Nation, the 1-ring circus at City Hall is getting so bad I accidentally found myself agreeing with Rick Bell earlier today.
Yes, the duly-elected City Council has torn itself away from micro-managing the choices you make every day (paper or plastic?) to give us THIS gem:
The City is receiving a high volume of 311 calls about snow clearance on residential streets. We are aware of the condition of residential roads as a result of both melting and falling snow. The City of Calgary's snow and ice policy states residential streets are not plowed.Well, great... paragraph 1: "We're aware of the situation. The situation is: screw you, we don't plough residential streets."
The City has analyzed 311 data regarding road clearance requests and have a full picture of what is occurring in the city. We would like to thank Calgarians for their patience during this time and ask that 311 is only contacted for emergent situations where their road is impassable.
Since Monday, graders have been removing ice and snow along gutters and in front of catch basins; sandbags have been stockpiled in all City maintenance districts; and areas susceptible to flooding are being monitored.
Paragraph 2: "We get it, we know the roads suck, stop calling - we're not interested."
Paragraph 3: "We're watching for flooding". Great... in 2 weeks, will we get a press release that the city's policy is "residential streets are not sandbagged from potential flooding"?
Yeah... the flood-waters aren't the only thing getting sandbagged around here.
The city uses as an excuse to not plough the streets a couple of polls, from 1997 and 2004, that indicate Calgarians were opposed to tax increases to pay for snow removal. Calgarians are also opposed to tax increases to pay for police, firefighters, curb-side recycling, a transit system they don't use, schools, fitness centres for city hall staffers, and single-source non-bid "world class" pedestrian bridges.
News flash: Calgarians are opposed to tax increases. In related news, water is wet and the sun rises in the East.
If the polls had been phrased: "On a scale of one to ten, with one being the least important and ten being the most important, how important do you think it is that the city fully plough all major roads and your residential streets", I suspect we'd be having a different conversation. Likewise, if the polls had been done in, oh, say January or February.
The total price tag, they tell us, to get down to bare pavement, all over the city, is $40 Million per year. That's if all the staff and equipment are on the city's books. Right now, they're spending in the ballpark of $25 Million.
So... for $25 Million you can have snow removal that sucks and is completely inadequate, or for $15 Million more you can have bare pavement all over the city within 24 hours of a snowfall ending - all year long.
Hmmmm... tough call...
The lost productivity and insurance premiums ALONE would more than cover the extra cost of setting up a REAL city snow and ice removal program... and that's not even considering the "contractor" solution.
Alderman Andre Chabot - one of the few reasonable voices on council - has proposed hiring private contractors when the city's crews can't keep up. In other jurisdictions, tow truck operators, gravel truck operators and even just plain old Ford F-350 owners have easily-mounted ploughs that can have them out clearing residential roads and feeder routes within 30 minutes, leaving the big city crews and trucks for the major routes. Anyone who has ever shovelled a sidewalk knows that once you get MOST of the snow off, a lot of the time the sun will take care of the rest, even if it's below zero. The nonsensical reply from detractors on council: "We can't pay those contractors to have men and equipment standing by when there's no emergency situation".
Ummmm... no, guys, you can't. That's why you're not hiring them as full-time city employees. That's not how the "Contractor" thing works...
Even Alderman Brian Pincott - not exactly a favourite of my more conservative readers - is on-board with the idea of contractors. It's what they do out East when things get out of hand. And BELIEVE me, things are very much out of hand. Even BRONCO'S street is reportedly a nightmare. Pump Hill, where you can't buy a closet for less than a million (don't forget, the city gets its tax from your property value!) is completely impassable. The only reason nothing's been done to this point is because elections in this province are held in October. If they were held in February, council would happily be spending $70 Million or more on a snow and ice removal program.
And of COURSE people don't want their taxes to go up to pay for it... but if Bronco and his cohorts on Council are so hell-bent on us earning a reputation as a "world class city", maybe they'd better rip their eyes away from their beloved bridges and take a look at what pet projects they can cut so our "world class citizens" can actually make use of our "world class roads system" to get to their "world class jobs" without getting "world class stuck in the snow" or "world class t-boned" in a residential intersection.
Otherwise, we all might HAVE to use Bronco's Pedestrian Bridge to Nowhere, and his beloved Transit System that none of us feel safe on after 5 pm... because none of us will be able to drive in this city.