At 11 a.m. today the City Council will hold the first of seven hearings in all five boroughs to address the city's response to last month's blizzard. (You can watch a live webcast of the inquisition here.) Officials from the Department of Sanitation, Department of Transportation, the FDNY, and the OEM will all testify, as well as Deputy Mayor of Operations Stephen Goldsmith. Goldsmith, the former mayor of Indianapolis, was hired by Bloomberg in April and is said to "micromanage everything in the [Sanitation] department." He's expected to face tough questioning. And in what must be a particularly alarming turn of events for Bloomberg, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., the chair of the council's Public Safety Committee, is proposing a bill that would require the mayor to file a certificate with the City Clerk if he leaves town for more than 48 hours. What's the point of waltzing off to Bermuda for just 47 lousy hours?!
Bloomberg, whose whereabouts during Blizzageddon remain an ongoing object of speculation, invited some Councilmembers to breakfast at Gracie Mansion over the weekend to give "his version of the facts." Councilwoman Letitia James, who chairs the council's Sanitation Committee, tells the Daily News there wasn't much new insight at the meeting, but they gave Bloomberg and Goldsmith a list of questions they want answered today. The inquiries will look into a number of factors that may have contributed to the blizzard's crippling impact, including budget cuts, disorganization, an alleged union slowdown by Sanitation workers, and why a snow emergency was not declared. (The Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's Office is also probing the alleged work slowdown.)
"There are big questions," Council Speaker Christine Quinn said Friday. "I think New Yorkers are angry, but they are also scratching their heads a bit. Usually we handle snow well. To see it go so off course you can't really understand what happened." City Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) tells the News, "I don't think there's any kind of smoking gun. It was more like a complex web of failure." (Subpoenaing Julie Taymor!) And Councilman James Van Bramer asks NY1, "I think one of the first sets of questions is going to be who was in charge. Very simply, who was in town that weekend, who was in charge, when did the planning begin, and when did the bad decisions begin and who made those bad decisions?"
The council will not take public testimony today, but it will hold five public hearings in each borough next week. (Details here.) The second hearing scheduled for this week will take place on Friday morning and is entitled, "Evaluating the MTA’s Response to the December Blizzard of 2010."