The Washington Post

On thin ice — the politics of snow removal

There are some traffic problems in Atlanta: Mayor Kasim Reed (D) and Gov. Nathan Deal (R) are under fire for an epic spate of pile-up accidents and days-long jams around the city.

(AP Photo/David Tulis)

Reed is pushing back on the criticism, calling the storm "unexpected" -- a comment that TV weather forecaster Al Roker did not appreciate.

But Reed and Deal may find their response to the storm lingering long past the thaw, as snowstorm preparedness -- or the lack of it -- can help make or break political careers.

Seattle (2008)

Seattle had a decade-old policy of using environmentally friendly sand instead of salt during major winter storms. But after two unusually strong West Coast snowstorms, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels had to roll back the anti-salt policy – after the snow was gone.

Nickels lost reelection the next year.

Pittsburgh (2010)

For some politicians, half the battle is just showing up.

After a major snowstorm dumped 22 inches of the white stuff in Pittsburgh, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was nowhere to be found to sign papers to extend an emergency declaration. When reporters started asking about his whereabouts, his press secretary declined to answer.

The mayor reportedly had been celebrating his 30th birthday at Seven Springs Mountain resort when the storm started and didn’t return until days after the clean-up began. Rumors circulated that he had later taken a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, an accusation that caused the mayor to lash out at reporters at a press conference.

After his troubled first full term in office, Ravenstahl announced in March 2013 that he would not seek reelection.

New York and New Jersey (2011)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg were in hot water after a snowstorm slammed the East Coast while both were out of their home states vacationing in warmer climates.

Bloomberg was in Bermuda and Christie was with his family at Disney World.

While Bloomberg said his office should have declared a snow emergency sooner, Christie said his absence didn't affect his ability to respond to the storm.

Washington, D.C. (2010)

The Nation’s Capitol has never been known for handling snow gracefully, but Mayor Adrian Fenty found out that a poor response can mean political purgatory.

Whether it was the initial promise to keep schools open despite a record-setting snowfall (a decision Fenty quickly reversed), the requirement that city employees to come to work in icy conditions or the fact that major roadways were still treacherous for days after the storm – it was clear the city was woefully unprepared for the weather emergency.

Months later, Fenty lost in a landslide to current Mayor Vincent Gray.



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Chris Cillizza · January 30, 2014

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