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Mayor Fenty criticized for snow cleanup

- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 11, 2010

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat, is being criticized for his response to the back-to-back winter storms that brought record-breaking snowfalls.

Kwame Brown and Harry Thomas Jr. -- two of 13 members of the D.C. Council -- said the mayor should have asked the U.S. government to declare Washington a federal disaster to get access to additional money and equipment.

"If there is ever a time for a state of emergency, this is it," Mr. Brown, at-large Democrat, said Wednesday, after the second storm in five days piled a total of roughly 3 feet of snow on the region. "The District is not only facing a crippling snowstorm, but we're facing a crippling budget shortfall and citywide safety issues. We need to call for federal government dollars and resources just like our neighboring jurisdictions."

Mr. Thomas agreed with Mr. Brown, saying the Federal Emergency Management Agency should have been called in after the first storm.

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"We didn't get the first snow off [sidewalks and streets] before the second snowfall. We didn't take it to the level," he said Wednesday night on MSNBC's "Hardball With Chris Matthews."

Mr. Thomas, Ward 5 Democrat, also criticized Mr. Fenty for not closing schools immediately after the first snow. He said the mayor deciding against opening Monday two hours late only after pressure.

He praised Mr. Fenty, however, for listening to constituents and said he might have been influenced by President Obama chiding city officials last winter about closing schools after a light snow.

"We under-reacted, instead of over-reacted," Mr. Thomas said.

Criticizing a mayor for his response to a snowstorm is nothing new in politics.

In 1987, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was in Southern California attending the Super Bowl -- and purportedly getting a manicure -- as a snowstorm buried the city.

Mr. Barry survived re-election, but other mayors have been less fortunate.

Chicago Mayor Michael A. Bilandic, for example, lost in the 1979 Democratic primary after failing to adequately remove snow that winter, Mr. Matthews and other journalists pointed out this week.

Mr. Fenty faces re-election this year. Though his approval rating has dropped since being elected in 2006, his roughly $3.6 million in re-election funds and no official challenger this late will make him difficult to defeat.

"Everybody liked him for a while, [but] it's time for a competition in the next primary," Mr. Matthews said. "It's time for somebody to run. This city needs a little better effort."

Mr. Fenty has acknowledged that the cleanup is a tough task and has said the city has "blown through" its $6.2 million snow-removal budget.

His office did not respond to a request to talk to the mayor.

Even Mr. Barry has asked Mr. Fenty to seek federal assistance.

"I am strongly urging you to contact President Barack Obama and ask him to declare a state of emergency for Washington, D.C.," Mr. Barry wrote in a letter to the mayor. "The challenges that you are facing due to insufficient resources and equipment, as well as employee fatigue, are very similar to those I faced as mayor during the blizzard of 1996 and the snowstorm on 1987."

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Democrat, has asked President Obama to declare a federal emergency.