WASHINGTON -- The mayor of the nation's capital and other politicians are feeling the heat for not moving faster to clear the streets of snow after the historic back-to-back blizzards that slammed the East Coast.
"Right now I'm miserable. We still can't get out," said Carolyn Ward, who serves on a neighborhood commission in Washington. "If they had a plan, it wasn't a good one."
In Washington, which was blanketed with about 18 inches of snow over the weekend and 10 more on Tuesday and Wednesday, residents complained that snow removal by Mayor Adrian Fenty's administration seemed arbitrary, with some streets plowed numerous times, others not at all. At one point, 25 percent of the city's snowplows were out of commission, having broken down on the hard snow, officials said.
Politicians heard similar complaints about slow or haphazard snow removal in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and outlying areas of Maryland.
How quickly the elected officials get rid of the stuff could determine their political futures.
"Snow, politically, in Washington -- in most places -- is a very high-stake poker game," said former Washington Mayor Marion Barry, now a city councilman. He was heavily criticized in 1987 for vacationing in California during the Super Bowl as snowstorms paralyzed his city for five days. "People are very emotional about snow."
Some of the City Council's 13 members have been critical as well, saying they will hold a hearing to examine the city's response. Councilman Phil Mendelson criticized the mayor's numerous news conferences, saying plows were employed to clear his route could have been put to better use.
The mayor, whose job approval rating already was around 40 percent in a Washington Post poll in January, told The Hill newspaper that he will try to improve snow removal by expanding agreements with private contractors and keeping equipment better maintained.
Some politicians took responsibility for the problems but also emphasized the historic nature of the snowstorms. This is now the snowiest winter on record in Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia.