Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Snowstorm Blame Game

According to the NY Times this morning, it is appearing less and less likely that there was any kind of organized union slow down that caused the city's malfeasant response to last month's blizzard: "The story rocketed around New York City when streets went uncleared after the Dec. 26 blizzard: Sanitation workers, angry about job reductions, had deliberately staged a work slowdown...And it occurred because one man, Councilman Daniel J. Halloran, Republican of Queens, said five city workers had come to his office during the storm and told him they had been explicitly ordered to take part in a slowdown to embarrass Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. But the more that investigators look into Mr. Halloran’s story, the more mystifying it becomes."

But it was the NY Post's rush to judgment-even more than CM Halloran's allegations-that ratcheted up this story into such a state of out sized outrage. It was also aided and abetted by those on the Right who just couldn't resist the union did it narrative. On the other hand, it was always our belief that the snowfu was a management failure above anything else-a supposition that the Times story makes even more likely.

And it doesn't look as if all of the ballyhooed investigations are going to bear fruit: "Meanwhile, investigators had hoped that extensive publicity would bring out others with knowledge of the purported plot. That has not happened, according to the people briefed on the investigations, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigations are continuing. This leaves prosecutors with no proof that anything occurred. “When you’re talking about establishing a negative, I don’t know how it’s going to get firmer,” one person briefed on the inquiries said."

Of course, if there had been rampant labor abuses, it is more than probable that some of this would have already surfaced as a result of the publicity. Instead, mum's the word-and the Post's hysteria looks more and more misplaced-and Halloran has begun to walk back his own remarks: "Yet in the days since Mr. Halloran first made his explosive accusations, he has revised his account. In an article that appeared in The New York Post on Dec. 30, he said the workers had been told “to take off routes” and “not do the plowing of some of the major arteries in a timely manner.” “They were told to make the mayor pay,” Mr. Halloran said in the article, “for the layoffs, the reductions in rank of the supervisors, shrinking the rolls of the rank and file.” More recently, the councilman has said the workers were not explicitly told to take part in a slowdown, but were subtly informed there was no need to rush while clearing the snow."

All of which will hopefully bring the focus of this story back to where it belongs-at the mayor's absent tootsies. Any labor action-whether isolated or not-could not have been conducted if all of the grown ups hadn't decided to leave town in the hands of a deputy mayor who has apparently been tossed off her bike one too many times.

But we are buoyed by the fact that the mayor is still taking his managerial responsibilities extremely seriously. As the WSJ reports-in what we would describe as an example of crackpot rationality-Bloomberg has installed clocks at City Hall to insure that meetings are conducted swiftly and expeditiously. Unfortunately, that only works if you are actually in town to participate in the meeting.