Blizzard Response Bills Are A City Council Snow Job

After putting forward 16 bills in March to improve the city’s snow response in the wake of the December 26 Blizzard Boondoggle, Mayor Michael Bloomberg threatened to toss out the whole package. Now the two sides have reached a compromise, and yesterday the City Council passed just six bills into law.

The problem is, the six bills are toothless folly guaranteed to further erode residents’ confidence that the city can meet our most basic of winter needs.

Councilmembers are patting themselves on the back for a job well done. Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr. of Queens said the legislation was a step to ensuring the city has plans in place and residents need only sit back and sip their hot cocoa.

“We don’t ever want an administration to come in and reinvent the wheel and come up with their own protocols, which we find out about when they fail,” he told the New York Times. “We’d like every administration to have a playbook.”

But is that what the people of New York City received? With almost two-thirds of the proposals stripped from the original 16-bill package, the “victory” looks more like another page in the political playbook than a development of effective snow response measures.

Of the six bills passed, three of them direct the city to develop reports or plans with little additional guidance. One is a vague promise of “improving 311 service,” and another requiring some city agency to notify the public of the status of government service – something the city already does. The only meaningful bill passed was to develop a volunteer registry for snow removal.

Meanwhile, the 10 proposals removed from the package were the ones that gave teeth to it. They were concrete directives addressing common concerns from residents in the wake of the December 26 blizzard, such as requiring the city to clear snow and ice from curb cuts, bus stops and medians, suspend parking meters during and after snowfalls, conduct an annual inventory of equipment, and identify priority plow routes.

The original 16 proposals together were a promising batch of legislation that would’ve justified residents’ time and travel to get to the City Council’s public hearings on snow response. The six bills passed into law are a snow job worthy of the disillusionment in our political leaders that it’s bound to cause. The City Council is spitting on the hundreds of city dwellers that turned out to share their experiences.

But don’t take my word for it. You be the judge. Here is the list of the six bills passed into law, followed by the 10 thrown into the circular file.

Passed

  • Int 0498-2011 Requiring the commissioner of the office of emergency management to develop and maintain protocols regarding weather emergencies and report to the mayor and the council.
  • Int 0505-2011 Requiring an agency or agencies designated by the mayor to notify the public of the status of government services disrupted due to severe weather conditions or other emergency.
  • Int 0528-2011 Improving 311 service during emergencies.
  • Int 0508-2011 Establishing an annual snow preparedness and response report.
  • Int 0511-2011 Establishing a snow removal volunteer registry.
  • Int 0517-2011 Establishing snow plowing and removal plans for each borough.
  • Res 0701-2011 Resolution calling on The Regional Emergency Medical Services Council of New York City to review and revise the New York City Mutual Aid Mobilization System Protocol. *A resolution is a declaration of sentiment. It is non-binding and is not legislation. We include it only to inform you that it was made, but it is not counted in our tally of bills passed.

Rejected

  • Int 0169-2010 Suspension of parking meter enforcement during and after snowfalls.
  • Int 0497-2011 Requiring the commissioner of the Office of Emergency Management to appoint Borough Supervisors or Managers.
  • Int 0506-2011 Requiring snow removal from bus shelters.
  • Int 0509-2011 Requiring the commissioner of the Office of Emergency Management to create rules and regulations regarding weather emergencies.
  • Int 0512-2011 Establishing a plan for the removal of snow and ice from curb cuts, pedestrian medians and bus stops following a snow event.
  • Int 0514-2011 Requiring the mayor’s office of operations to conduct an annual inventory of snow and weather emergency management equipment and resources.
  • Int 0520-2011 Identifying snow plow routes and snow removal priority designations for City streets.
  • Int 0523-2011 NYPD to conduct comprehensive operational and technical reviews of the City’s Emergency 911 Communication System and report its findings to the speaker of the city council.
  • Int 0522-2011 Requiring the commissioner of the Office of Emergency Management to create rules and regulations regarding the Emergency Operations Center.
  • Int 0529-2011 Borough-specific coordination of snow event response and communication.

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