(Photo: Philadelphia Inquirer)
It brings us no pleasure to report that the Kenney Streets Department is at it again, messing up the roll-out of the hard-won street sweeping program that we and others have been agitating for for many years.
Despite promising to stand up a citywide street sweeping program on the campaign trail in 2015, Mayor Kenney ended up dilly-dallying for the first two-thirds of his time in office, and only recently began piloting regular street sweeping in a few neighborhoods.
We’ve written before about how the staffing and cost-structure of the Kenney approach that was previewed during the first pilot would make rolling out citywide street sweeping unacceptably expensive—perhaps by intent—and how that approach was in danger of becoming institutionalized as the number of pilot neighborhoods was expanded.
The issue is that because the administration has chosen not to implement parking regulations just yet in many of the pilot neighborhoods, the sweeper vehicles are just driving down the middle of the street and not catching any of the garbage and detritus that collects next to the curb. In some cases, they are having large crews of workers with gas-powered leaf blowers try and address this by walking alongside the sweeper vehicle, blowing the detritus into the middle of the street (and into the air, and onto people’s vehicles…)
In the few places where they do require people to move their vehicles for the sweeper to come through—just 6 out of the 14 pilot zones—the Kenney team has oddly ignored the wisdom of “alternate-side” parking from New York City, where parking is restricted on only one side of the street during set hours, and then on the alternate side on a different day. Instead, they've been requiring people to remove vehicles from both sides of the block on sweeping days.
It’s unclear why the administration would choose to do it this way. While this minimizes the number of times per month people would need to move their cars, it also manages to make it more annoying for people to re-park, while also undermining the efficiency and efficacy of the program in cleaning up the street trash.
The glass-half-full take on this may be that the Mayor has been so lethargic in rolling this out to more neighborhoods that it might be better if Streets just treads water doing what they’re doing, and the next Mayor can try to fix it later.
At the same time, there’s some good reason to be worried that with the Mayor still in office for two more years, some bureaucratic inertia could set in around the current way of doing things and become entrenched and harder to change by the time the next Mayor takes office in January of 2024.
The best option would be for the Mayor to make a course correction right now and nip these problems in the bud, but given his recent performance that feels like an impossible wish.