June 17, 2024
Annapolis, US 84 F

Dear Mr. Mayor

An Open Letter To Josh Cohen

Dear Mr. Mayor–

I hope this letter finds you well and that you were finally able to find that Advil you were looking for the other day. I am writing this to offer some constructive suggestions for future snow removal for the City.  I have carefully read your blog and the hundreds of comments–mostly from people irritated that their streets were not plowed. Yes there were a few kudos offered and of course the seemingly obligatory conspiracy theorist who felt you were more concerned with getting positive comments on your blog than removing snow.

But let’s put that all aside and consider what has happened in the last 45 days. Wow, now that’s a lot of snow! No one saw this coming and we likely will not see it coming again (in this magnitude) for quite some time. Were there screw ups? As Governor Palin might say, “You betcha!” But hopefully your team learned from the December storm, and learned some more from these two. If not, please cram–there’s another one on the horizon for the beginning of the week.

Now onto my constructive suggestions:

Stop greasing the squeaky wheel. Opening your blog is a great idea. Managing snow removal by it–not so much. Devise a plan to remove the snow from all city streets and stick with it. Diverting a plow because a resident’s kid needs to get to nursery school is really imprudent.

Keep the communication going. You did great communicating by Twitter and on your blog. Your PIO, Phill, was there with answers to questions and the DPW hotline offered live people to stressed out residents.

Keep your word. One of the major problems I saw was that despite your request to remove cars from the snow emergency routes, many did not heed the request. Your office said that cars would be towed, but that really did not happen too much. Take a look at the video below (skip to the 2:00 mark) of the vehicles snowed in on Sunday night along a snow emergency route. Why should the residents take you seriously when your threats have no teeth? How much easier would it have been to clear King George Street without these vehicles in your way? Next time tow them!

Get a clue. OK you have a clue, but rather than having your Chief Administrative Officer report on what went wrong, why not ask for what they are going to do to make sure it does not happen again. The Power Point presentation was great at the Council Meeting, but Power Points don’t clear snow. Look at the plan and revise it–it is obvious that many parts of it are not working right now. And I also think that this is a good example of why we need an experienced municipal manager in place.

Know your limits. This was a once in a lifetime event. Despite the demands of some of your blog commenters, it makes no sense at all to go out and purchase the heavy equipment needed to clear the roads for a snow that may never come. We have little trucks and little plows to deal with little snows. Accept that. Why not consider knowing your limits? If the snow is predicted to be less than 10″, the City handles it. More than 10″ and the City stands down and a team of contractors comes in to do it with the proper equipment and know how.  In this case, truly essential DPW employees are in position to coordinate efforts and the little truck drivers are now considered non-essential and told to stay home. The payroll burden is passed to someone else who likely can do the job a lot less expensively.

Give a pat on the back. Your employees busted their backs for you and the people of Annapolis. Make sure that each of these guys who were bouncing in bobcats, and plodding in plows are recognized for the job they did.

All in all, you were dealt a really crappy hand and you played it as best as you could. Ultimately it looks like it wasn’t the winning hand, but now that the snow is beginning to melt and most of the streets are becoming more and more passable, this fiasco will fade into the past.  Thanks for the positive efforts, and here’s hoping that the failures are truly behind us.


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