Skip to main content

Can Roker, de Blasio both be right?

By Errol Louis, CNN Commentator
updated 10:47 AM EST, Fri February 14, 2014
Vehicles are piled up in an wreck Friday, February 14, in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Traffic accidents involving multiple tractor-trailers and dozens of cars completely blocked one side of the Pennsylvania Turnpike outside Philadelphia. Vehicles are piled up in an wreck Friday, February 14, in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Traffic accidents involving multiple tractor-trailers and dozens of cars completely blocked one side of the Pennsylvania Turnpike outside Philadelphia.
HIDE CAPTION
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
Southeast storm moves north
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Errol Louis says de Blasio, Roker both correct in dustup over closing schools
  • He says mayor angered Roker by erroneously blaming weather service for incorrect forecast
  • He says many kids need hot meals school provide; snow days cut into school calendar
  • Louis: Roker right, but deBlasio had tough choice; as winter wears on, expect more caution

Editor's note: Errol Louis is the host of "Inside City Hall," a nightly political show on NY1, a New York all-news channel.

(CNN) -- The high-profile public spat between New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and weather forecaster Al Roker over how to handle a big winter storm was bound to turn nasty, because both men were, in a sense, correct.

De Blasio enraged thousands of parents -- including Roker -- by keeping schools open through a storm that dumped 11 inches of snow on the city. The mayor made matters worse by appearing to blame the unpopular decision on the National Weather Service, claiming that its forecasts before the storm were inaccurate (they weren't).

Errol Louis
Errol Louis

And de Blasio's schools chancellor, Carmen Farina, added fuel to the fire by cheerfully referring to "absolutely a beautiful day out there" in the snow-paralyzed city.

Roker's flurry of tweets, castigating the administration and predicting a single term for de Blasio, channeled the anger felt by thousands of parents. In fact, most city parents kept their kids home, and many of them posted angry notes on the education department's Facebook page.

There's no question de Blasio mishandled the politics of the situation -- it was easy to show that the weather service and local meterologists had all predicted a big storm -- but the mayor could have defused much of the anger by pointing out that the schools, for New York's poor families, are a place where kids can get a free meal each day.

De Blasio also deserves sympathy points for managing New York's screwy calendar, which accommodates so many ethnic and religious holidays that the city has only three snow days, after which it runs the risk of falling below the minimum 180 school days per year required under state law.

Was Al Roker right about NYC schools?
Al Roker blasts de Blasio on Twitter
Kohn: Roker stuck shovel where it doesn't belong

Although no fewer than six winter storms have hit the city since he took office, de Blasio has already called one snow day (less than nearby suburban jurisidictions, which have closed schools four times this season), leaving him with a powerful incentive to keep the schools open even on a day with crummy weather. The alternative would be to extend the school year into the summer or cut into spring break or other popular holidays.

So the mayor, caught between a rock and a hard place, chose to feed low-income New Yorkers and avoided tampering with the spring and summer vacation plans of students' families. And he had to make the call about 10:30 the night before the storm, because it takes hours to shut down a public system that serves more than a million kids.

But Roker, the legendary weather forecaster, was also right to complain that meteorologists from the National Weather Service and local stations have given accurate storm information to cities and states, only to see the information ignored, second-guessed or misinterpreted. Only a few weeks ago, Roker publicly went after Georgia officials, including Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, for not properly preparing state highways for a winter storm that was accurately forecast. The result was life-threatening chaos.

"This was poor planning on the mayor's part and the governor's part, pure and simple," Roker said. "They were warned about it. They should have been prepared for it. And people are still suffering."

De Blasio's blown call won't be the last time officials catch hell from meteorologists, although it seems clear politicians will take greater care to err on the side of caution as the nation slouches through a winter season that we'd all like to put in the rear-view mirror.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Errol Louis.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
updated 5:52 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
updated 5:21 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Sally Kohn says the Ferguson protests reflect broader patterns of racial injustice across the country, from chronic police violence and abuse against black men to the persistent economic and social exclusion of communities of color.
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
updated 9:10 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
updated 1:38 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Sat August 16, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Sun August 17, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
updated 5:46 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
updated 6:26 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
updated 4:24 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
updated 6:56 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
updated 4:35 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
updated 7:08 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
updated 11:25 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT