- The Washington Times - Friday, January 28, 2000

Heavy snow always uncovers the worst of D.C. government. Well, maybe not always, but at least since 1987, when Mayor Marion Barry was on the left coast hamming it up at Super Bowl activities while back-to-back snowstorms paralyzed the nation's capital. Every mayor since has had his (and in Sharon Pratt Kelly's case, her) share of snow-related problems. This week's unexpected storm christened the Williams administration.
The crux of Mayor Williams' snow problem is a multilayered mismanagement issue that began years ago because of unchecked spending and waste. The Jan. 25 snowstorm revives the issue in a new way for residents: Apparently you can have your trash picked up or your streets cleared of snow. But not both.
By Mr. Williams' reckoning, the problem started mid-month days before the big storm. It began with trash collection, or rather noncollection. In some neighborhoods the city failed to pick up trash the week of Jan. 9, and collections fell even further behind the following week because of the Martin Luther King holiday. All trash pickups were delayed that week. So if your trash was supposed to have been collected on, say, Friday the 21st, the next scheduled pickup was for Saturday. Yet in many neighborhoods, trash sat uncollected and, after this week's unexpected snowstorm, still sits ignored.
Linda Grant, a spokeswoman for the city, told The Washington Post the other day that the trash problem was not necessarily the holiday or the work crews but the trash trucks themselves. Trash trucks in most cities, The Post said, are about 5 years old. The District's are 10 to 12. That might be the case when they average the age of the trash-collection fleet but that does not account for the fact that the city bought spanking new trash trucks and plows in 1998-99 only for an inept bureaucracy to miscalculate the dimensions. Sorry to say many of those new trucks were too large to maneuver the city's alleyways.
Trash piling up along neighborhood streets is inexcusable, and so is leaving city workers with no place to park because plows did not clear D.C. government lots. Besides, public works' excuses are as old as the problems themselves. All taxpayers are asking is that they have it both ways: Pick up the trash and clear out the snow. That is what they pay for, and that is what they want.

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