It is with great concern and genuine regard for our city and our citizens that I offer up my account of the recent snowstorm that was the Blizzard of 2015. I have informally (through emails and Facebook posts) surveyed over one hundred Lynn citizens in preparation for this column. The feedback I received offered some creative and constructive ways to improve snow removal and work together in the future so that when the next storm arrives, as early as today and again, later this week, we are better equipped to handle storms of this magnitude.
• Many folks were concerned with the lifting of the parking ban without main and side streets being adequately cleared to allow for cars to be parked on the street. This created a huge safety risk of both personal injury and property damage.
• Consistency in plowing various neighborhoods; some streets went untouched for days, while others had multiple plows doing the same route hour after hour.
• There was not enough personnel or access to heavy, larger equipment to serve a city of our size, both population and square footage, so the storm and rapid snowfall overwhelmed the existing crews that were trying to keep up but to no avail.
• There were many reports that the school yards and walkways were excellent at some schools; but at others, it was the complete opposite. Lynners want to see a consistent effort that mirrors the same results from school to school and neighborhood to neighborhood.
• Pre-storm treatment and post-storm treatment were big concerns for citizens. There was little to no evidence that any of the Lynn roads were given a salt or sand treatment prior to the first flakes. Had this been done, it would have allowed for faster melting time and provided a protection to drivers during the storm.
• We need to research what other comparable communities do to maximize snow removal efforts. Let’s collaborate with Revere, Chelsea, Everett, Boston, Lawrence and Lowell about what they may do differently and how much they budget for annual snow removal.
• Everyone must do their part during a crippling blizzard of this proportion, which means shoveling out hydrants, checking on elderly neighbors, clearing pathways and sidewalks, not parking on the streets. Most Lynners had very positive accounts about how the city was aggressively enforcing and fining households for various infractions and had little sympathy for anyone who did not follow the rules during the storm.
There are many more examples of the feedback that I received but I think I captured the overall sentiment of the Lynn taxpayer’s frustration. Going forward, as a leader in the community and a candidate for public office, I would like to offer up some cost effective measures and procedures that I would implement as a Lynn Councillor-At-Large in January 2016. When elected, I will immediately file an ordinance to create a winter advisory task force, comprised of both our elected and appointed officials, as well as taxpayers and small business owners, to serve on the committee to examine other practices, costs, conduct research and offer ideas to help focus on a comprehensive plan for city snow removal. Additionally, as an elected official, it will be part of my job to be an active participant in ensuring that your street and our roads are in the best possible condition before and after the storm. To that end, I will personally pledge to be out with various city officials and paid contractors to play an active role in that process. I will be accessible by either personal cell phone or personal email to ensure that my constituents can reach me throughout the storm to report a troubled spot or area. I will answer and return the calls that I receive and do my very best to work with city officials, the office of the Mayor and DPW in working to address your matter. (I did this for a half dozen residents this past storm, as a private citizen and would like to thank the DPW staff for responding, in due time, to help during this otherwise, overwhelming challenge.)
In conclusion, it is important to not place blame on one department or any one individual. My commentary is not meant to be a personal attack on any one city agency or department. It is merely an attempt to work collaboratively to develop a comprehensive, strategic plan that will serve both city residents and folks traveling through our city for work, business or recreation so that our reputation for snow removal and being task driven becomes that of other smaller communities (albeit with far less roads to plow and far fewer residents). Lynn needs to be seen as the leader on this issue and what steps we put in place today to address the needs of the whole city and its 90,000+ residents is paramount to changing the image and reputation of our fair city.