Failing to plan makes Atlanta look bad


Let’s dub our Tuesday weather excursion “Freakslick.” Just like the party of the same name, it led to gridlock on Atlanta highways and roads. Heck, our roads here too in Fayette County to a fair extent.

Unleashing that volume of traffic on Atlanta without snow and ice would’ve been bad enough on the finest of summer days. But pile on a heaping helping of nonexistent planning on top of snow and ice … and you have a national embarrassment for the Atlanta area, and sadly yes that includes you and me.

When the national news gets ahold of your bee-hind and locks down its jaws, you’re going to shed some blood. Right or wrong, Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed were eaten by that shark and our whole Atlanta region got shot out the shark’s rear end.

It makes us look mighty bad for one thing. For the other, nobody can say any longer that Georgia and Atlanta are business-friendly. Businesses depend on being able to get employees to and from work, and there was a major failure in that regard Tuesday.

Oh sure, Atlanta businesses should have heeded the forecast too. How many of those office dwellers could’ve telecommuted? At least half, if not more?

Back to the Deal and Reed administration. They’re easy to blame: they’re in charge of some mighty large governments. Lots of worker bees around to help out, right?

Since we now know one of the major problems was DOT sand trucks getting stuck in traffic, it begs a major question of Reed and Deal: “What do we pay you boys for anyway?”

The real answer should have been: “Our plan failed.” In reality, however, they had no plan, and so the Governor’s answer in the press conference made it sound as if the storm was unpredictable. Open mouth, insert double-breasted suit, dear Governor.

What could Deal-Reed have done? Let’s consider the sheer volume of law enforcement personnel rustled up each weekday in metro Atlanta. Atlanta cops (a metric ton of them), state patrol, capitol police. Let’s say a MINIMUM of 300 or 400 on a light weekday.

Wouldn’t it have made sense to have a plan to use those cops to block the on-ramps to the interstate so the sand trucks can get to where they need to go? Perhaps if the roads were sanded most folks could have made it home, even it if took two or three hours.

When the forecast turned dire at 4 a.m.-ish, the Deal-Reed team could have hit up the TV stations and warned folks not to come into Atlanta. Why not pick up the phone and call these boneheaded school superintendents who endangered the lives of countless kids? Tell them to suck up and cancel school.

It’s about planning and coordination and limiting everyone’s exposure. None of these concepts penetrate very deeply in the Deal-Reed administration. Simply put, a failure in leadership among the highest ranks.

The end result will ripple through this region for years to come. Atlanta for all its southern charm and hospitality looks like a very bad place to do business. Big-time companies will think twice about locating here since we can’t handle winter well.

When all is said and done, the kindness of humanity will bear out, and that’s wonderful. Folks helping out stranded motorists with a place to stay, handing out hot cocoa. Home Depot opening their doors for the weary, grocery stores and restaurants feeding the stranded kids on school buses.

We here in Fayette County owe our school bus drivers a debt of gratitude for taking care of our children and getting them home safely and skillfully. A big shout out also goes to our police officers, sheriffs deputies, firemen, EMTs and paramedics. They were working all over the place Tuesday. Listening to the police scanner I nearly got whiplash trying to follow all the wrecks they were going to.

As to Freakslick, however, our region has become the butt of America’s joke. The blame squarely falls on those who failed to plan, and that means the two at the top: Gov. Deal and Mayor Reed.

We’re the laughingstock of the entire nation, and it hurts folks. Especially when it wasn’t our fault.

Wait a minute. Who elected these folks again?!?

[John Munford is a reporter for The Citizen and is a fourth generation newspaperman.]