New lexicon, expertise emerge from ‘Snowmageddon’

There was much to be said at City Hall Tuesday night at the City Council’s marathon meeting that included the release of the fiscal year 2011 budget and a report on the city’s overall response to “Snowmageddon.”

The difficulty was actually saying it.

A comical string of misspeaking and newly adopted snow language exhibited city officials’ fatigue and a newly acquired vocabulary stemming from toiling 12-hour shifts during the emergencies earlier this month.

City Manager Jim Hartmann, who was tasked with overseeing the city’s emergency response team along with Fire Chief Adam Thiel, meant to commend the city’s workforce for their efforts, but “condemned” them by mistake, not realizing his error until Mayor Bill Euille corrected him and the crowd at City Hall erupted in laughter.

“We’re all a little tired,” Hartmann said. “Everyone needs a long nap.”

Hartmann, who once managed snow-prone Eagle County, Colo., said he was proud of the city’s response, which benefitted from the learning curve of the December snowstorm.  City officials and staff have also learned new terms, as evidenced by some of them Tuesday night:

Driving snowly: To practice cautious operation of a motor vehicle during a major snow event.

Snow hurricane: The only way to label and conceptualize the blizzard of 2010 and its impact on Alexandria, according to Thiel.

Bombardier: The overgrown snow clearing machines of which the city purchased two, specifically for the storm, from Buffalo and North Carolina.

Snowy day fund: Formerly the rainy day fund, an alternate name for the city’s contingent reserve fund that paid and still pays for the storm.

While Euille said he would not grade the city’s response (December’s storm reaction received a B-minus from the mayor), he said the city’s response was exceptional for the amount of snow the city received.


No easy road to securing federal transportation funding

Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) attended Tuesday’s meeting to update the City Council on how he is representing Alexandria across the river on the Hill but funding city projects will prove tough.

While he said he would not seek federal money for a ramp to connect I-395 to the new Department of Defense structure at Mark Center (see page 1), the congressman has requested funding for the city’s other transportation projects like a Potomac Yard transit-way and Metro station, as well as a bicycle-integration initiative, among others.

But while Moran sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, securing funds is predicated on the Surface Transportation Bill that has yet to be authorized due to lack of support for its principle funding a gas tax.

“I personally support a gas tax but we don’t have the votes in the House and definitely don’t have the votes in the senate,” Moran said. “Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas have just as much political influence as states like California and New York and they’re not going to support a gas tax. So we’re stuck without sufficient revenue.”

Moran said much of Congress sees the bill as a sturdy job-producer and that he will try to secure funding on any level he can.