On February 20, 2009, Council held another briefing regarding the December 2008 Winter Storm response. The briefing was the last of 4 scheduled briefings as a result of the “illegal procedural penalty” by the City (excuse my football reference). The “After Action Report” and “Corrective Action Plan” was presented and discussed by Council. Each department with a role in the snow storm submitted a “Corrective Action Plan.” Implementation of all the new policies in the action plan will be completed by September 2009. The action plan included 68 areas for improvement covering 12 agencies and departments.
As mentioned in an earlier blog posting, there was an overarching problem of determining the severity and duration of the storm and the lack of measures in place for different snow advisory conditions (from low to severe). More specifically, I saw two major problems in the City’s and County’s snow response: 1) snow plowing and 2) lack of communication among agencies. There should be a common sense approach in identifying the different response plan if 12 inches of snow falls over a 14 day period compared to the average 2 inch accumulation. The City cannot use the fact that this was the most severe snow storm in the last 20 years as an excuse or claim we now have 20-20 hindsight. The Executive and Council’s main function is to be preemptive and review all possible scenarios.
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A few weeks ago, our city experienced one of the biggest snowstorms in over a decade, replete with the usual post-storm analysis. The public’s perception of how the City handled the storm can best be described as “frustration on steroids.” As the Mayor graded the City’s response as a “B” and we questioned the vacation schedules of department heads, I kept reminding myself that we, as a City Council, are the policy leaders and community leaders. As such, the issues of “salt” vs. “GEOMELT” or whether the City is in a position to demand better bus service from the County under snow conditions….are issues that we could own. It could have been determined last year that our use of salt, which could end up in our creeks and Puget Sound, was not considered the major detriment to salmon. I have never blamed a teammate for a team loss and won’t start doing that now. Yes, there is plenty of room to blast the Mayor, the County and even the City Council, but that won’t clear the 1,531 lanes of primary and secondary arterials under a pre-determined plan for snow and ice routes. It is cathartic to state that we could have done a better job. As a City Council, our focus should be “What can we do better!”
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Since 1972, the amount of tree cover in Seattle has decreased from 40 percent coverage, to about 18 percent today. This is a loss of approximately 1.7 million trees in a 36 year period is significant and I think all of our citizens should be concerned about it. Our tree cover is essential to our way of life and part of the fabric that makes Seattle great. Trees are not only aesthetically beautiful, but essential to cleaning pollutants from the air and providing root systems that help with drainage and storm water runoff. Our region’s declining tree cover is an issue that deserves our attention.
As the Council considers legislation to address this concern, I will certainly support proposals that first encourage property owners to plant trees or gives property owners and builders an incentive to build around pre-existing trees. I am always concerned if our governing body immediately jumps to solutions that could ignore the fine balance that courts of law use when examining the needs of the state against the protections of individual liberty. Continue Reading »