Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Let The Salt Fly!

First of all, I don’t give two hoots about snow, even the 18 inches that fell on my back yard last week. I have a giant gas-sucking all-wheel-drive SUV that has the best snow/ice tires Tom Holmes could find. I used to have to be on-the-job at 3AM, when the plow jockeys were taking a well-deserved break at Perkins on the Beltline. And I was never late, summer or winter.

Second, since when is a blizzard that was predicted DAYS in advance a time to “experiment” with how the city is going to deal with plowing the streets?

Third, Mayor Cieslewicz says if he had it to do over, he'd do the same thing again. Oh, really? The Italians have a word for that: testaduda. Head of wood. STUBBORN. And, wrong.

Fourth, we're conducting a top-to-bottom review of our policy on plowing in LATE DECEMBER? How about October - or April? Now?

You’d think Dave Cieslewicz was from Miami, not Milwaukee. Fire Chief Amesqua is from Tallahassee, but she’s been up here long enough to know better. And Streets Superintendent Al Schumacher is a native Madisonian.

Disclosure: Al Schumacher and I have been good friends for years. His daughter and mine were big buddies all through their years at LaFollette High and they roomed together during their years at UW-Madison. Al worked his way to the top of the department he’s been a part of for three decades.

I have absolutely no proof, but I suspect when Cieslewicz, Amesqua, and Schumacher and their top lieutenants got together last Tuesday, Al was forced to do a lot of listening and not much talking. He’s been keeping this city’s streets in DAMN good condition since taking the reins several years ago. There’s grousing about the streets on the isthmus, but, what’s new?

Year after year, the city adds more miles of streets, but does Al get more plows? Nope. He’s forced to make due with what he’s got at his disposal. But he has to follow the orders of the Mayor.

A week after the blizzard, local talk radio and the blogosphere - including the Mayor’s blog - are still abuzz about the debacle. The mayor’s latest blogpost is titled “Bilandicked”, a reference to the Chicago mayor who got ousted after a monumental failure to plow the streets after a blizzard.

Former Mayor Paul Soglin’s blog,, is filled with intelligent post-blizzard give-and-take. One of the points hizzoner eloquently made: what's better - keeping some salt out of the lakes, or having thousands of cars idling for hours, pouring carbon emissions into the air?

If you've even driven in Minneapolis or St. Paul - across the border in the land of ten thousand lakes - following a huge snowfall, you know the streets are white. Not with snow, but with salt. The way the Beltline looked Thursday - bare pavement, lots of salt residue.

So the "experiment" of plowing the itty-bitty streets and not concentrating on keeping the main roads open is over, and it has FAILED, by any definition or metric.

Next time the sky-is-falling crowd on TV tells us there's a blizzard coming, and Mayor Cieslewicz gathers his team, a suggestion: let Al Schumacher do more of the talking, and have the Mayor and Fire Chief do more of the listening.

1 comment:

  1. Damn straight, Tim...I had the same thought. I'm all for experimentation to produce a smarter result. But could they have experimented on the first 4 inch snow...and not one that would make city streets a disaster until the spring thaw if it didn't work out (which it, errr, didn't)?