Open season on mayors and superintendents when inclement weather hits

January 31, 2014 

An old script played out in Atlanta, the nation’s ninth largest city, when the snow everyone predicted was coming -- came. Mayors of major and minor cities catch the flak when something doesn’t work out as it should. Snow -- and its removal or lack of -- is fertile ground for a direct hit.

New York City Mayor John Lindsay almost lost a re-election bid after the city was hit with a storm that dropped 15 inches of snow in 1969. Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young had been in office a mere seven days when Snowjam ’82 struck, carrying a whopping 5.8 inches of snow hit the city. His administration, though new, was castigated for not having enough snow removal equipment. In 1987, the mayor of Washington, D.C., was raked over the coals when his public works department failed to clear streets after a blizzard. It didn’t help that Marion Barry was in Southern California at the Super Bowl. Bill de Blasio, the new mayor of New York City, is facing the same criticism now that he meted out to his predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, about his handling of a recent storm.

Now it’s Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s and Gov. Nathan Deal’s turn in the frozen doghouse. Atlanta, according to Reed, was in a frozen grip that strangled the interstates crisscrossing his city and stranded thousands of motorists for hours because government, schools and businesses, sent folks home at the same time. Thousands of students ended up spending the night in their buses, lunchrooms and gyms. Though Deal said Wednesday the storm was “unexpected” the state’s Emergency Management Director Charley English took the fall Thursday, saying, “I made a terrible mistake, and I put the governor in an awful position.”

Mayors aren’t the only ones in the path of criticism when a storm cripples a city. School superintendents also catch grief. Just ask metro Atlanta superintendents who didn’t close schools early enough putting thousands of children and their parents trying to pick them up, at risk. Bibb County interim Superintendent Steve Smith was criticized for closing schools when the polar vortex hit earlier this month while Houston County schools remained open.

Bibb schools may have closed earlier than necessary Tuesday, but the Wednesday and Thursday closing was spot on. Making decisions about inclement weather is always a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t scenario. Fortunately, we don’t often have to make those decisions in Middle Georgia.

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