‘Snowattitude!

Posted December 18th, 2013 @ 8:17 AM by

Why ya gotta be like that?

I’ve blogged about the staff attitude about the snow and downtown parking, the lack of predictable rules and how that leads to uncertainty, the unwillingness to fix problems alders have raised, etc . . . so for regular readers, this won’t be any surprise, but here it is, again, more attitude, same denial of a problem and lack of solutions . . . I hope that other people who contact the city don’t get treated the same way and this rude behavior is reserved for the “special cases” like me.

I sent this to the alders and others during the first snow, I sent it December 9th.

from: Brenda Konkel
to: All Alders ,
Mayor ,
“Kelley, Chris” ,
“Dreckmann, George”
date: Mon, Dec 9, 2013 at 3:17 PM
subject: Declaring a Snow Emergency when ticketing begins in 4.5 hours

I hope someone is asking questions about how they could declare a snow emergency last night at 8:30,, only 4.5 hours before they started ticketing many of my unsuspecting neighbors. On Sunday nights I frequently put my phone away, turn off my computer and ignore the outside world. Luckily, I just got done playing candy crush (yes, embarrassing) and was texting someone and got the text about the snow emergency. I got up, changed out of my pajamas, bundled up, went outside to remove the snow from my car, shoveled it out of the parking spot so I could get enough traction to get up the hill and moved my car to the parking ramp with the “free” parking that often costs me $2 – $20. I did this, otherwise I would have joined my many neighbors in getting $60 tickets. When the city declares a snow emergency is getting increasingly less predictable – they don’t call one when I think they will, they call one when I think they won’t – and I am often confused. And since I tried to help find solutions for some of these issues when I was an alder, I consider myself considerably more informed than most Madisonians about what I thought the guidelines were about calling snow emergencies – but those guidelines seem to have been tossed out. If you want people to conform and move their cars, I suggest you start with predictability and follow that up with fair warning. It’s hard enough trying to find a parking space in the downtown area with all the new parking restrictions in place for street sweeping and garbage pick up. And even when you know the rules and try you occasionally get tickets – its part of living downtown and not having a driveway, but please don’t make it any harder than it has to be by giving minimal notice for snow emergencies on top of all the other parking restrictions and hoops we have to jump through!

Brenda Konkel
A proud (but frustrated) downtowner for 22 years!

Alders besides my own actually responded, and thanked me. Yes, they got complaints about the tickets, again.

I got this response from George Dreckman who works for the City Streets Department – you know, the “nice guy” they like to use in the silly commercials/psas the city has from time to time . . .

Our policy has always been that we will declare a snow emergency no later than 9 p.m. We began our notification process at approximately 7:30 by posting a press release and sending out e-mails. Our texts were delayed until 8:30 due to a problem caused by our software vendor. They changed our posting URL without informing us. Even with that delay the text went out well in advance of the effective time of the parking restrictions. Four and one half hours is ample time to move one’s vehicle

We did not make a decision on a general plowing/snow emergency until we checked on the snow situation all around town and consulted with all agencies involved. Our final decision was made well in advance of our self imposed deadline and with sufficient time to alert the 15,000 residents on our notification lists and for all four TV stations with evening news to announce the snow emergency to their viewers.

George

Ok – fine. A little dismissive, but largely respectful. Thanks for the response. Yesterday, I sent this email.

from: Brenda Konkel
to: Mayor ,
All Alders ,
“Kelley, Chris” ,
“Dreckmann, George”
date: Tue, Dec 17, 2013 at 11:24 AM
subject: Can you see why it is confusing?

Ok, so last night was a GREAT example of the inconsistency that leads to confusion. Several of my neighbors opposite side parked last night (leaving plenty of parking spaces in close proximity to my house for a change!) thinking that since it snowed enough to plow, they needed to opposite side park. And, it snowed enough to plow. – all residential streets are being plowed. But there was no snow emergency declared. So, a bunch of people who got tickets learned from their experience and came out of their houses this morning to see that others did not get ticketed and are probably, rightfully confused. This confusion does lead to misunderstandings and a general feeling of unfairness in the ticketing. I know I anxiously checked the website last night up until 9:00 to make sure that a snow emergency wasn’t called at the last minute. I am beginning to think that the city should just say there are no rules about when a snow emergency is called – just check. It would be the most predictable thing you can do.

My two cents. After living and parking downtown for 22 years.

I was just trying to point out, just like when it snowed 5 inches last year and they didn’t declare a snow emergency that its hard to understand for those who aren’t really involved in civic affairs when a snow emergency is declared – and even if you are they don’t seem to follow their own rules. Well, this is the response I got . . .

Brenda,
Last night was a GREAT example of the unpredictability of winter and a reminder that people who expect every winter event to be handled the same are living in a fantasy world.

The snow fall we had last night was quite different from the previous storm. While it did snow enough to plow, we did not get three inches of snow last night. Three inches is our minimum threshold for declaring a snow emergency. Since we did not reach that threshold before 9 p.m. last night, and we had no way of knowing how much snow we might get before dawn, we did not set up a general plowing nor did we declare a snow emergency. This is completely in accord with our well publicized policies.

We did get another half an inch of snow around between 3 and 5 this morning, We then determined that we would set up a general plowing to start between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. Since we would have the streets clear by this afternoon, there is no purpose in declaring a snow emergency so we will not.

As to your neighbors who had to undergo the hardship of moving their cars to avoid tickets that were not given out, had they followed this better safe than sorry approach the last storm they would have avoided a ticket. Perhaps to avoid the confusion you are so concerned about we should return to the days before we set up the Snow Emergency Zone when the cars had to be moved every night. When everybody gets several tickets a week we would certainly eliminate any feelings about the “unfairness” of our policy.

We have been going back and forth over our snow emergency policy for several years. Frankly Brenda your Monday morning quarterbacking about our decisions has become tiresome. Our policies have not changed since we set up the Snow Emergency Zone. We have notification procedures in place that provide text messages and e-mails whenever we declare a snow emergency so people will know when we declare a snow emergency in plenty of time to move their vehicles. We also have a phone line then can call.

George
George P. Dreckmann
Recycling Coordinator
City of Madison, Streets Division
1501 W. Badger Rd.
Madison, WI 53713
608-267-2626
FAX 608-267-1120

“facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” John Adams

Love the quote at the bottom, because I can dig out all the facts to show him all the inconsistencies if he would like . . . its’ in a blog or email somewhere that I couldn’t find, but I will before the winter is over I am sure or recreate it – to show him the facts. Its easy since the send out emails and often say how much snow they have gotten.

Also loved that he now touts the email and text notifications because we had to fight really hard to get those in place – the staff didn’t think we needed them, that everything was clear the way it was.

I’m also puzzled by his statement that there is no need to call an emergency because they got the streets plowed. Yes, sure, but not where the cars were parked, is that just irrelevant, until when? It’s ok for it to be hard to park in spaces that weren’t plowed – until the city decides it affects them, then they plow to the curb? I don’t get it. What is their goal?

And I know its not just me. I talked to two people last night – not just regular people either, put the holy grail of people according to the city, the only downtowners that matter, I talked to . . . wait for it . . . (cue the harps and angels singing) . . . *** EPIC EMPLOYEES *** – and they both said they are confused by the downtown parking rules in general – not just snow rules, but the lack of clear signage for all the parking rules and especially when the snow rules are in effect. And being who they were, they pointed out that if the city is trying to actually plow the streets, this strategy is not very effective. Maybe that isn’t actually the goal?

My response to Dreckmann was this (don’t worry, not the response in my head, the one I typed, didn’t erase and actually reconsidered before hitting send)

Still talking past each other after all these years.

I used to be so proud of having a responsive staff that helped solve problems and were respectful of the public. Not so much any more – something has changed in the last 10 years. I don’t think I like the culture that has been created in city hall and what Madison is becoming.

Apparently, they think there is nothing wrong. No problems or concerns. They haven’t changed anything since they put the rules in place years ago and are resistant to change. I can tell you, as an alder that got the complaints, my constituents definitely felt the same as I am expressing (as did the – cue the harps and angels singing – Epic Employees I talked to last night) but they ignored me then too. I feel bad for my unsuspecting neighbors, who are mostly renters and may be new to the downtown area. This attitude and the attitude that was exhibited in the many meetings I was in around this issue, and the comments that were made there, lead me to conclude that they don’t care at all about the people who live downtown who can’t afford the underground parking. This is a cash cow for the city, I think they like it that way. The city can take advantage of them, and blame it on them being lazy, or rich enough not to care, or dumb – because there will be a new set of renters next year to take advantage of. I’d give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he had a bad day, but from my previous experiences that I’ve had, this is consistent behavior. Or maybe he just has a really lot pf bad days. Either way, that’snowattitude to take for an alleged “public servant” . . .


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