Snow is a four-letter political word

The snowbird song “Snow Is a Four Letter Word” by Bowser and Blue captures what many politicians must be feeling this time of year. The “snowbirds” that can afford to go south and avoid snow have it right.

Let’s go. Follow the birds. ‘Cause snow is a four-letter word.

It started back in October in parts of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Snow. Even up there, they hope it doesn’t stick around too long.

Snow wheel

In 2008, blogger Crystal Lindell said the four-letter word snow is a lot like politics: “they’re both fun for a little while.”

A couple of years later, Fox News’ Dan Gainor explained during the winter season why our nation’s politicians, bureaucrats and media curse snow in Washington, D.C.: “Here, temperature often hovers right around freezing,” he wrote. “Snow is often shorthand for ice, freezing rain, sleet and worse.”

It sounds like Dallas-Ft. Worth this weekend. For sure, ice is worse than snow, but snow sometimes melts and then freezes as ice.

In Chicago, we have a long history with this four-letter word, snow. It was the blizzard of 1979 that “doomed" incumbent Mayor Michael Bilandic in his primary against Jane Byrne – who served a term as the city’s first woman mayor.

The city couldn’t get the streets plowed after that storm, and the voters remembered on election day. Bilandic paid the price for making numerous assurances that fell apart in the days following the icy storm. A 2011 magazine article noted the problems with parked cars that slowed street clearing and the CTA “leaving thousands of people out in the cold" in black neighborhoods.

No wonder current Mayor Rahm Emanuel treats snow removal as a high priority.

From keeping O’Hare and Midway open to sidewalk snow removal during storms, snow is treated as one of Rahm’s famous four-letter words. declares that,

Chicago is strongest when people, government and business work together in the face of adversity, challenges, and even Mother Nature. Chicago Shovels is a tool to help connect the public with City winter resources and empower neighbors to come together to help Chicago navigate winter.

In 1979, we didn’t have real-time snow plow trackers and social media for people to shout out problems. In those days a politician like Mayor Bilandic could not say, as Mayor Emanuel did last year, “Winter preparedness is everyone’s responsibility.”

Columnist Mike Royko would have had a field day with a mayor who couldn’t get his political machine to take care of snow removal. Bilandic’s precinct captains couldn’t “mess around with snow and ice,” Royko said, “The salt might corrode their pinkie rings.”

But, we’re in the 21st Century now. We can track snowplows on the Internet. We can tweet and make Facebook posts. At least we still have Chicago Dibs on parking spaces.

Cold is one thing. Snow is quite another. A heavy winter coat, gloves and hat will keep you comfortable during the months ahead, but snow gets old quickly. The snowbirds have it right. With any luck, spring-like weather will return in about 12 weeks, and the politicians can get back to using other four-letter words.

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