations to be viewing, but nope, Kelly Ripa and Micahel Strahan lifesize for the brain trust.
Now it gets even better, If you were digging out a City, what would your priorities be? Maybe heavily travelled routes around hospitals? Maybe routes in and out of the city that carry rush hour traffic? Maybe the area around Downtown that will host the sold out Uconn/Syracuse game tomorrow night?
Nope. I was incredulous when I got the phone call this afternoon that the huge "airport"type snowblower we had contracted to clear city streets was actually in the southend blowing snow on South Street. I had to see that for myself so I shot the video above because I didn't think anyone would believe me, a street that is not a major thoroughfare, is not an artery in or out of the City.
I asked how they decided what streets to clear and they told me DPW Director Kevin Burnham told them he wanted South Street cleared for the rush hour.WHAT? Had anyone heard of Farmington Avenue, Asylum Avenue, Capitol Avenue and rush hour? As I write this now, at 7:00PM,I look out my window at Asylum Hill and Farmington Avenue and Sigourney Street are still total gridlock.
A fire truck or ambulance would never get through even down the center because there is no room for anyone to yield. I do feel comfortable though knowing that South Street is moving smoothly during rush hour.
In the video above , I also took some shots of a few streets in Windsor Locks this afternoon. Notice the streets plowed curb to curb, the huge mounds at the intersections have been pushed back, and Rt 20 in front of Bradley Airport is pushed right back to the curb.Windsor Locks kept their trucks on the street throughout the storm and it shows.
Picture above from Courant.com, clearing snow on Park terrace. It might be easier blowing the snow into the park, but at what we are paying per hour for the rental, does it serve any purpose to ignore the major arteries and have the borders of the park clear?
Windsor Locks kept their trucks on the street throughout the storm and it shows.
Why do we settle for being a joke and when are we going to insist that those we endorse "have a set" and are willing to step up and hold people accountable when it becomes clear they are incompetent and not serving the people of Hartford? Maybe a debriefing and an honest assessment might begin to chnage hartford's course . Admitting you have a problem is the first step in correcting it.
Again, I know it was a historic storm, but it was just as historic in Windsor Locks, Windsor, Wethersfield and Plainfield as Stan McCauley reports and they all seemed to deal with it. Our failure to meet the challenges we need to plan for are also becoming just as historic, or is it tradition.