Building a better snow job

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

by Diana Nelson Jones/March 25

You may have read in Joe Smydo's story in today's Post-Gazette that City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak has been waiting for a call back from public safety director Michael Huss to discuss the emergency response to the February snowstorm.

We feel her pain. Some public officials -- and we are not implying that Mr. Huss is one of them -- act as if they work for Howard Hughes instead of tax payers.

The councilwoman, who hails from Carrick, has been handed the task of heading up a task force to analyze the city's response to the snowstorm so it can do better next time. She said that, aside from silence from Mr. Huss, she has talked to many senior officials, from the police bureau, the Bureau of Building Inspection, the comptroller and the county.A shoveling group in Sheraden during February's storm. Photo by Bob Donaldson

Her report is due in May, and its strength depends on constructive and experiential feedback from the public to

"I want to hear specific experiences," she said, "but also creative suggestions. I've looked at some of the submissions. We've had more than 100 so far, and we are even getting some compliments. Some suggestions are detailed, citing the city and emergency code. It's actually exciting" to see how people are responding.

In the photo at right, taken by my colleague Bob Donaldson, residents in Sheraden are digging out cars. They should be commended for their camaraderie and neighborhood goodwill. Many of our neighbors helped dig out cars. But we needed the same volunteer spirit applie to sidewalks.

One of Walkabout's cadre of idea people, Boris Weinstein, provides his feedback in an essay at .

Boris founded Citizens Against Litter in 2004 and has turned the thing into a regional redd-up monster of volunteerism. We'll let him take us on out:

Many laughed six years ago when Citizens Against Litter came up with the bright idea to turn to citizens in all 90 neighborhoods and give them responsibility to recruit volunteers to pick up everyday litter. We now have Redd-Ups twice a year with 10,000 volunteers --- school kids, college kids, young people, old people. We do this for pennies. I believe it is possible to keep sidewalks cleaner in crisis if such a plan has city government support and cooperation of the media.

I propose something similar to Citizens Against Litter. I propose "Citizens Against Snowstorms: Take Back Our Sidewalks."

* When schools and businesses are closed, thousands of people can join a pool of available resources for crisis duty for sidewalk shoveling.

* Consider legislation to specifically deal with sidewalk cleaning and maintenance during snowstorms.

* Recruit an army of volunteer shovelers in the city who would be paid by property owners to clean their sidewalks. A payment schedule would be recommended.

* Create a network of neighborhood Clean Sidewalk Stewards to recruit, organize and direct volunteers for their neighborhood sidewalk clean ups.

* Tap into these and other crisis situation resources: public schools, colleges, unemployment offices, social networking organizations, service groups.

* Investigate federal and state funded emergency programs to recruit shovelers.

* Redirect parking meter maids during the crisis to visit neighborhood businesses to remind them to clean their sidewalks.

* Appeal to [media to] appeal to the public to clean sidewalks and volunteer as crisis shovelers and to balance dissemination of snowstorm news with information about the need for citizen action.

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