The brutal snowstorm that hit Cleveland a week or so back left city streets covered in white stuff and commuters complaining about a street plowing crew that took its sweet time making its way to side streets. It wasn't anything completely out of the ordinary around these parts — it snows, after all, and sometimes it snows a lot — but the vociferous objections to the city's performance made their way to city council members who in turn took their qualms to City Hall. (In addition to the logistical route problems in clearing residential streets, it was also widely reported by our local television news stations that some 22 of the city's 63 plow trucks were out of service.)
Mayor Jackson heard those objections loud and clear, and he did what any respectable mayor does when a high-ranking city official — in this case the city streets commissioner — fails to properly execute his job: He punished the responsible party. Via Cleveland.com:
The city of Cleveland streets commissioner was demoted this week after a snow-plowing debacle that left many city side-streets buried in snow during back-to-back winter storms.
In a written statement, Wednesday, city spokesman Dan Williams said the mayor demoted Rob Mavec upon determining that snow removal crews "did not perform our services well" during the squalls that dumped more than a foot of snow on the region.
Mavec, who served as the commissioner of both streets and traffic engineering, no longer will oversee street crews, Williams said.
Now, we hate messy streets as much as the next guy — we had to shovel! and some of us took the bus to the office! — but we are: a) Talking about a temporary weather issue here and b) Talking about a fella who, with the exception of that one weekend, apparently had no prior issues on the job, or at least as far as the city spokesman could detail to Cleveland.com. (We've asked the city if there were any other reasons for the demotion and will update when they respond. And city council, to its credit, continues to go even harder on Jackson for the DOJ report,
except the results aren't quite the same as with snow plow guy, as you'll see in a second.)
Which isn't to say that Mavec merits defending or that some sort of punishment wasn't foreseeable or applicable in the wake of the snowstorm. It's just to say this brand of accountability is not one Jackson has deigned to impart on more visible and deserving parties. Say, for instance, a current Safety Director in Mike McGrath who spent nearly a decade overseeing a police department that has, in no uncertain terms, been singled out as one of the worst in the country by the Department of Justice. The DOJ's scathing report covered just part (2010-2013) of McGrath's tenure
at the top of the police chain.
The investigation by six Justice Department lawyers, plus several independent policing experts, found that systemic deficiencies and practices haunt the city's police department. The problems include insufficient accountability, inadequate training, ineffective policies, and inadequate engagement with the community.
Not to mention a "pattern and practice" of use of force that violates various civil rights laws.
That, friends, is not evidence of anything. As we've detailed before, Jackson stands in full support of McGrath,
who he promoted to Safety Director last year, along with a move to promote then Safety Director Martin Flask to a special assistant position in the mayor's office. And those two fine gentlemen get all the benefits of the doubt, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, as Jackson has laid out repeatedly. Just one example:
"I continue to say there is not systemic failure. There are problems with our system. And that the DOJ, even though we don't agree on all the findings or the supporting data or examples they use to get toward those findings, it clearly points out that we have some problems that we will agree to, and we will agree how to resolve those problems ... But in terms of systemic failure, I maintain that there is no systemic failure."
Of course, Big Frankie Discipline Stick Jackson likes to say things are a process. We just wonder if that process applies to everyone. (Spoiler: It doesn't.)
A city spokesman had this to say about Mavec:
First of all, Mr. Mavec was not demoted. He was previously the Commissioner of Streets and Traffic Engineering. He was filling in as the commissioner for both which is a huge undertaking.
He has been placed back as the Commissioner of Traffic Engineering which is his area of expertise. There was no demotion involved here.
We all felt that our performance during the recent storm was below our level of expectation. We evaluated our performances and determined we needed to improve on the delivery of service and stick to the Systematic Approach for snow removal. During this last snow event we did exactly that and we were able to stay ahead of the storm and made sure as soon as the main roads were cleared, began the aggressive and systematic approach to our residential streets.