The first snowstorm to blast the Northeast
this season — Saturday’s inch-an-hour blizzard —
caused regular operations in many cities to come skidding to a
halt. The Associated Press reported Saturday that the sudden
snowfall disrupted schedules for college football, commercial
airline flights, SATs and everything in between. Though most of
Michigan has seen very little snowfall yet this season, this
weekend’s storm should serve as a reminder to city officials
statewide that Jack Frost is waiting in the wings, and the only
defenses against the great gray gridlock he is wont to cause are
boy-scout-like preparedness and vigilance.
The City of Ann Arbor would do well to keep this in mind. In
winters past, the city has declared snow emergencies without giving
drivers advanced notice, converting the operators of vehicles
parked on streets into violators of city ordinances. These
ordinances require that drivers move their cars off of the streets
during snow emergencies. Last year, officials declared such a snow
emergency on Christmas Day, which lasted until Dec. 28. The city
then proceeded to issue nearly 600 tickets for $35 each.
Fortunately, it did not tow any cars, although the $270 price tag
of towing a car may have influenced that course of action.
Not surprisingly, many of the city’s residents were busy
last Dec. 25, and did not spend the day waiting anxiously for the
city to declare a snow emergency. And while it did snow in Ann
Arbor last Christmas, the amount of snow fell far short of
engulfing the city — it surely was no emergency, especially
on a day when most people refrain from driving.
Declaring snow emergencies on days when the city feels it can
earn some cash is at the very least not in the Christmas spirit.
During the holiday break, many students feel especially
disconnected from the University, and Ann Arbor residents feel
disconnected from the city. Officials need to do a better job
informing residents of a snow emergency. City Administrator Roger
Fraser, the scrooge who declared the snow emergency last Christmas,
said that this year he plans to inform residents of a snow
emergency a few days in advance and use better communication
methods to do so. This will include utilizing local media and
campus e-mail — a suggestion, among others, that this page
made well before the parking ticket debacle of Christmas 2002.