PRIVATE SNOW PLOWING TRUCKS
Nothing is certain in Chicago but death, taxes and snow. Last year (2008) in a fit of budget pique, Mayor Daley announced the city was cutting back on the snow plowing of side streets. It was almost as if the ukase were pronounced as a punishment to Aldermen who would have to bear the brunt of their constituent’s complaints while the Mayor’s guffaws could be heard chortling through City Hall.
The Daley administration has set forth a proposal to hire private companies to plow side streets this winter as a way to save money. Two options are being explored: one contract would pay a set monthly price for December through March and also half of November and April and the other option would have the city pay an hourly rate when services are needed.
The Chicago Tribune reported that “several aldermen said they were caught off guard when Daley officials told them of the proposals last week, and they want to have more input into potential changes in such a key city duty." Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said, "Nothing is more integral to city services than police and fire and city snow removal. I think we have to approach this with a degree of trepidation."
I don’t like either option. Option one is the monthly rate plan. How can one decide in September how much snow is going to fall in the upcoming winter and be able to determine what the rate plan should be? One could use past and future weather charts to try to determine an expectation of how much snow will fall, but a “guestimate” is not how the city should decide pricing on anything.
Option two is the hourly rate. Under the hourly rate the snow plow driver would have no incentive to clear the street quickly. The longer it takes them to plow, the more money they will make. The hourly rate is just an inducement to plow slowly.
Not being just a naysayer; I have two options of my own to propose. One would be for the city to determine a flat rate per side-street. The snow plowing companies could bid on how many and what streets they want to plow. When snowfall reaches a certain level, the company would send their trucks out.
My second idea, whimsical though it might be, would to equip the Laz parking meter enforcement aides with riding snow blowers. It is a work-force that currently exists. The aides have to be on the streets checking if cars have valid parking receipts, so they are already in the field. I researched on-line and the riding snow-blowers have a speed of 6-8 mph—about the velocity one travels in a car in the city during inclement weather. Give the aides a few more bucks an hour and they could do the job.
So why hire trucks when just a blow job will do?