- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 19, 2000

Unlike cities that know how to cope with snowstorms, Washington always makes a federal case out of the white stuff whether flurries or heavy snowfall. Wouldn't it be nice if the feds started pitching in to help the city weather such storms?

Consider the worst snowstorm of the season, which hit the region on Jan. 25. Most local governments and school systems made the call early to either shut down or delay openings. Yet the feds acted far too late.

By the time the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced a shutdown at 7 a.m., many of the tens of thousands of federal workers in the Washington region had already trekked through drifting snow and ice-slicked roads only to learn after their arrival that they had to return home. Seems the head of OPM, Janice M. Lachance, was campaigning with Vice President Al Gore in Iowa at the time and continues to defend herself by saying she really needn't be in Washington to make such an important snow call. Her explanation to inquiring minds on Capitol Hill? Blame Mother Nature and the forecasters.

Instead of making lame excuses, the feds should lend a helping hand literally. Miss Lachance might consult her colleagues in the Departments of Interior and Transportation to come up with real aid. After all, local governments, schools and public works crews base much of their decision-making on the federal government and, moreover, the feds and D.C. authorities consult all the time on security and traffic measures. Together they mapped out security and traffic plans when NATO held its 50th anniversary confab here. And when Americans pour onto the Mall, whether to protest domestic or foreign policy or celebrate the annual Smithsonian Folk Life Festival, the feds and the District collaborate. They even work together to coordinate trash pickups during parades, inaugurations and the like. Surely the federal government has snowplows and snow blowers among its vast fleet of motor vehicles, and surely it is in the interest of national security that the streets in the nation's capital be navigable.

Indeed, the White House is forever bestowing on the nation's capital "special" favors via tax dollars and the reams of red tape that come with the funding to address quality-of-life concerns, such as public housing, education and crime. Federal government workers also lend the D.C. government their expertise on management and technology. If they have any expertise when it comes to snow removal, District residents would undoubtedly find it most welcome.

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