The Slow, Sad Song of Snow
Is this the best time of year?
Is the snow season really the happiest season of all?
"Sara C." said she didn't get a Brick plow until 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. The snow fell on Sunday. Her husband missed three days of work because he was too busy clearing it all out.
"What do we pay taxes for?" she wrote. "No one cares about the people who live behind the 7-Eleven off of Chambersbridge Road in Brick."
"Kelly," another Brick resident, said she had to walk through four feet of snow drifts to be picked up for work on Midstreams Road. "I saw a plow on the next street over on a plowed road - I begged him to go one street over and plow my road," she said.
Did it work? "His plow would not be able to move the snow since it's so high!!!!!!"
And it's not just in Brick, where a litany of comments have been rolling into to our Brick Patch news site, just like the old-fashioned news-ticker news flashes, and on-the-scene eyewitness reports from the bygone years of broadcast journalism.
Only these comments say so much more than the typical man-on-the-street stuff that was merely filler for newspaper Op-Ed sections. They've dug up the dirt on what's becoming the snow-plowing, snow-cleaning disaster of 2010.
They're giving voice to the pent-up anger people have had about the big snow drifts that are still messing up the roadways in Wall Township, Point Pleasant Beach, Long Branch, Belmar, Lacey, Toms River, Barnegat and Brick. They're venting about the slushpiles that still block the turn-lanes along Monmouth and Ocean county thoroughfares, even if public officials say that those roads were supposed to be clear already.
These people are mad as hell, and they don't want to be stuck in the snow anymore.
One of our stories, entitled, Mayor: Plows Continue to Run....," is fast approaching a Patch.com record for Facebook recommendations. The number this morning, at 10:08 a.m., was 771 and counting. What was a relatively short story is now five times longer, because the comment portion is filling faster than any of us can write about it.
There are so many complaints that they run together, like some sad, story-tellin' Johnny Cash song. Or, better yet, they read like the darkest of the dark Springsteen songs, the ones that talked about the people with "debts that no honest man can pay," and tell the stories of the common men and women who are down on their luck and nowhere to go, and can only find someone to blame.
In Wall, Michael Ferrell of Parkwood Drive said Tuesday that snowmelt was dusted on his street on Sunday, but little had been done since. "Our township leaders need to stop blaming the state,'' Ferrell said. "They need to make sure we have access to the right type of equipment for storms."
"Last year's storms were manageable," he added. "So what happened differently this year?"
In Belmar, some residents hadn't seen any plows by Monday evening, and they wondered aloud why it took them so long. "No plows, so I haven't really dug yet," Marc Altenau, a 14th Avenue resident, said. "The snow drifts in the driveway are about five feet."
"I'm a two-time war vet who pays taxes. Where are the plows?" Jon Keller, also of 14th Avenue, asked rhetorically.
The common thread of these complaints, however, is that people aren't just upset about the snow and the size of it. They say they're tired of pubic officials telling people that everything is fine when it surely isn't.
People take the words of Brick Mayor Steve Acropolis with a grain of salt when they know what's behind the story of broken-down plows and still-snow-ridden streets, and how the whole problem could have been avoided in the first place.
As Dan Nee, our Brick local editor, has written, people know the township's public works department has been a victim of tight budgets in recent years. In December 2008, 42 Brick employees - most of whom were from public works - were laid off after negotiations between the township and Transport Workers Union Local 225 failed to produce an agreement.
The layoffs helped the township plug a $3.8 million hole in the 2009 municipal budget. But to Brick residents, it also left the township short on a vital service that proves its value at least once a year.
In many Jersey Shore towns, the shortage of equipment is an issue, too. Acropolis has said it wouldn't make financial sense for the township to purchase millions of dollars worth of additional trucks and shovels to keep on hand for occasional use after storms like this one.
But that thought is lost on township residents who look out their windows, see snow piled two-feet high in their streets two days after it fell, and wonder if anybody will ever come.
Then they look at their property tax bills, see how we're paying the highest in the nation, and wonder why the people they pay money to don't try harder. Or try at all.
"The mayor does not care if there is one income coming in and that person can't get to work 'cause we can't get out of the street," "Sara C." wrote.
Public officials, people are saying, deal with these issues at their own peril. One can draw on the lessons learned by a famous New York City mayor, John Lindsay, whose dreams of becoming governor, and even president, died when a 1969 snowstorm turned Queens into a frozen fortress.
His public works people were unreachable for hours, even days. Forty-two people died. Lindsay tried to save face by walking around the city, shaking hands and apologizing.
But the same thing is true now as it was then: The real face of a snowstorm gone bad is a snow drift with a snow plow stuck in the middle of it, and cars spinning their wheels at the end of their driveways, unable to move even an inch, nearly two days after the actual storm stopped.
That's a face that nobody wants to see anymore.