Snowpocalypse’s lesson: The inefficiency of government

Anchorman Contributor
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On Tuesday morning of this week, for the first time in more than  a week, I saw a Fairfax County school bus on its rounds — a scheduled  two hours late on account of an overnight dusting of snow. But at least it was moving for the first time in a week since our double dose of winter weather dumped almost 3 feet of snow in our area. The bus had a thick layer of compacted , hard snow on its roof as it pulled out of its hibernation. None of the 173,573 people employed by Fairfax County schools had bothered to clear off, what authorities like to call, a “missile” should it take off and strike something or someone.

Nor had school employees shoveled crosswalks and bus stops leading to any of the 197 schools that make up the largest school district in the Washington area. Consider that this was nine days after the first snow fell. Nine days during which, from my observations, they did not work, did not teach, and did not volunteer in any capacity to make the schools ready for  what they are supposed to do.

On the eighth day after the first snow fell, the Fairfax County school system announced that it needed volunteer help from parents to do what it had neglected to do all those days. By the end of that day, at one elementary school near my home, I saw that parents had undertaken what school employees had not —  they had carved wide culverts right down to the bare ground through huge mounds of snow at crosswalks and bus stops.

The ninth day after the first snow fell also marked the Washington areas first attempt to return to normal work hours following the storms.  In other words, it was the day in which the federal work force  was expected to return — albeit two hours later than usual.

It was disastrous. Some morning commutes that would ordinarily  take 10 minutes, required two hours. This gridlock repeated itself  as workers headed back home in the evening rush hour , and then again on the tenth day after the first snow fell.

This predictable outcome was the work of the combined ineptness of all of our regions  local governments at plowing snow.  For days, TV reporters lazily bought and recited the official line, “The D.C. (or Loudoun or Fairfax or Montgomery County) governments will have plows and front end loaders running all night long…”  But reality told a much different story. In a region choked by traffic on a good day,  three lane commuter routes were bottlenecked  to two or even one lane, by huge mounds of snow. This happened at hundreds of places. “Blocking the box” at key intersections became the only hope of getting through. Nary  a police officer  could be found directing traffic. And to top it off, one lead car of the nations statistically most dangerous subway system derailed at one of the most crowded stations.  300 plus passengers wedged into that Metro sardine can had to wait as much as an hour to get out.

Contrast that, with what was going on in the private sector. On the first day after the first snow fell, I managed to get  into work just fine, as did the vast majority of my coworkers. We work for a commercial television station. It has competitors. We have to be there, or we lose our customers to our competitors. It’s just that simple. We made it to  work the second day, the third  and every day that snow fell, and every day the snow was being ineptly plowed by local governments.  Like thousands of other private sector businesses, the sidewalks, entrances  and the parking lots around my work were perfectly cleared of snow.  Our building’s owner has competitors, as does the building manager,  and the tenants — all of whom expect shoveled walks. They all know that if basic duties like shoveling snow are ignored, the tenants will complain, and perhaps, go somewhere else.

I read today that a school superintendent in Central Falls, Rhode Island asked teachers in his district to work an extra half hour a day. The school system there is notoriously bad with a dropout rate of about 50%. The unionized teachers in that district are paid extremely well — an average of 72-78 thousand dollars a year, which is more than twice  the median income in that part of Rhode Island. The teachers union refused. The superintendent fired them all.

It was a bold move. It sent a message. But it could never happen here in Washington D.C. and its suburban environs. Our metropolis is one giant company town. But the company is government.  It faces no competition. It has no deadline to get moving.  Like all governments, one of its unspoken purposes is to sustain itself. And in its inevitable reach for sustenance, it grows and gets bloated and reaches for more.

I heard syndicated radio host Mark Levin last night confide that he lives in one exurban outpost of our company town —  Loudoun County, Va. He angrily revealed  that in six years of living in his home there, his property taxes had gone from roughly 6-thousand dollars a year to more than 20-thousand a year. By my calculations, that 20-thousand dollars would buy more than 20 Powerland 13 horsepower, 32 inch professional snow blowers at $939 a piece on Overstock.com.

Loudoun County schools announced today that they’re opening one hour late until the end of this week. By then, it will have been 14 days since the first snow fell.

Anchorman a well-known news anchor from a top-10, big city station. The Daily Caller has elected to redact his identity to protect his anonymity