The Mack administration has once again demonstrated its world-class incompetence with the way it is handling the whole Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene thing.
First, the consistently misused telephone notification system sent out a call Friday assuring the city’s residents that the city’s emergency management team was on top of all developments and had a plan in place. City spokesperson Lauren Ira went so far as to state there were no planned evacuations and that the Delaware River would not flood.
That’s right. About 24 hours before the storm even hit, the city was declaring there would be no emergency. WOW! I wish I had that kind of ability to see into the future. NOT!
A day later, the storm hits. Anyone with internet access is checking the web for flood predictions and such. What do we hear from the city? Zilch.
Then the rumors start. The water filtration plant is going to be shutdown. Is there any word from the city?
While emails, Face book posts and texts flash around town, the city website, the city Face book page, and the Cty-connect system are silent. In fact, all the website has is an announcement of a press conference scheduled for 1pm on Sunday to discuss the state of the weather emergency. Oh, and the fact that the Island neighborhood must evacuate.
Finally, West Ward Councilman Zac Chester distributes a notice declaring the rumor of a TWW shutdown as false. Only after that does the city manage to put a mention on the website, the Face book page and the Mayor calls into the Channel 6 news to set the record straight.
On Sunday, amidst rumors of a boil water order, the city quietly admits that the filtration plant had been shut down and the system switched over to draw down from an estimated 2.5-day supply in the reservoir. In and of itself, not an unusual or scary situation, but the city also softly asks people to observe water conservation measures to help stretch the supply. Again, they fail to utilize the social media, website or robo call system to alert and inform the public.
Then, with the Island evacuation nearly complete, the city determines that the neighboring Glen Afton neighborhood also needs to be evacuated ahead of the anticipated flooding by the Delaware River.
Not surprisingly, the city’s plan has some problems. First, the predictions for the river’s quest are lowered to a point not expected to impact the Glen Afton neighborhood.
Second, the installation of back flow check valves on the storm drains and some other engineering fixes have pretty much eliminated the flood risk from Glen Afton’s lowest areas. The higher properties were seldom threatened by floodwaters at all.
As absurd as this “recommended” evacuation is, the city followed up with an incredibly stupid and unlawful threat as a means to enforce the removal of citizens from their properties. The city said they would tow all vehicles not removed from the streets of Glen Afton as well as any left in driveways (private property). To further show it meant business, the administration told residents that power would be cut to the homes as well.
Outraged by this apparently unlawful and senseless abuse of power, residents of Glen Afton started to push back. In trying to determine who made such a ridiculous set of decisions, leaders of the local civic group representing the neighborhood were led to believe that the Mayor was only carrying out the orders of the County government.
Fortunately, a check with acting County Sheriff Jack Kemler confirmed this idiocy did not originate with the County government.
Armed with that information, and threatened with a potentially massive law suit against the city, Policy Director and Spokesperson Lauren Ira was questioned about who made the decision that these actions would be taken, that these actions would be legal. Her response was relatively swift and quickly shifted blame from the county to Fire Director Quareeb Bashir. Ms. Ira indicated it was she was only “following orders” from the Office of Emergency Management.
Lauren Ira [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Sunday, August 28, 2011 10:17 PM
Subject: Re: Regarding Glen Afton Residents and leaving there homes.
My information came from the Trenton Police Department and you should direct your concerns to them, I was following their orders, and those of Director Bashir, Office of Emergency Management Coordinator.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
So, yet again, the city has shown itself incapable of handling the most basic of weather/flood emergencies and completely ignoring the threat to other areas of the city (notably the South Ward) while muddling the process in the Island and Glen Afton neighborhoods.
This is not good government.
It is not even good farce.