By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun
5:12 PM EDT, July 2, 2012
I don't know which is more upsetting at the moment: The fact that I live in the area of Baltimore reportedly hit hardest by the storm and still don't have power, or the self-serving tweets from @MyBGE telling me how much it "understands" my "frustration."
Or maybe, it's @MyBGE inviting me to interact with it in social media and then telling me it cannot possibly give me an ETR on when my power will be restored via Twitter. I am told instead to call a telephone number (EARLY 20TH CENTURY MEDIA) that I have already been disconnected from twice to try and get that information.
Or could it be that what's really making me upset is seeing an online version of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's CNN appearance Monday morning in which she indicated that Baltimore City either had generators powering traffic lights or police officers at any "critical" intersections that had non-functioning traffic lights.
I saw that CNN video right after I had just driven through half a dozen intersections (in an attempt to find ice) and didn't see one police officer or city worker. The intersection at Northern Parkway and Harford Road Monday morning was a special treat -- demolition derby with SUV drivers acting like they were on LSD.
The mayor has some wiggle room thanks to her use of the word "critical." Fine, that's the way some politicians talk. But Harford Road and Northern Parkway felt pretty critical to me.
In fact, northeast Baltimore City where I live was still full of dangerous intersections Monday morning at 10 a.m. -- nearly two-and-a-half days after the storm. Dangerous intersections with non-functioning traffic lights and felled trees blocking lanes of traffic on major thoroughfares like Northern Parkway were the order of the day as far as I could tell.
Meanwhile, a few blocks north in Baltimore County, every intersection I visited had a working stoplight and order restored on the roads.
And I didn't see one politician from Baltimore County on CNN saying what a great job they were doing.
That's part of the truth that hit home Monday as I watched, listened and read about post-storm, power-outage coverage: how much the job description of civic leader has changed from working hard at the down-and-dirty nuts and bolts of restoring order after a storm, to working hard at making the right media moves so as to give the appearance of restoring order.
The new operating manual for post-storm political behavior now features images of officials handing out ice or quotes like the ones served up Sunday by Gov. Martin O'Malley.
O'Malley was quoted in the Sun Monday saying, "There is no one who will have his boot further up Pepco's behind or BGE's than I will."
Compare that, by the way, to Ken Salazar, President Obama's Interior Secretary, saying in 2010 the administration would keep its "boot on the throat" on British Petroleum until its oil spill was contained and cleaned up.
Beyond the crudeness of both comments, it almost makes you think there's a PR manual somewhere for politicians trying to sound tough when talking about energy giants.
My supervising editor at the Sun forwarded seven emails she received over the weekend from the mayor's office talking about the efforts of Rawlings-Blake on behalf of citizens after Friday's storm.
Maybe I'm old school. But you know what? I would rather see that salary spent for a city worker with a truck and chain saw clearing fallen limbs off Northern Parkway in a timely fashion.
Ditto for the people writing those patronizing tweets over @MyBGE. Give the money to someone who can actually help restore my power -- not tweet about how much they feel my pain.
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