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 8:35 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
updated 8:27 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
updated 7:57 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
updated 10:17 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
updated 9:50 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
updated 11:07 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
updated 1:55 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
updated 3:53 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
updated 3:33 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
updated 6:11 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
updated 3:14 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
updated 4:16 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
updated 12:01 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
updated 1:29 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
updated 2:04 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
updated 11:18 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
updated 9:24 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT