Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's a Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Celeste Katz, writer for the Daily Politics blog at the New York Daily News and Errol Louis, host of NY1's Inside City Hall, discussed the fallout Mayor Bloomberg has faced over the city's response to the blizzard.
Mayor Bloomberg gave a blizzard-related press conference almost every day last week, and he needed to. Each morning brought new backlash and new questions about the city's lackluster response to the snowstorm. Celeste Katz says that fumble could cost Bloomberg a lot of political capital, especially considering that he has billed himself as a manager as much as a mayor.
I think people will be very angry for a very long time about the city's response...To say it's Bloomberg's Katrina is overstated, but it really chips into his image as someone who "keeps the trains running."
Bloomberg has had trouble keeping the ambulances running too. Unplowed streets and unmovable cars kept many emergency service vehicles from reaching snowbound New Yorkers. Those in need of medical attention were largely out of luck last week. One caller named Chris, a paramedic, detailed the difficulty that the city's services had. According to him, Bloomberg's refusal to declare a snow emergency torpedoed any chance of these institutions operating effectively after the storm.
On my way to work there were so many cars stuck in traffic that sanitation trucks couldn't do their jobs. Ambulances literally couldn't get past the ER bay. I've worked other storms, other blizzards, and never seen anything like this. I think the bottom line is nobody called for a snow emergency. If that was done, I think people would have taken it more seriously and probably the overtime or the resources would have been dispatched.
Errol Louis pointed out that the storm came at an especially inopportune time for city services. After a round of internal promotions and hundreds of new hires, many of the city's snow removal workers hadn't had enough time or training in their new roles to deal with such a major storm effectively.
They had to hire new folks and they rushed them out onto the trucks. They'd only had two weeks of training and they needed considerably more before going out in the field. This overall presents a picture, what's the management strategy here? Do these guys really have a handle on this?
Katz said that question will likely haunt Mayor Bloomberg. If a snowstorm can cripple New York, it will also cripple Bloomberg's image.
I think the brand is damaged...You can't have a big city like this shut down, brought to its knees with this kind of chaos and people actually unable to get the help they need, and not suffer some sort of repercussions for this.