An Open Letter to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake In the Matter of Winter Storm Jonas, 2016

Dear Mayor:

Your pleas for the patience of Baltimore Citizens in the face of this “historic” snowstorm that we are trying to dig out of are falling on deaf ears. Why? Because you are utterly clueless as to the magnitude of this storm for the people you profess to serve. Yes, we got the two ROBO-calls you sent on Friday/Saturday, asking us to stay off the roads and be safe during the storm. As if we really had a choice. [This is the view from my living-room window Saturday night, January 23.]






On Facebook, we dutifully conveyed to each other the TV announcements declaring Phase 3 of the Snow Emergency Plan, and municipal lists of services and help during the storm. And on Sunday, my neighbors and I began the slow, tedious job of trying to dig out of the snow, while our local TV stations posted videos and pictures of the obvious, dire circumstances.

But yesterday, your claws came out when you announced plans to begin charging fines to residents—like me—and businesses who have not been able to clear off their walkways. Really??? And in the face of our complaints about the slow response of City/Contractor plows to get to our side streets, you tried to compare the conditions surrounding this current storm with those of the infamous “Snowmagedden” storm of 2010. If anger could melt snow, then my anger would have melted away the snow from the entire state of Maryland!

First of all, your comparison is specious. While it may be true that the amount of snow this past weekend was greater than the amount that fell in 2010, the type of snow and the weather conditions of these two events couldn’t be more different. Although you have enlisted more resources for this 2016 storm than were available in 2010, the results are not much better.

Snowmagedden 2010 occurred in an extremely cold weather system that lasted over an extended period. That snow was very heavy and laden with ice, causing it to stick to trees and vegetation and streets, and leaving a very thick layer of ice on every surface it touched.

These photos are of my house and my neighborhood after Snowmagedden 2010, taken between February 14 and February 20 of that year. Notice my bent porch awning and the fallen branches on the pine tree in my back yard. Look at how thick the ice on the road was at the bottom of the hill near my mother’s street (she lives around the corner from me).

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Now take a look at photos of my neighborhood from this past weekend. I know that when a plow moves snow out of the roadway, that snow has to go somewhere. But your plow pushed all that snow up onto the handicap curb and over the storm drains by my house, making it impossible, until today, for this 62-year-old retired, hypertensive, chronic-kidney-diseased woman to even consider trying to clear the snow from that curb or from the storm drain, or even to clear the fire hydrant. Conditions were not even that bad in 2010—I did indeed clear away the snow from those areas after that storm.

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And now you have the unmitigated gall to announce that you will start collecting fines from people who have not cleared their sidewalks??? How dare you! Especially when the plows piled up even more snow around “my” fire hydrant and directly onto the handicap curb.

As if the natural disaster was not enough, my community has lost the sense of unity we once had in dealing with storms. When I was growing up in the 1960s, and even into the 1980s-1990s, in the same community I live in now, whole blocks of people—parents and children—would come out after a snowstorm and clear out the whole block, together. Part of the reason this doesn’t happen anymore is that there are more elderly people in the neighborhood—people who have lived here for more than 50 years and are in their 60s to 80s now. And too many of the younger people—teens and twenty-somethings—are only interested in making a fast buck ($100?!?) to help a neighbor out. As a retiree, I don’t have that kind of money to spend on a kid who thinks shoveling you out means making a half-hearted attempt to clear the snow just from around your car, and then laughs when you say, “No, I wanted the whole sidewalk around my property shoveled!” The attitude now is more like, “Well I did mine! Let me snicker and watch your pitiful attempt to clean up.”

Thankfully, unlike Snowmagedden 2010, Winter Storm Jonas was a drier, fluffier snow and, more importantly, the weather conditions since the storm have been significantly warmer, enabling the snow to melt much faster. Even so, there are still many pounds of snow to be removed. And like you kept telling Citizen Baltimore, it’s going to take some time to remove it.

So, I’ll thank you to keep to those fines in your back pocket for awhile longer. At least until after you’ve seen fit to send some garbage trucks through my neighborhood, so we can at least rid our homes of trash accumulated over the past week.

I leave you now with two more photos of Winter Storm Jonas.

Photo courtesy of my neighbor Alethea Coles Turner
Photo courtesy of my neighbor Alethea Coles Turner
Photo courtesy of my neighbor Alethea Coles Turner
Photo courtesy of my neighbor Alethea Coles Turner

Sincerely yours,

Jackie Oldham

A Baltimore Black Woman




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