We are concerned to learn that, in the wake of last week’s record snowstorm, the Falls Church City Hall was inundated with angry letters, phone calls and e-mails denouncing the snow-clearing efforts of the City’s crews.
What was particularly problematic was the level of nastiness and viciousness expressed in quite a few of the comments.
Citizen reports on the effort have been mixed, in fact, as some of the letters to the editor in this edition indicate. In the City’s defense, it was the biggest snowstorm for a December in history, and one of the biggest to hit the region ever. There was simply an overwhelming amount of snow to deal with.
At the same time, however, citizens have to recognize that the City was strapped by a manpower shortage caused by the hiring freeze implemented last fall, when the depths of the City’s budgetary shortfall were first revealed. The City struggled to put needed crews into the snow removal effort even while short four qualified operators. Personnel from other City divisions with basic qualifications were sent in to help out, but without the experience and savvy in handling especially-difficult situations such as existed last week.
City officials have insisted they responded in full force to the storm, and that problems, such as plowing snow in a manner to block some residential driveways, was an unavoidable consequence of such heavy snow. While we agree it was one of the biggest storms ever, we believe that the City’s budget woes, an outgrowth of the national and global economic recession, played a major role, as well.
For this reason, we’re concerned by the “over the top” public reaction to some of the inconveniences this situation caused some citizens here. Clearly, there are many in the City simply spoiled by the level of service they may have been used to and feel entitled to. These would tend to be citizens who never lived in neighboring Fairfax County, for example, where whole neighborhoods are often left stranded for days by major storms.
While we are confident that striving to maintain quality services to its citizens is at the forefront for almost everyone at Falls Church’s City Hall, citizens are going to need to become accustomed to a new reality driven by the unprecedented drop in revenues that hit the City, and everywhere else, this year, and that will continue into the next two years, at least.
Citizens complaining about what they perceive to be less than Platinum Level services, whether it concerns snow removal or, for example, having to pay for City mulch delivery services, should take a deep breath and try to make the best of an admittedly bad situation.
People in Falls Church, even in the worst of times, remain remarkably privileged by comparison to most other places, but with the deep budget cuts coming, they “ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” In the face of this, we urge all to maintain a disposition of civility and patience.