Saturday, February 17, 2007

Failing City Services Create A Real Stink

Admittedly, it snowed a few inches this week. And it was cold. And the schools had to be closed for a few days. But really, as winter storms go, this one wasn't the end of the world. We didn't get hit nearly as hard as the eastern end of the state, and we've certainly had far worse snowfalls during my time here in Pittsburgh. I was able to clear my driveway and sidewalks without enlisting the aid of my wife, which means that the situation is better than it has been on at least three or four previous occasions in the past few years. And besides, whatever the weather may have done to us, all of it happened earlier in the week. My kids had a two-hour-delay on Thursday and the schools were back to a normal schedule yesterday. So things are back to a regular routine, right?

Well, no. Certainly not in my neighborhood. The streets are a God-awful mess and the garbage pickup is now four days late. Starving woodland rodent-like creatures with bushy tails -- from which my neighborhood takes its name -- are now digging into the heaps of trashbags piled along the street. Every trashbag seems to have at least one hole gnawed through it, and garbage is starting to get strewn all over the place.

Over at the Angry Drunk Bureaucrat, the city's response to this storm has become a topic of discussion. The ADB himself notes that city residents generally don't care about all the various scandals which have beset Interim Mayor Luke "Handcuffs" Ravenstahl. Most of them haven't even noticed the dozens of really questionable (and often downright stupid) decisions that he's made during his short term in office. But they definitely notice when the city fails to provide basic services:

You see, despite all of our punditry and pontificating, at the end of the day, the citizens of the City of Pittsburgh basically care about whether their day-to-day needs are being met. As much as we've enjoyed bloviating about them, Luke's little run in with the law or Jim Motznik's blog or Dennis Regan's, well, everything, are not going to be major factors in the May primary...

As long as the streets get plowed tonight.

Garbage pickup, crime, snow plowing, and the like are obvious, tangible examples of public works, both in the general and specific-Costa-run senses. The mayor is in charge of these services and, no matter the financial crunch impressed upon him by a previous administration or the limited number of resources at his disposal, if he cannot deliver, he's going to face a lot of angry voters.
The ADB's post elicited a few choice comments from his readers. Ed Heath, who is the author of the Cognitive Dissonance blog, offered up the following observation:
So what should I read into the salting situation? A main road in Stanton Heights, Hawthorne, on the east side of Stanton, was salted and plowed early while Forbes at Morewood, and indeed much of Shadyside, was not plowed and only lightly salted. (no hint of butter jokes, please)
Meanwhile, a reader calling himself "Jerry Doe" provided the view from yet another neighborhood:
Even despite the freakish weather, I can't remember the city doing a WORSE job in the S. Side. I disagree that the lying/handcuffing [and] mishandling of Regan/McnNilly won't have some impact; seriously, few issues [equal] the silver bullet, but I agree that mishandling of the basics will get the kid tossed out on his porcupine-like hair.
Back here in my allegedly-posh East End neighborhood, the roads are still bad days after the storm. Despite the impression that many people have of what goes on in these parts of town, Shadyside and Squirrel Hill certainly did not get top-notch city services. In fact, they are far worse than they have ever been during prior mayoral administrations. We have never, ever had to leave our garbage at the curb for four straight days with nary a sign of a garbage truck. For that matter, I'm not sure anyone could safely get a garbage truck down the street at the moment, as it's still covered in ice, slush, and snow.

It's not just me -- tin-foil-hat-wearing, nit-picking, blog-writing Ravenstahl-hater that I am -- who is noticing this breakdown in city services. The Tribune-Review is also providing an outlet for the voices of frustrated city residents:
Bonnie Seekford doesn't remember her Brighton Heights street ever looking so bad in the three decades her family has lived there.
Standing on the porch of her Wadlow Street home Friday, Seekford, 36, shook her head at the snow and ice that still covered the road and the pile of garbage bags sitting outside.

"They're plowing but not using any salt," she said. "They were supposed to take my trash away yesterday. I've called Environmental Services, but all I get is a recording."

Echoes of the frustration voiced by Seekford could be heard in neighborhoods around the city yesterday, where snow and ice still buried side streets two days after this week's storm.
The article is filled with complaints from all over the City of Pittsburgh; from Brighton Heights to Arlington to Perry South to Squirrel Hill. The city has truly fallen down on the job.

So it's not just Master Ravenstahl's scandals and immature decision making that's causing problems for our city. It's also his inability to get the basics accomplished. The best that can be said is that at least the squirrels are eating well.


Matt H said...

"The rock salt and liquid calcium we use to melt ice doesn't work when temperatures fall below 17."

Seems like the problem was addressed in the article.

Richmond K. Turner said...

Not really, Matt. First of all, I've lived here for years now. It's been this cold before, and I haven't had this problem before. Not ever. At least some of the people quoted in that article also have lived in their neighborhoods for a long time. It's been cold, but the city hasn't dropped the ball like this before.

On top of that, it's been well above 17 degrees on for quite a number of hours since the storm ended a few days ago.

And finally, I will point out that the other municipalities around the city aren't having the same problems. My friends up in the northern suburbs and down in West Mifflin, for example, tell me that their roads are clear and their trash pickups are running on schedule. Only the City of Pittsburgh is having this problem.

PghLesbian said...

The Northside has been a real treat. Thank goodness for 4-wheel drive.

I work in East Liberty with many city resident coworkers. The snow/trash service has generated more political buzz than any other event in the three years I've been there, with the possible exception of when our $52 withholding rolls around. People, everyday people, are angry and frustrated. If West Mifflin - my home community and the muckiest boro in the region - can manage snow removal and trash pickup ...

Anonymous said...

Secondary streets in Brentwood and Baldwin were perfectly plowed at least 1 day before my secondary street was even touched. S.Side was an ice skating rink for 2 days - hardly off-the-beaten path.

Another thing I noticed, normally, we see Guy Costa all over the news during these kinds of events - did Dick Skrinjar lock him up so that Luke could talk salt/snow plows? Good for him, 'cause it's his mug I'm going to remember May 15 as being too cheap and distracted to go the extra mile to make sure my roads were safe.

Smitty said...

Not only does Costa make the news regularly,but he also attends just about every freebie function that goes on...he is at the minimum,a poor foreman,yet alone a Dept.Director..he is the quintessential patronage sponge

malificent said...

Please pass the tinfoil.

The neighborhoods that are experiencing less than stellar snow removal are:

East End

The one neighborhood that's reported good snow removal: Stanton Hts./Morningside.

Which neighborhoods might Luke already be ceding? Which one(s) is he courting? Which one's votes does he take for granted?

O.K., I'm done with the tinfoil for now.