The road to hell is ice-rutted


This morning, I received a Tweet from St. Paul’s Public Works Department, asking subscribers to report unsafe road conditions. Hmmm. Since most of St. Paul’s streets are ice-rutted and unsafe, I’m torn between a cranky Soucherian rant and the contextual, big-picture approach. 

Let’s go big picture.

Every media outlet, without fail, has recently reported the “icy streets are a nightmare/we need some near-thawing weather to remediate conditions” story. This is true. St. Paul’s Public Works employees are gamely clearing street intersection snow banks, improving driver sightlines and doing what subzero weather permits. They can’t skim ice-bound streets down to the pavement because uncooperative physics and high equipment breakdown rates reveal the work as a truly Sisyphean task.

No city or county public works department is awash in excess budget funds. For that, we can thank conservative state public policymakers. They continuously insist that cities, counties and school districts live within their means while unilaterally terminating the efficient, successful state revenue sharing agreement. In practice, this means that cities, counties and school districts are bearing a much, much greater funding cutback burden than their state agency counterparts. Local government has aggressively trimmed spending and reluctantly raised property taxes. State government has not.

Our ice-rutted streets are a metaphor for the conservative public policy approach. They compound a manageable collective problem by making it worse. The correct answer is a strong, vigorous snow plowing and removal strategy during and immediately after a blizzard. Instead, we have ice ruts.

Minnesotans possess great winter survival experience. We understand that heavy, wet snow fall, fueled by low pressure warm air masses are frequently followed by brutally cold, arctic sourced, high pressure conditions. We also know that snow clearing never improves with time. We’ve successfully applied that lesson to much of our lives, creating a state that is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

We get what we pay for, Minnesota. Or rather, we get what we don’t. You can TweetQuote me on that.