Over the past few years, the Morning News has published columns written by various "citizen columnists." One, in particular, writes his columns along a consistent tea party theme: that government is incompetent, imprudent and ineffective.
His columns frequently, and willfully, ignore the inconvenient facts that contradict this theme, even where such facts are reported in this paper. Generally, I have chosen to ignore this columnist’s rants, believing that the best response to his baseless allegations is action that consistently demonstrates their falsity.
On Wednesday, however, in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, he turned his ignorant criticism on city of Florence employees, complaining that "Amazingly enough, two of the organizations I have not seen on the streets are the Department of Public Works or the Department of Public Utilities. … Well over a week after the storm hit and not a sight of either. … No one from the city seems to be helping clear the streets."
This column compels my response:
Immediately after the storm, the city’s 68 public works employees were faced with the massive task of clearing more than 150,000 cubic yards of debris, the equivalent of four years’ worth of the normal quantity.
In just the first few days after the storm, they responded to more than 700 calls resulting in work orders requiring their efforts to clear over 100 city roads blocked by fallen trees. They have responded admirably and, to date, those employees have worked more than 4,000 hours doing the heavy work of cutting over 597 downed trees.
They have done so without hesitation or complaint, and they are joined by 84 city utilities employees who have, themselves, already worked more than 3,700 hours to date, maintaining and restoring water and sewer service 24 hours a day at the city’s numerous treatment plants, wells, lift and pump stations. They have repaired three ruptured sewer mains and eight water mains damaged by breached dams, washed-out roads and overturned trees.
In addition, the city’s 71 firefighters and 110 police officers have together worked more than 8,500 hours during and after the storm maintaining public safety, performing water rescues, identifying and securing areas around downed power lines, directing traffic at 14 major intersections for three days, all while still preventing and responding to crimes, fires and accidents.
These employees were all supported by the efforts of other city agencies, from finance to downtown development; human resources to planning; to the city manager’s office itself.
These employees have worked long hours to ensure an effective storm response by the city. They are all aware that the job of responding to the consequence of this storm is far from done and that it must be completed while still meeting the daily demands of operating this growing and prospering city.
They have done so, and will continue to do so, admirably.
In the future, the Morning News’ citizen columnist should focus his political animosities and ignorant criticisms on me. City of Florence employees are out of his league.
Stephen J. Wukela is the mayor of Florence.