Thursday, February 11, 2010
Everyone's talking about "Snowmageddon," the massive back-to-back snowstorms that have shut down DC. Now, we did warn you here on the Land Use Prof Blog about what Punxsutawney Phil said earlier this month. I understand that what counts as "six more weeks of winter" is relative, and where I grew up in upstate NY that didn't sound bad at all, whereas in DC, Virginia, and other middle-latitude states it might mean something different.
But for those middle-latitude states it is always a tough call, and a potentially significant issue for local budgets and politics, just how much to prepare for snow removal. I posted about this in December during a rare Texas snowstorm, and compared Texas cities' imperatives to Chicago and Albany. In a nutshell, it makes sense to pay for snow removal in Albany but not in Houston. It's the places in the middle--Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and points west--that have to make more difficult decisions about how many plows to purchase as capital expenditures; how much road salt and sand to stock in the operating budget; and how many plow drivers and other personnel to employ in the HR lines. It seems to me that, anecdotally, DC tends to get socked with a major blizzard every couple years, but that may or may not be worth the investment it would take to have a government snow-removal function on the scale of a more northerly metropolis. Tougher call in the middle states.