It’s been three days since the Blizzard of ’13 and “non-essential” state employees are still not reporting to work, Waterbury has more than 100 streets not plowed, Wallingford is a mess, and navigating downtown Hartford – always a crap-shoot – is beyond that now. Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s response? “The greatest challenge that we have right now is the lack of heavy equipment, specifically payloaders to remove the heavy snow off the roads. This is going to be a problem; I think for 12 to 20 days, with the lack of capacity that we have to remove the snow.”
As a friend of mine said today, “If this were CL&P, Malloy would have been screaming at the top of his lungs.” I dare say, if this were CL&P, the governor of Connecticut would have already demanded that heads roll.
We all remember the October 2011 storm, when Malloy hung then CL&P head Jeff Butler out to dry? At first, the two seemed to have a cozy relationship, standing side-by-side at the podium. But as the power restoration stumbled, Malloy didn’t even appear in the same room with Butler. You would have thought Butler was a Republican.
The point is, the governor was not willing to appreciate the daunting task CL&P and United Illuminating faced after the ’11 storm. Roads were not plowed, trees with leaves still attached, were blocking roadways and had crashed onto rooftops. It was a once-in-a-lifetime storm. As power restoration efforts moved at a crawl, instead of understanding CL&P’s dilemma, Malloy threw Butler and his crew under the bus. State lawmakers, feeling the heat from their constituents, joined in the chorus. Eventually, legislative hearings were held and changes were made. Meanwhile, Butler was smart enough to hightail it out of here.
Personally, considering the weather phenomenon, I thought CL&P did a fine job in ’11. Could they have done better? Sure! But not at the expense of a public flogging by a governor, who did want the heat on him.
Fast forward to the Blizzard of ’13. Power has been restored, but many streets are still not plowed, schools are closed and so are many places of employment. Malloy’s explanation? “It could be 12 to 20 days. The state does not have the resources.” Wasn’t that his complaint about CL&P in ’11?
The fact is, we were whacked with another rarity, a 30-plus inch snowstorm. No amount of preparation, equipment or personal can handle such a weather event. Just as CL&P could not have handled the ’11 storm for the same reason. Except this time, the spotlight is on the governor and elected officials. There is no Jeff Butler to kick around.
My guess is, there will be no legislative committee examining what went wrong in the aftermath of this storm. But Malloy is exercising the patience he refused to grant CL&P and its leadership, in the aftermath of the ’11 storm. As the complaints mount, the focus is on the man at the top and it is not Jeff Butler. He’s the lucky one, having fled Connecticut a long time ago.