Lessons learned from days of snow

The days of snow are most certainly behind us, but I couldn’t resist sparing a few thoughts for last weekend’s events. That weekend reminded us that Athens is still an underdeveloped capital city. Not because we were unable to get around as usual, not because certain municipal services delayed clearing away the last dirty mounds of snow and not because some people neglected to go to work. But because all these factors, and others, illustrated how easy it is for state, community and individual responsibility to fade away. The following are just a few of the conclusions drawn. Schools were closed down for three days without much thought and, had it not been a weekend, they would have been closed for an entire week. This shows that we acknowledge that the city’s schools are full of potential traps. School boards took no part in the decision, parents made no effort to form a group to help the cleanup process. Secondly, we did have a plan for keeping open the two main exits and entrances to the city. That they were kept open after so many failures in the past is partly due to the fear that had it been otherwise, the media would have swarmed all over the authorities, unable to resist comparing this debacle to past ones. Thirdly, we also saw that there is no coordination when it comes to running the city; in fact, we’re not even sure under whose authority the sidewalk, the flower beds and the roads fall. Solving problems at a ministerial level may make things a bit easier, but a proper emergency plan is also needed. And for this to happen, the ministries of the Interior and Public Works will have to put aside their egos and work together. Another thing we saw during last weekend’s snowstorms was the ease with which state employees took off a couple of days. To these were added, for the first time as far as I can remember, a number of private sector employees, who finally felt like they were being treated like real people. Even store owners shut up shop for a day or two, but thankfully not those shops that are most necessary to the public such as supermarkets, bakeries and the like. With the blessing of the state, however, stores selling fresh produce bided their time so they could make a killing once citizens decided to slowly emerge from the relative safety of their homes.