Publisher's Note — The City’s Snow Job

The City's Snow Job

By Jody Reese

Three days after the blizzard of 2005, which wasn't much of a blizzard, the streets of Manchester were still covered in slushy snow while Nashua’s were plowed bare — and our system of city government is to blame.

It should go without saying that Manchester needs that snow removed and removed quickly. Not only are the snowy streets dangerous, they hurt business.

The Public Works Department’s website states very clearly what kind of service we should expect: “The City of Manchester, Public Works Department’s snow removal and ice control policy has been based for many years on the goal of obtaining bare and dry pavements at the earliest practical time following cessation of a storm.”

Unfortunately, this did not happen after the end of this weekend’s snow storm. By Tuesday at 5 p.m., most streets in Manchester were still covered in snow and slush, making driving difficult. The same thing happened last year and the year before. Each time I assumed city government would get it right eventually — and, occasionally, after the first major snowfall of the year, it did seem like the streets and sidewalks were clear within a few days rather than a week.

But if year after year the streets are not properly cleared after a major snowfall, something is horribly wrong with the way our city government operates. Then it isn’t a problem of how we clear the snow or how many people we have doing the work, it’s a problem of accountability. And accountability has to reside with someone voters can pressure.

The department head of public works, Frank Thomas, works for the mayor, but the mayor can’t fire him without the support of nine aldermen. So really Thomas works for the mayor and nine aldermen. And that’s the root of the problem. How can the voter put pressure on aldermen who represent other wards? It doesn’t make sense.

Forcing the mayor to get the votes of nine aldermen means that department heads really can’t be fired except in the event of major incompetence. That’s not the way to get city government working more efficiently and more effectively.

Instead of an effective checks-and-balances system, we end up with a city where department heads only have to make sure they are keeping aldermen happy, not the people.

—Jody Reese

2005 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH