Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Help Is at Hand

"I can no longer, with good conscience, tell my neighbors and consituents that 'the city is on its way,'" Denver City Council President Michael Hancock said in an e-mail to the Hickenlooper administration. Almost six weeks after the first flakes fell, the natives are getting restless.

But just imagine if Hancock and all the other councilmembers had their own city-assigned snowplow crews, which they could dispatch to problem areas in their districts without waiting for the Department of Public Works. Have a constituent who needs to get to dialysis? Carol Boigon to the rescue. Is a bus stuck in the intersection? Charlie Brown's at the ready. Local business blocked from access by mounds of snow? Call on Kathleen McKenzie. Plow power to the people!

Back in 1983, Steve Schweitzberger was one of a half-dozen people running for mayor of Denver, in a race that saw an upstart replace Mayor Bill McNichols, who was tossed out of office after the city was crippled by -- uh huh -- a Christmas blizzard. Although Schweitzberger wasn't the victorious upstart -- that honor went to Federico Pena, with Schweitzberger finishing at the back of the pack -- he came up with an idea that still looks like a winner:

"I suggested every district councilmember get a plow or grader or skidsteer with an operator at their disposal," he remembers. "They could then decide routing priorities and where to push the snow (or blow it thirty feet in any direction as you pass down the street)...That would take all those local calls off the mayor's machine and give them to the local council member's machine (insert laugh track here)."

The city didn't listen, but Schweitzberger didn't forget. "I called a Bobcat dealer the other day to confirm current prices. Thirty grand for a turbocharged skidsteer with a snow bucket and six grand more for the snowblower kit," he reports. "But they are sold out. Maybe next year."

Hey, Steve, don't forget there's another mayoral race this year. -- Patricia Calhoun

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun