Thursday, March 19, 2009

When the paper doesn't come

I love this old goofy poem, found by my sharp-eyed former Strib boss, Ben, who dedicates this entry to the Seattle PI.

Copies of their final edition were sold out by the time I got up on Tuesday, but they did do a bang-up final edition.

Speaking of tough times for journalism, this Seattle Times story is a perfect example of why we need good journalism and tough journalists.

It dives right into the heart of Seattle's completely messed-up response to a December snowstorm. Turns out plows were bumbling around every which way, and were ordered to clear the mayor's neighborhood and his route to work, and the rest of us can all just go hang. Bravo, Seattle Times, for exposing these dunderheads. Seattle, let's get mad about this, please.


"West Seattle, home to the mayor and transportation chief Grace Crunican, received an inordinate amount of attention right before Christmas, records show. Ten employees spent a total of 76 hours over two days clearing sidewalks, landings and bus stops in West Seattle, with the largest crew dispatched to the Admiral district where Mayor Greg Nickels and Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis live.

No such emphasis was accorded other neighborhoods, although special attention was given to the private Lakeside School in Northeast Seattle, where a truck sprayed de-icer around the grounds, and a loop of streets in Laurelhurst that were plowed even though they're not among the city's list of priorities for snow cleaning, according to department records."


"Transportation crews described confusion and delays in dispatching plows when the snow first began falling, making it harder to stay on top of the game. Meanwhile, the records show trucks hopscotching around the city, attending to special requests or remaining idle while the city announced it was plowing "aggressively" and clearing main routes that residents swore had yet to see a plow."


"The city rarely used all 27 of its plows at once, even after heavy snowfall, records show. On Christmas Day, for instance, 11 plows went unused even though they were ready to drive, according to an e-mail from Jackson. The morning of Dec. 24, the city said only 18 plows were deployed.

Transportation-department spokesman Richard Sheridan explained later that managers probably were "resting the equipment" or performing routine maintenance. He offered yet another explanation Tuesday, saying all plows were deployed that evening, even if the records provided to The Times didn't support that."


"Even as residents complained that main streets were impassable, city leaders — including Nickels, Ceis, the deputy mayor and City Council President Richard Conlin — praised the department.

Ceis e-mailed Jackson and transportation chief Crunican on Dec. 25 to tell them that "SDOT has been magnificent throughout these storms," while Conlin praised the crews' "hard and effective" work.

But Nickels' statements to the public that main streets were drivable stretched credulity for some. In a Dec. 28 e-mail to her colleagues, Councilmember Jean Godden wrote: "While the mayor was on TV saying that 'most arterials are passable,' I looked out the window at Sand Point Way Northeast and laughed ironically."

Bravo, Seattle Times writer Susan Kelleher. Talk about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

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