City Desk

Adrian Fenty’s Big-City Mayoral Test: Is Your Street Plowed?

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty loves referring to himself as a "big-city mayor," placing himself in the same league as the Bloombergs, Daleys, and Villaraigosas of the world. Has he ever faced as classic a big-city-mayor test as the Great Blizzard of '09 (aka SnOMG, Thurdersnow, Snopocaylpse Now)?

Certainly the inauguration was a massive ordeal that Fenty faced with flying colors, but massive snowfall has laid low many a metropolitan executive over the years.

The classic case of political failure, the one Fenty would have learned on the first day of big-city-mayor school, involves the 1979 Chicago blizzards oft-credited with ending the mayoral career of Michael Bilandic, and propelling Jane Byrne to the Windy City mayoralty in a landslide. Then there's the February 1969 blizzard that vexed New York Mayor John Lindsay. Closer to home, in January 1987, Marion Barry spent six days on a Super Bowl vacay while a pair of storms dumped 20 inches of snow.

"The day after the game, as Barry's public works crews badly fumbled the city's road clearing effort," the Washington Port writes, "the mayor partied...played tennis and enjoyed a manicure at the Beverly Hills Hilton. Then he collapsed and was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. The mayor's absence from the city, and his collapse, would loom large for years in the city's consciousness."

To be sure, the standards for snow removal in the District of Columbia are not quite so demanding as those in Chicago or most other places north of the Mason-Dixon line. D.C. simply doesn't get enough snow often enough to justify the snow-clearing investments that more northerly cities make. But snow-clearing operations still test a mayor's political mettle in unique ways. Rather than obscure them, snow can reveal race, class, and political divisions—reflecting in citizens' eyes just who and where their mayor cares about most. How long does it take for side streets to get plowed? Which parts of the city get the most plows and salt trucks? How fast can the city's business return to normal?

So what is Hizzoner up to today? "He is out and about," says mayoral spokesperson Mafara Hobson. So he's already doing a hell of a lot better than Barry in '87.

And the Fenty administration deserves kudos thus far for its communications efforts. Fenty has held a number of press conferences already on the storm, and has provided constant updates to the press—including admonitions for drivers to stay off the roads and pedestrians to stay off the sidewalks. The city even has a nifty map showing where its snow equipment is located.

Hobson says Department of Public Works snow crews spent much of the early day clearing major thoroughfares, before moving to residential streets later in the morning. But the snowfall intensified, to whiteout conditions, and now those crews have been pulled off the side streets. "We're going back hard, hitting the major thoroughfares," she says. "The snow is still coming, and the snow's heavier."

Right now, LL can speak only to a three-block radius from his current location on Capitol Hill. Plows have been rare thus far on side streets, and even Pennsylvania Avenue SE, just west of Eastern Market (pictured), is only marginally passable. LL watched as a police cruiser spun its wheels trying to make its way down the 300 block.

It's unfair to judge the response while the snow is still falling as hard as it is. And, for the biggest snowfall of his mayoral tenure, Fenty certainly lucked out in that it's on a weekend. But once the flakes fade and the weekend ends, residents' patience will be quick to recede. If forecasts hold, and the snow stops this evening, the expectation will be that commuter routes are cleared for the Monday rush hour. And if residential streets remain impassable much past Monday, Fenty may have some splainin' to do.

Please share your own plow status in the comments....

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  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    King Fenty gets an F! Even Wisc Ave is not being plowed! Cars parked along "snow emergency routes" are not towed. Neighborhood streets are not plowed.

    Total fail!

    Meanwhile, the Blood Sucking Capitalist are also in total fail. Glover Park Whole Foods - shut down. GP Starbucks - shut down.

    Meanwhile, my heart is wide open. My communist girlfriend is here & we're going to have communist sex - it looks like Dr Zhivago out there - bye bye.

  • Mike Licht
  • H street

    We do not have clean streets here in NE Corridor off of H Street but as I am not a fan of mayor Fenty I cannot blame him as yet for the snow.

    Once the snow stops--he has a few hours to provde he is a manager not just a talker.

  • Mike Riggs

    Fail in Upper NW as well. Kennedy St., a major thoroughfare up here, is a snowy disaster.

  • Fred

    where are the snowploughs in AM?

  • Mike DeBonis

    DDOT now says Penn Ave SE is "looking great"

    LL unwilling to confirm firsthand.

  • old man

    Why weren't the salt trucks putting down salt last night? Like they did when we got a inch of snow a couple of weeks ago.

  • ward 5

    My street looks horrible. But then again I live in Trinadad... No surprise.

  • proballdc

    Bridges first, because they are the most dangerous when they are slick and ice over, then major arterials and residential neighborhoods.

    There is first a pre-treating operation, then a salting operation, then a plowing/salting operation until snowfall stops and temperatures rise above freezing then it is just plowing.

    Early on you may not see plows in your neighborhood because they are not the most pressing priority. So stop being bratty about it. They will come. Besides if they came with heavy downfall, what they plow will be covered as soon as they leave. Be patient, this is a very large storm system.

    This is a great time for parents and families to sit down and discuss how best they should go about ensuring that Adrien is not re-elected. Develop a neighborhood strategy. (smile).

    I always think that the District does mountains better in attacking snow than our friends in Maryland and Virginia. Thanks to the hardworking grunt workers that this Mayor delights in firing in lieu of bonus to his do nothing cronies.

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    I 'member the '87 storm - Mayor Barry in LA for the Super Bowl, hangin' with Hef at the Playboy Mansion. The press asked him, "are you going to go back," & he said no. "What are you planning to do about the snow, & Mayor Barry said,

    "It'll melt."

    Ah ... those were the days, my friend. Mayor Barry in charge, the Skins in the Super Bowl, one of the squire's babes driving down M Street with her boy toy on the hood of her Jaguar ... now DC was special back then ...

  • Contrarian

    Ultimately it gets down to the men and women driving the trucks, they deserve our thanks right now. In DC it is 12 hours one/12 hours off. Hours 11 and 12 are the real test for the crews, that's were you separate the real professionals.

    You can argue whether Fenty, Klein and Howland made the right choices and provided the correct direction (or even listened) to their senior managers, superintendents and crews --that is for later..

  • Tori Morgan

    I don't think clearing streets is the main priority in a storm like this. There are people stranded in life-threatening situations on the roads around the state because of the intensity of the storm.... not because they are not plowing roads.... Ambulances sometimes need a dedicated plow to rescue heart attack victims from their homes.
    Let the experienced professionals take care of the roads. We should be taking care of each other and enjoying the break from our hectic [selfish] American lives.... your car will survive just fine sitting at your house until tomorrow.

  • dave c

    12:40 pm almost 18 hours since it has stopped snowing and still no PLOW on Ingleside terr NW. DC is not that big of a place. Mayor Fenty should go drive around Arlington sometime. Arlington has thousands of side streets also. There the streets are being plowed. I am sure PG has no side streets to plow. What a crock about patience. I am willing to bet Fentys street has been cleared.

  • Tom Adams

    All I can say is that Mayor Fenty can talk the talk,
    but sure as hell can't back it up. Everyone come to
    the Sunshine State, yes I mean Florida, where I'm
    complaining it's in the 50's and 60's. That's enough
    to make everyone get their winter clothes out here.
    But, hey as a former District resident, I only come
    back in the summertime. MOVE TO FLORIDA people.

  • Rhoda

    I was surprise walking in Georgetown today and businesses had not cleaned their sidewalk. But return back to the Hill and almost everyone forged a path. Neighbors took care of the elderly and did a small clear lane. I hope DCRA gets out their and levies some fines.

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  • Dwayne S

    I'm on Gallatin St. NW, just off Georgia Ave, in Hizzoner's former ward, and my street has NOT been plowed. It's just yet another reason, in a long list, not to vote for this fraudulent mayor.

  • candycane1

    My neighborhood streets look like s--t!

  • Excellent Job!

    Now that you all are done talking crap. Fenty has been given wide spread credit for having done an excellent Job. The best job of any blizzard in recent memory.

  • Dupontcircle

    I cant' complain. I took my dog to S and T park and it was totally shoveled. A friend of mine mentioned that Shaw Dog Park was also in great shape. She said DPR crews were responsible. I was impressed



  • R st nw says HELP

    R St is so dangerous. Cars have been sliding laterally
    all day, towards parked cars, and all kinds of vehicles have been stuck, requiring 4-5 people to push them free.

    We need salt even more than a plow, as the snow is underlaid by solid ice.

  • Yvette

    My street, 4th Street, SE has not been plowed. It looks terrible and cars have been getting stuck all week long. It is dangerous and something needs to be done ASAP!

  • Angela Winbush

    T street NW has not been plowed at ALL.Cars are getting stuck and sliding into parked cars . I can not move my car. Where are the plows.Will T steet ever see a plow or are we waiting for spring to melt the snow.

  • KCinDC

    Angela, if the street has not been plowed AT ALL, how are cars moving on it so that they can get stuck and slide? Cars don't move on streets covered 3-4 feet deep in snow.