Pittsburgh city leaders are currently meeting to figure out how response to record snowfall this year could have been better.
Public Safety Director and Director of Emergency Michael Huss is testifying about his role in the city's response to a giant snowfall that brought the city to a standstill for weeks in February.
Emergency workers, public officials, the Pittsburgh police and fire chiefs and the head of Pittsburgh Public Works are among those in attendance.
City councilwoman Natlia Rudiak subpoenaed Huss to testify before City Council after Huss repeatedly denied requests to speak to the council's Snow Task Force, created right after that massive snowstorm.
Rudiak said she sent several requests to Huss throughout March and April but didn’t receive a response.
Rudiak kicked things off by talking about all the phone calls and e-mails she received after the snowstorm from neighbors who couldn't get out of their homes, some who were pregnant or needed dialysis. She said that there was clearly a breakdown of communication in the city.
Huss answered questions about his specific role, starting the Friday of the storm when he admittedly went out of town. He said he returned on Sunday and claims that he kept in contact with the assistant director while he was gone.
Before answering questions, Huss took the opportunity to say that every firefighter in the city was called in and police officers were put on 12-hour shifts. They even called in the National Guard, and he was proud of the way they responded.
Huss added that no one was more frustrated than he was, saying the city used every resource possible that weekend.
Huss said he was disappointed when Rudiak stated his crews failed to cover one storm as they were preparing for another.
“I was disappointed on Monday of the event when you stated we failed. Now, at that moment in time, we had another storm bearing down on us. It had the potential to be as bad as the one we had. Our streets hadn't been cleared. Our people had been working around the clock and were tired, and I thought the timing of that wasn't appropriate,” Huss said.
Huss also stated that he didn’t feel meeting one on one with Rudiak was the best way to discuss what went wrong or right.
In late April, Rudiak said Huss responded by letter to her request for a one on one meeting, saying he respectfully declined.
“While the mayor and I agree that our city needs to improve upon its snow emergency operations, I have no faith that this task force is an objective effort aimed at improving our operations. Successful after-action reviews and recommendations are collaborative, non-political efforts. Furthermore, I do not believe that a private, one-on-one, closed-door meeting accomplishes our shared goals of accountability and transparency,” the letter read, Rudiak said.
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