December 28, 2009 8:57 AM
The Madison Streets Division is a fine organization of hard working employees led by a top-notch management team. Streets Superintendent Al Schumacher is smart, tough and professional. Nobody weathers the storms better than Al and his team.
Having said that, any organization no matter how good, can learn and improve. That goes for me and the Mayor's Office as well. So, the just completed report on our snow plowing policies was the proper response to the big storm of December 8th and 9th.
Some people have told me that I didn't need to apologize for the results of one of the biggest storms in our history. (That group now includes my Mother who told me so when I saw my family on Christmas Eve.) But I don't agree. Any chief executive, public or private, that had as many unhappy customers as we did two weeks ago needs to accept responsibility. But it can't stop there. Next you need to analyze the problem, tear it apart, put it back together and figure out what can be done better next time.
That's exactly what the Christmas Eve report by my Chief of Staff Janet Piraino has done. (Read the report at: http://www.cityofmadison.com/mayor/snowreport/.) I have no doubt that we made the right decision, choosing public safety in clearing residential streets over easier commutes on the arterials following the storm. But in the wake of that decision, we needed to ask ourselves if there wasn't a way to avoid having to make that no-win choice in the first place. Janet's report gives us thirteen ideas on how we might do things differently, not just in this kind of storm situation but also in others.
I asked for a quick turnaround on the report and Janet, Al and their team put it together in less than two weeks. Now we'll chew it over, implement what we can now, implement more next year, maybe further develop or discard some ideas. But most importantly, we won't ever say, 'well, that's just how it's done'. We'll keep evaluating and looking for improvement. The hallmark of a good and healthy organization is not that it doesn't sometimes have tough days, but that it learns from them. And while she didn't want her son to have to apologize, I'm sure my Mom would agree with that.