A follow-up to the story du jour. Note that Halloran’s limiting his accusation to Queens, not extending it to all five boroughs, which adds credibility in my mind. And yet, as much as we might want to dump the body count in the lap of the sanitation union, I’m not so sure callous public employee greed can explain this one. Simple idiocy is usually enough to explain government performance, and so too in this case perhaps:

At 3:58 a.m. on Christmas Day, the National Weather Service upgraded its alert about the snow headed to New York City, issuing a winter storm watch.
By 3:55 p.m., it had declared a formal blizzard warning, a rare degree of alarm. But city officials opted not to declare a snow emergency — a significant mobilization that would have, among other things, aided initial snow plowing efforts…

By 4 p.m. Sunday, several inches of snow had accumulated when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg made a plea for help at his first news conference about the escalating storm: he asked people with heavy equipment and other kinds of towing machinery to call the city’s 311 line to register for work. A full day had gone by since the blizzard warning had been issued

By [Friday] morning, the Weather Service had been warning of a significant winter storm starting on Sunday afternoon. But at 11 a.m., the managers issued a proclamation of Plan 1 [the lowest emergency level for the transportation system]…

The decision would have far-reaching consequences: because of a quirk in the transit agency’s system, the plan chosen on Friday stays in effect all weekend. And the agency would not officially make the switch to Plan 4 until 11 a.m. on Sunday, when snow was already building up on the streets.

Because the agency had opted for the modest response, several important aspects of rescue operations and disaster preparedness — diesel trains and other heavy machinery, like trains that blow snow off tracks or spray antifreeze on the third rail — were not automatically deployed.

They thought the storm would miss NYC; when it didn’t, they were caught flat-footed. Such are the calculations made by can-do messianic “no labels” technocrats, my friends.

The bad news: Even New York’s governor is now calling for a criminal probe of the sanitation department over the slowdown allegations. The good news: Ka-ching!

Tags: New York