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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 5, 2009 at 5:00 PM

Seattle snow removal

Time to get real

The Greater Seattle lowland areas receive a large snowfall like this once every blue moon. For Seattle and other cities in the area to spend tax dollars on unnecessary snow-removal equipment and supplies that will, for the most part, stand idle is irresponsible. Citizens need to “get real” and understand that Seattle, as well as surrounding area cities and small towns, did a good job of keeping the major streets clear and passable.

Streets make up thousands of miles in the Greater Seattle area. No reasonable amount of snow-removal equipment will be able to clear all of these streets. Sometimes we, as citizens, have to prepare ourselves for this type of event, not expecting and relying on government to solve all of our problems, especially the weather.

I am confident that public works officials in the Seattle area are looking at how they can make improvements for upcoming winter storms.

— Scott Newbold, Auburn

Governments should make safety a priority

Having lived in areas with both frequent snow/ice storms and infrequent snow/ice storms in the winter, I believe I can offer some perspective and even a good idea or two regarding the area’s snow-removal woes.

Cities and counties with few snow/ice storms do more than the municipalities and counties surrounding the Puget Sound. Our local and county governments acted irresponsibly and inexcusably during this and earlier snow/ice events.

To be fair, it’s not just Seattle mayor’s issue, despite the focused news coverage of Mayor Greg Nickels. Many of the area’s elected officials are insubordinate on this issue. Snow/ice removal is not a new issue in the area.

What makes our local government differ from those more rational governments are indefensible eco-activist philosophies and irresponsible (and perhaps illegal) refusal to provide prudent public safety and infrastructure for healthy commerce.

Accepted best practices in government programs and accounting apply all costs and benefits to the served public before creating policies and practices. Costs to commerce due to customers, workers, and materials not able to move following a storm are huge. The cost due to unsafe public roadways is great, especially when governments don’t barricade unsafe roads. Dare I say, the likely direct cost to governments pales in comparison to the costs to public safety and commerce.

So, what should governments do if budgets would be strained by doing their best to provide safe roads and movement by commerce? The answer is simple: Priorities. Set prudent priorities. May I suggest the three most important and inviolate priorities of local and county governments are to provide for public safety, provide for healthy commerce and provide for effective education. I submit, all other policies and programs are predisposed and subordinate to these priorities.

In this area, prudent cost/benefit analyses are either absent or infrequent and shallow in scope. Perhaps making local and county governments legally accountable for violating governing enabling acts, articles of incorporation and mandates is in order.

Sadly, our elected officials only make excuses or downplay their responsibility and accountability to the public they serve. Nickels proved this beyond any doubt during meetings with the news media. May our memories be long and our votes be accountable.

— Dick Schaertl, Kirkland

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