We growled not long ago after city hall botched a big snow-and ice-removal job. The Feb. 7 ice capades, you may remember, were not entertaining in the least.

But Anne Hoey, chief of the city's snow-fighting operations, did something rather unusual last week: she acknowledged her mistake in not deploying the fleet of salt and sand trucks sooner and accepted responsibility for the slippery rush-hour mess. How refreshing!

Mrs. Hoey could have blamed the fiasco on the imprecision of the weather forecasters. But she didn't. Or she could have cited that time-honored excuse of city hall bureaucrats: a "lack of resources." But she didn't do that either. She gave it to us straight.

And for once Mayor Barry seemed to break a pattern of disassociating himself with things that go wrong in his administration; even he acknowledged that the day was less than a banner one for city hall.

In the days since, Mrs. Hoey and the mayor have had plenty of opportunity to make amends. Many hours before the next snow, last Tuesday, those trucks were at the ready all over town, and the results were happier. "We were taking no chances," said Mrs. Hoey. " . . . I think we owed that to the public."

The conservative approach, at least in the politics of snow removal, is the right one. Keep it up, Mrs. Hoey.