Mayoral Challengers Give Chilly Reaction to Snow Response

Chicago officially recorded 19.3 inches of snow during the Super Bowl storm

Chicago politics can be an icy affair. Snow can play a big role, too.

Ward Room three years ago wrote about "The Politics of Snow," recounting how three of last four mega-blizzards -- in January 1967, February 1979 and February 2011 -- all occurred within a month of an election.

That 1967 storm figuratively buried Mayor Michael Bilandic, and with Sunday's Super Bowl storm occurring a little more than three weeks from the upcoming municipal election, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's challengers say they're largely unimpressed with the city's cleanup efforts.

"This is Chicago so it should be no surprise that we get lots of snow. What is surprising is that for the second year in a row, this mayor was not ready for a storm. Our side streets are horrific and we will be dealing with the fallout for days. Now the snow is packed on the side streets and salt is not going to help – ask any plow driver," Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said in a statement. "We need a seasoned professional running Streets and Sanitation so that we avoid this kind of situation in the future. It is unacceptable and Chicagoans should be upset."

Businessman Willie Wilson criticized the city for favoring for clearing downtown streets over neighborhoods, a move Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles Williams defended.

"We focus initially on our arterial streets because they are the life-blood of our city," he said during a Monday afternoon press conference.

No immediate comment was available from Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, one of the other leading candidates in the Feb. 24 race.

Sunday, with 16.2 inches of snow, was the snowiest February 1 Chicago has ever seen. With 19.3 inches of snow throughout the entire storm, the snow event ranked as the fifth largest in city history.

Streets and Sanitation workers focused initially on the city's main thoroughfares, including Lake Shore Drive, while the snow fell, and began tackling side streets at about 8:30 a.m. Monday. Wilson said nearly 80 percent of neighborhood streets had been plowed at least once by 9 p.m. The number of crews on the roads dipped to about 100 late Monday so some could take a four-hour break, but approximately 300 drivers were back on the roads by 3:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Streets and Sanitation spokeswoman Molly Poppe offered the following explanation via email as to how the side streets are tackled:

"Each neighborhood street snow route is determined by ward and the neighborhood snow clearing is supervised in each ward by the ward superintendent. Each neighborhood route is assigned a truck and that truck gets to work. They start at the head of their routes which never changes and is based on the most efficient place to start and the proximity to the trucks main route. As you can imagine, sometime certain neighborhood routes take longer than others because of conditions or other extraneous factors. "

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