Posted: 10:12 am Thursday, January 30th, 2014
By Jim Galloway, Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy
One measure of the political importance of Snowjam ’14: On Tuesday night, voters nestled all snug in their Snuggies were already being asked by a pollster to pass judgment on Gov. Nathan Deal.
The outfit, we’re told, called itself Georgia Press Services. The most important questions (paraphrased):
– After the 2011 ice storm, Governor Deal said we failed the test, and said that he would correct the problems made. Did he pass the test?
– Were you affected by the traffic delays?
– How long? Eight hours? Four to eight hours? One to two hours?
The response to Snowjam ‘14 may have put Gov. Nathan Deal in a bind, but it’s also put his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Jason Carter, D-Atlanta, in a bit of an awkward spot.
The governor’s two GOP rivals were quick to smack Deal, but Carter appears to be more reluctant to attack the incumbent — he may fear sullying his fellow Democrat, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and straining an already shaky relationship.
That would explain the statement we got last night from Carter’s camp:
“Our focus has to be making sure everyone is safe and that those in need are getting assistance. I am thankful for the teachers who stayed overnight with their students, the emergency crews and rescue workers who are doing everything they can, and the countless compassionate Georgians who opened their homes, hearts and businesses to help those who are stranded.”
Carter ally DuBose Porter, who chairs the state Democratic Party, was not quite as circumspect. He held his fire on Reed, of course, but said in an interview that the icy gridlock was a stinging reminder another push for a transportation overhaul was needed.
“We need to have a governor who can anticipate a problem like this, and a governor who is aggressive about mass transportation,” Porter said Wednesday as stranded drivers still clogged Atlanta streets. “Those who got home last night, a lot of them walked to MARTA stations. We’ve had the opportunity to expand that and Republican administrations continue to fight it.”
A gravel-voiced Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed struck a defiant tone in an NBC “Today” Show appearance this morning, battling back against suggestions he was ill-prepared for Snowjam ’14. Host Matt Lauer noted that Reed and Gov. Nathan Deal had lunch together on Tuesday as the snow was beginning. “Did anyone talk to each other, and say, ‘Let’s not release everybody at the same time?”
See the clip above.
“Today” show weatherman Al Roker, who called out Reed and Deal on Tuesday for failing to heed warnings, was only slightly mollified, according to this Twitter message:
@KasimReed not the only one responsible. School districts, other mayors too. @GovernorDeal ultimately should have ordered highways closed
In his Tuesday press conference, Gov. Nathan Deal cited the commercial and financial pressures that argue against preemptive closings in the face of threatening weather:
“What if we called everything off, and the original prognostications about where the storm was going to hit was correct? We would have shut a major city down for a day.”
Last night, former U.S. Senate candidate/journalist Dale Cardwell, who has his own talk show on WGST now – that link you promised never arrived, Dale – called to note another financial incentive that may have been at work in metro Atlanta. School systems, he pointed out, receive state funding on a per-student, per-day basis, with lunchtime as the validation line. School officials had a reason to want kids at their desks.
Here’s a thought for our Legislature: One solution to future Snowjams might be to decouple school finances from responses to severe weather. Allow school systems to use attendance figures from the day before or the week before, so they can put the safety of kids and teachers first.
UPDATED: Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the state Department of Education, sent a bit of Georgia Code that he says gives local boards of education the leeway they need to make snow day calls without financial repercussion:
A LBOE may, without the necessity of authorization from the SBOE, elect not to complete, as make-up days, up to four additional days otherwise needed which are the result of days when school was closed due to emergency, disaster, act of God, civil disturbance, or shortage of vital or critical material, supplies, or fuel as providedin O.C.G.A. § 20-2-168(c)(3).
At the Washington Post website today, Reid Wilson noted the political repercussions of past weather events:
Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic lost reelection in 1979 after a series of snowstorms buried his city. Denver Mayor Bill McNichols suffered the same fate in 1983. So did Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, who lost reelection in 2009.
Both New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie came under fire after a 2010 snowstorm hit the Northeast over the Christmas holiday. Christie was on vacation with his wife and children in Florida at the time; Bloomberg, it came out a few weeks later, was spending the holiday in Bermuda.
But there’s one more, closer to home. Our AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin, a man of dubious Gamecock loyalties, pointed out that one factor in Mark Sanford’s 2002 defeat of Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges in South Carolina had to do with a screwed-up evacuation of the coast during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
The state was slow to enact its policy of reversing I-26 lanes. The result was a bumper sticker that read: “Two Lanes, One Term.”
Over at Esquire magazine’s web site, Charles Pierce weighs in on the blistering dynamic between Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and CNN:
[Reed] has a number of problems, but by far the biggest one is that CNN is located in Atlanta, and some of its employees — including, one suspects, upper management — are probably marooned out in the snowscape somewhere. This is a massive local story for a massive national network, and CNN has been pummeling Reed for a lack of “taking responsibility” all afternoon and is unlikely to stop. This is not something you want to have attached to your ankles.
Here’s the clip Pierce cited:
And here’s the accompanying Associated Press account of the meeting between Reed and CNN’s Carol Costello:
Costello began her on-set interview with Reed by asking, “You know how angry people are at you?”
Reed said he didn’t believe people were angry at him. He twice scolded Costello to “be fair.” When Costello noted all of the traffic accidents and people leaving their cars in icy situations, Reed said, “that’s easy to say from your anchor seat.”
“No!” Costello retorted. “I was out stuck in the traffic. I was one of those people.”
Costello had left her office about 1 p.m. Tuesday — about the time Atlanta streets were flooded with vehicles — and couldn’t even get out of CNN’s parking lot. She gave up after more than an hour and went back into work. Tuesday evening, she tried again and made it home in about two hours.
The Legislature is again closed for business today. On the bright side, the calendar keeps ticking. These last two snow days will count toward the General Assembly’s constitutional allotment of 40 days.
Topping non-frozen political news is a new Washington Post/ABC News poll:
Hillary Rodham Clinton holds a commanding 6 to 1 lead over other Democrats heading into the 2016 presidential campaign, while the Republican field is deeply divided with no clear front-runner, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll….
The new survey puts [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie in third place — with the support of 13 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents — behind Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) with 20 percent and former Florida governor Jeb Bush at 18 percent. The rest of the scattered pack includes Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.), who are at 12, 11 and 10 percent, respectively.
The Rick Allen campaign announced this morning that the family of the late U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Augusta, has endorsed his GOP bid to oust U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Augusta. The endorsement is significant because Allen’s Republican rival, former congressional John Stone, served as an aide to Norwood, who died in 2007.