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City to Media: Quit being idiots about the snow

Walker Evans Walker Evans
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Press Release wrote To our friends in Columbus’ media:

Many local reporters know me as the Snow Lady, and I’ve had a great time working on snow-removal stories during the past eight years as a member of Mayor Coleman’s team at the City of Columbus’ Department of Public Service. Over this past weekend, we saw a lot of melting snow and ice following two storms: 3 inches of snow followed by rain that fell on 2/20 and 1.8 inches of snow and rain on 2/21. While most of our drives to work on these days were safe, some local news-viewers were treated to the sort of reactionary coverage usually reserved for blizzards.

As it is nearly the end of February, and we expect more snow to fall before the season’s end, we ask that newsrooms exercise more patience – or experiment with a small dose of common-sense in covering future storms. Exaggerated stories and dramatically misleading promo ads are not serving the public and (especially in the case of side streets) only raise false expectations for services that are not based on the City’s snow- removal plan and will not be fulfilled.

We are asking all our partners in the local media to please review the Snow Plan (PDF). This easy-to-comprehend document shows the rules that guide our Snow Warriors, our managers and our annual budgets. The Snow Plan also serves as the outline of how Mayor Coleman and City Council will judge our on-going operations.

One common complaint is the removal of snow from residential side streets. On this, the City’s Snow Plan is very specific: The City will not go into side streets for salting or plowing unless the storm drops a minimum of 4 inches and, then only after we’ve invested the first 48 hours after the storm clearing main streets that are the much higher priority. Columbus has not had a storm since December 4th of 2007 that was big enough to require us to plow or salt neighborhood side streets.

While we understand that not clearing snow from a side street may inconvenience some residents, the Snow Plan is designed to protect the safety of the majority of the driving public, not to remove every deadly flake from every side road.

The City Snow Plan has been designed by experienced professionals to make sure that main arteries and corridors are cleared as quickly as possible to be as safe as possible. Snow Warriors go out before storms and work 12-hour shifts while snow continues to fall.

Since taking office in 2000, Mayor Coleman greatly increased the number of prepared drivers, the training, and the number of vehicles and other equipment to deal with storms and Columbus’ nearly 6,000 lane miles of road. We believe these teams are doing a good job clearing major roads and following the plan, but we also take complaints seriously and try to answer our citizens’ concerns. The City tracks complaints through the 311 Customer Service Center (311 or 645-3111). The 311 system took some 2,640 calls last week, and in all, 130 or 4.9% were about treating streets. We will continue to monitor the plan during each storm – and annually – to seek improvements, and adapt to new ideas such as using ice-melting “beet juice” and testing GPS tracking of our snow plows.

While we all can be better at our jobs, our Snow Warriors are dealing with the tough side of Mother Nature in the State of Ohio, where it is known to snow during the winter. We hope that we can continue our excellent working relations with all local news outlets, but we also ask that news crews show more respect for the hard work already being done by City employees to keep drivers safe during all storms. At the end of the day, the most important question is how we all stay safe. Snow Warriors are doing their best, and drivers need to do their part as well, by slowing down and being patient in bad weather.

Sincerely,

Mary Carran Webster

Assistant Director, Public Service Department

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