Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mayor Culpa? Or, Limited, Modified Hangout?

As the NY Times is reporting, Mike Bloomberg-bowing to the avalanche of justified excoriation-is finally taking the blame for the city's failure to respond well to the Christmas storm: "Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg accepted responsibility Wednesday for the city’s response to a crippling snowstorm, pledging to have every street plowed by morning and then to figure out why his administration’s clean-up efforts were inadequate. Speaking at a hardware store in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx, Mr. Bloomberg said he was “extremely dissatisfied” with the performance of the city’s emergency management system. He said the response was “a lot worse” than after other recent snowstorms and was not as efficient as “the city has a right to expect.”

But, that being said, it doesn't appear that the mayor will be holding anyone personally responsible-as well he should be: "But he also defended his commissioners, including John J. Doherty, who runs the Sanitation Department. The mayor called him “the best sanitation commissioner this city has ever had, period, bar none."

One bright spot? It looks as if there will be jobs for all of those immigrants that Bloomberg professes to love so much-as day laborers: "Mr. Bloomberg said the city had hired 700 day laborers to help shovel snow on Tuesday and planned to hire 1,200 on Wednesday. “The results have not been what we would like them to be but it was not for lack of effort,” he said."

Bloomberg being Bloomberg, however, the blame needed to be shared-this time by all of those selfish New Yorkers. This is Mike's adaptation of Nixon's, limited, modified hangout-contrition as a tactic: "The mayor also spread some of the blame for the city’s problems on to its citizens, who he said had failed to heed requests that they not call for help unless they faced true emergencies. Those calls, the mayor said, “overwhelmed” the emergency communications system, a failure that he said he had assigned an official to investigate. City residents also compounded the problem by trying to drive in the storm, only to have their cars stuck in the path of plows."

Talk about adding insult to injury! Does Mike realize how many folk died because of the inadequate emergency response? The Times has that story: "A woman with stroke symptoms in Midwood, Brooklyn, waited for an ambulance for six hours, finally arriving at the hospital with telltale signs of advanced brain damage. In Forest Hills, Queens, bystanders waited for three hours next to a man lying unconscious in the snow before they were able to flag down help. And in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a mother in labor who started calling 911 at 8:30 a.m. on Monday did not get an ambulance until 6 p.m., too late to save the baby."

Things got so bad, that the emergency system had to resort to triage: "As the backlog of calls grew — it ultimately reached 1,300 at its highest point — an unusual directive went out across the computer screens within ambulances, emergency workers said. It told them that after 20 minutes of life-saving effort on a nonresponsive patient, they should call a supervising doctor, who would make the call about whether to give up. While it is rare for a person to be revived after 20 minutes, it is usually up to the medical crew to decide when to call the doctor."

And because of the torpid plow response, ambulances were stranded all over the city: "Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg defended the city’s response to the storm on Tuesday, and called the digging out of ambulances the city’s first priority. He said nearly 170 stranded ambulances had been dug out by emergency crews, with 40 more still stuck Tuesday morning. Still, the impassibility of many streets made routine ambulance runs into odysseys, sometimes with life-threatening or fatal consequences."

The entire situation took on all the trappings of a tragic comedy: "When a fire broke out five blocks from Elmhurst Hospital, emergency workers pulled patients in on sleds and toboggans, said Dario Centorcelli, a hospital spokesman. As at other hospitals, doctors and nurses stayed, sleeping on cots. At Lutheran Medical Center, a registered nurse and an orthopedic technician spent the day Monday driving around Brooklyn in a Hummer, to ferry exhausted staff members back and forth. In Rego Park, one volunteer ambulance partnered with a four-wheel-drive Suburban to patrol streets. About midnight, they were flagged down on Queens Boulevard and 62nd Drive, where bystanders said they had called 911 three hours earlier for a man lying face up in the snow."

The emergency calamity was so bad that it prompted El Diario's Gerson Borrero to speculate how vulnerable the city would be to a terror attack in the middle of a big snow storm. Here is part of his column-translated for us into English: "Imagine if one of the groups whose mission is to destroy us would have thought to place multiple bombs at key points in each of the five boroughs.  How would the police, firefighters, ambulances, doctors, and nurses get to those places? There were no bombs this time, but who can guarantee it will not happen during the next snowstorm? Even a blind man can see that there is no plan whatsoever for dealing with this type of atmospheric scourge. Terrorists are not stupid. Bloomberg has left us vulnerable to an unthinkable possibility, which in the demented brain of an enemy, might become a challenge to plan for."

How bad is the mismanagement? Well, the Times informs us in another report, that the Sanitation Department has no record keeping on the number of streets it has actually cleared: "It is the central question of this week’s snowstorm: How did the city’s efforts to plow and clear its more than 6,000 miles of streets rate against the jobs that it did in response to other powerful snowfalls? And here is the startling answer: No one can say with any precision or reliability. Even with a businessman mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, who is devoted to technology and the use of information to solve problems in real time, records maintained by the city’s Department of Sanitation are notably incomplete and potentially misleading. The department, which is responsible for snow removal, catalogs streets as plowed or salted — and neither mean cleared."

Unbelievable, no? But speaking of the Times, why has the paper maintained editorial silence on the city's storm response? The tabs have both weighed in-and we know how supportive they have previously been of the mayor. However, it isn't only the storm that has gone unremarked. The Times has yet to comment on the CityTime scandal as well-which leads us to wonder what Bloomberg has on Pinch Sulzberger.

And speaking of the mayor, we have an exit question: Was Mike Bloomberg in NYC on Christmas morning in the run up to the blizzard, or did he fly in later in the day only after the sh*tstorm started to hit the fan? That might explain the city's rudderless response. Maybe the Times can enlighten us on this?