Following up on her promise earlier this month, a NPA city councillor has put forward a motion asking for a formal inquiry into the City of Vancouver’s handling of the snow and salt crisis in December and January.
In her motion, Councillor Melissa De Genova wants city staff to look into the ability of the City of Vancouver to provide sufficient removal of garbage and recycling during stretches of cold weather and whether the city should issue a property tax rebate or credit to property owners who did not receive recycling or garbage removal due to the cold.
She says, as the result of numerous snowfalls throughout December and January, snow and ice had clogged up many side streets, making garbage collection challenging and causing significant delays for many residents. More than a hundred additional staff had to be re-assigned to help sanitation crews handle the crisis.
De Genova wants to see the City Council initiate an independent third-party review of the city’s strategy for winter snow and ice removal including a review of the city’s current snow removal plan.
She also wants city staff to look into how the budgeted $750,000 for snow removal was allocated, including allegations that the City of Vancouver paid premium for road salt.
In the aftermath of the storms, the city was slammed by both drivers and pedestrians alike, complaining about the state of the roads and sidewalks. During one of the December snowfalls, many drivers were furious about driving conditions on major arteries that were left unplowed. Freezing temperatures have turned slush and melting snow into sheets of ice in some areas of the city, including multiple sidewalks and bus stops.
Residents were given free salt to help tackle the sidewalk problem, but many distribution stations saw huge line-ups and chaos, with little oversight from the city initially.
De Genova says the December-January snow crisis was the third time in eight years that the city has experienced extreme cold weather and been caught unprepared for such a weather event. In her motion, she quotes Mayor Gregor Robertson saying the 2008 storm was “hopefully a once in fifty years event.”
The NPA Councillor says there were several calls on the mayor to speak with the media; however, the mayor, the acting mayor and the deputy mayor did not respond in a timely manner regarding the extreme weather and the mayor was unavailable for immediate comment because he was out of the country. She wants staff to provide a memo to council outlining the duties and responsibilities of the acting mayor and deputy mayor, including a schedule of their additional pay to act on the mayor’s behalf and report as to how the acting and/or deputy mayors acted during the extreme weather, while the mayor was away.