If you want to be a popular guy as your town is digging out from a blizzard, you could do a whole lot worse than be the snow plow driver who goes out of his way to clear the mouths of people’s driveways of the snow other plows have dumped there from the street.

Folks shoveling a driveway on Church Street were all smiles this afternoon for the helpful plow driver.

One guy getting lots of smiles this afternoon in Evanston was Tony Galati.

With the city 21 years, he normally works as a crew chief in the forestry division. But when there’s a lot of snow, he helps out by driving one of the city’s larger plows.

Tony Galati behind the wheel.

Pull to a stop just before the drive, angle the rig inward toward the far side, and a single sweep of the blade does in seconds what would take many minutes to achieve by hand.

With the back filled with salt, Galati’s rig weighs 54,000 pounds, but even so there are limits to what it can do. When snow has drifted into huge mounds it’s time to call out the front end loaders, like the ones used today to help re-open Sheridan Road.

With snow as deep as it was today, Galati says, he can only push the snow about two feet closer to the curb every time he drives the plow down a street. Any more, and the snow will spill out the left side of the plow blade and create a new pile in the middle of the road.

Galati, who lives in Niles, says it’s not all that hard to know when he’s pushed the snow as close to the curb as he can.

The plow has a bumper along its outer edge that rides along the curb and makes it hard to turn the steering wheel any further to the right.

Galati says this storm is the biggest he’s experienced working for the city. He worked the 1999 blizzard as well, but though the official records for O’Hare Airport say that one dumped 1.4 inches more than the 20.2 inches recorded this time, he’s convinced Evanston actually got more snow this week.

This week Galati and the other plow drivers have been working 12-hour shifts, starting at either 7 a.m. or 7 p.m. each day.

He says he actually prefers working the night shift, because with fewer people on the road its easier to get the job done.

This afternoon, along the lakefront and the Northwestern University campus, the plow drivers had to watch for occasional cars — and more than occasional pedestrians — many armed with cameras looking to create their own record of the big snow.

It’s a view Galati sees regularly through his windshield.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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17 Comments

  1. Union Workers

    I hope that my fellow Evanstonians remember that the employees doing the often dangerous tasks are members of a union, AFSCME Local 1891.

    Ted L. Loda

    1. Union Workers

       Thanks Ted for reminding us that when it seems to have become popular to criticize public employees, they are the ones that are out there at the worst times making sure the rest of us can get to work. Sure we all did our share of shoveling snow, but within two days these were the men and women who got the streets cleared, the el and buses running, and the garbage picked up. They were the ones who were out there when we all got to be inside waiting for the worst of the storm to subside.  In most cities in the world, a storm like this would have brought everything to a standstill for days.  

  2. Non-union workers

    So non-union workers would not do the job they are paid to do ?

    How about soldiers and National Guard ?  They are non-union, but seem to be willing to do their job in various dangerous situations.

    1. Unions and the job   

       Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous,

            I do not believe Mr. Loda is saying that non-union members could not do the job.  Maybe he is just trying to point out that the city employees, who are doing their best considering all of the budget cuts, are union and doing a tremendous job.  If you did not notice, there was a sense of pride and ownership in Mr. Loda’s statement.  Which is proven not to exist in a job that is contracted out to companies that only care about their income, and not the employees or the citizens. 

           I do believe that your comparison with the United States military is completely inappropriate.  Our servicemen and women, who are willing to die for their country, do so for a much greater cause.  I do not believe you meant any disrespect, it just does not belong in this conversation about snow removal.   

      1. It is?

        If you did not notice, there was a sense of pride and ownership in Mr. Loda’s statement. Which is proven not to exist in a job that is contracted out to companies that only care about their income, and not the employees or the citizens.

        It is? Says who? Please provide a link.

  3. union, yes

    I was thinking the same thing.  I’ve been seeing some right-wingers spread nonsense about we can get out of this blizzard by rugged individualism and self-reliance   (everyone grab a shovel and dig! ) – but that’s not going to clear the roads. 

    This also demonstrates the need to maintain our transportation infrasctructure.  Without the CTA and Metra, things would have been a lot worse on Tuesday.

    I hope that the conservative Congress will shower Chicagoland with disaster money – it seems that the dummies in the South who build houses in the path of hurricanes always collect a lot from Uncle Sam when disaster strikes…but I guess it’s OK when money gets sent to red states.

    1. Just do the job your paid to do

      Dr. Who Knows,

      Yes, we got out of this blizzard through rugged individualism and self-reliance.

      All day yesterday and today, people including myself walked around with shovels, helping people dig their cars out and shoveling sidewalks. Several people with snow blowers cleared the sidewalks of several streets and alleys. I know for a fact this self-reliance happened in most areas of Evanston.

      As of tonight, my residential street has NOT been plowed.

      Hey Chris Fochs, employees of private companies take more pride in their work because they are paid based on merit and skill. It’s nearly impossible to fire government union employees.

      Don’t believe me? Well just take the example of how the city tried to layoff three union firefighters late last year only to be sued by the Evanston Fire Union. Not only did Evanston acquiesce  in hiring them back but agreed to let a third party arbitrator decide any future layoffs. Imagine the city trying to FIRE a city union employee. Companies care no more about their income as government union employees care about their paychecks and their jackpot pensions

      Hey Ted Loda, city employees are expected to do their job just the same as non-union employees.  I don’t find your comment surprising since as a committee member of the Democratic Party of Evanston you urged the support of HB 174 to raise income taxes.  Now who do you suppose benefited from a 68 percent income tax on individuals and a 48 percent tax on businesses? 

      It’s interesting to note that government union employees pay NO state income taxes on their pension income.

      1. Totally Agree

        Al, I completely agree with you and want to thank you for your post.

        The sad thing is that a simple THANK YOU to the city employees cannot be offered unless it is cloaked as a punch at conservatives and the right.

        Mr. Loda’s original post was nothing more than a pro union pitch.  The rest were pile on comments against conservatives. 

        So, I will take the high road, and offer my sincere thanks to all the Evanston employees, Union or Non Union (I could care less) for their efforts and tireless work to keep us clear and safe, especially during this snow storm.

        And Mr. Who Knows – if I lived next to you, I most likely would have been one of those righties who would have unconditionally offered to / or simply help dig you out.  

        I am sure you would do the same for… oh wait, you would not.  That is the unfortunate reality we live in today. 

      2. Grammar

        Hey Anonymous Al,

        While you’re taking other responders to task for their comments, I am moved to critique your incorrect use of the word "your" in your headline:  Just do the job your paid to do.

        Its context suggests that what you meant was "you’re" — the contraction for "you are"  — rather than the adjective "your."

        Hope you’re having a lovely day.

      3. It is sad that the work of

        It is sad that the work of any employees of the City of Evanston or any company must be treated and critiqued so unfairly. Do we live in a world were the average worker is hated by the people that have benefited so much. Union employees, particularly public union employees, have been demonized for what should be every workers basic rights "a living wage and pension" to which they will support their families and eventually themselves in retirement. Instead of beaten down the already weary, we should be fighting, together whether union or not, to ensure that every average worker is able to do the same. Yes, I am one those workers. A public union employee who has done his job, while for the last week not seeing my family. I am proud to say as a public union employee, I will do it again and again. We take pride in what we do, everyday. I hope you do too. President, AFSCME Local 1891 City of Evanston Employee's Union

        1. No one hates the city employees –

          The issue is not the workers, on Saturday I was driving around and noticed alot of equipment not doing much. Is this the workers fault? NO. I see it as those that are managing the effort at fault.

          Time and time again, it appears to me those that run the city are misdirecting the efforts. The issue appear to me to be many. Those in charge, are also misdirected. Anyone that goes to the council meeting knows the silly request of the council asking for information wasting staff time.

          Recently we have had numerous presentations of little value, that focus on nothing taxpayers need. One has to question if this is just plain window dressing? Ie. wind mills on the lake, moving the animal shelter,volunteers, lobbying, etc. When are we dealing with real issues, such as the basic deliever of services?

          A recent example of the misdirection is staff, admitting they did not collect over $700,000 in yard waste stickers. Who is going to be held accountable for this new budget hole? The workers? 311 is another example of window dressing. pretending that we are monitoring services, what good is wasting $600,000 when the equipment they are plowing the streets with is twenty five years old? ( and broken)

          Wally does not appear interesting in understanding the services he believes the city is providing like inspecting student housing ( which by the way they will never inspect ) is a broken process. My guess the staff will claim they responded to the all the 311 calls and resolved them, when little of value is accomplished for the taxpayers and they have done numerous useless activities and no doubt some not in the interest of the taxpayers.

          Over the years here I have seen city workers doing numerous activities, that are not safe, from excavating in unshored trenches to sweeping up dried bird dropping under Metra bridges putting the dust in the air and in everyone lungs ( the employee told me the city had order a power washer and it had not come ) Lets face it those that pretend to lead us the council and Mayor, do not have a clue how the city needs to run, they think that every thing is running fine.

          That they are their for bigger issues, such as lobbying the feds, or creating some new patronage program. The Ponzi scheme is over, the city does not have the revenue for the council and the Mayor to waste on nonsense, it is becoming more apparent and noticed that the basic services are having problems since they have never been the focus of the council. The employees plowing the streets are not the issue, the council and the city management staff, take 95% respondability for the problems for the failure to deliever any city service.

  4. Public Unions

    It is very interesting that public sector unions who people rightfully dislike as part of a broken system of government are so quick to characterize criticism of the unions as criticism of government employees.

    Most of us have pleasant experiences when dealing with government employees whether they are teachers, police officers, firemen, streets and sanitation workers or parks and recreation personnel. There are a few exceptions like the rude clerk who handles city stickers; however, those experiences are no more common than you encounter from time to time at Jewel or McDonalds.

    The public sector unions deserve to be demonized as they, together with the politicians who court their votes, have and continue to create a massive budget mess. Having elected officials who need votes today promising future pensions and benefits that will be paid many years down the road is an obvious recipe for disaster.

    It's the equivalent of me letting my three yearold "take her markers to bed" for bedtime. The only possible result is a negative one. When the financial house of cards that the unions and elected officials have propogated finally does collapse, we will all feel the pain in the form of even more service cuts and higher taxes but I'd hate to be 65 yearold pensioner who has been retired for 15 years (with no current job skills) when his pension is cut as part of that collapse.

    To restore sanity we need to eliminate public sector unions (just as we made it illegal to pay for votes to eliminate the corruption that dominated early American politics) and have the government contribute retirement funds on an annual basis to government employees. Only then will society and government employees not be victims of the empty promises of politicians and union officials solely intent on collecting votes and dues in the present.

    1. Gov’t workers

      I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks the city sticker clerk is a jerk. You did forget to mention the people at the DMV and the IDES. I've had nothing but bad experiences with those people. I found them rude and condescending. Oh, and you can't forget just about every department of the Chicago city government. Those people are terrible. Wait. The post office (Evanston, Chicago, everywhere else) is generally bad, too. I think I see a trend here.

  5. City Employees

    Dear Anonymous Al and other commenters who took a a simple and deserved pat-on-the-back for a job well done by an Evanston union employee and turned it into an anti-public sector field day.

    Let's get a couple of things straight.

    1. Government workers did not cause the recession. Studies show — and it's plain to see — that banks and an unregulated Wall Street can take credit for that, The City of Evanston's budget was directly affected by the recession.

    2. Government workers pay into their pensions. They are not freebies.

    3. Retirement income — whether it is from a 401 (k), private or public pension, or from any other private source – is not taxed by the state of Illinois. So don't single out public employees for that.

    4. Let's remind ourselves why we pay taxes for public employees: They fix water mains; bring us fresh water; plow our streets, manage traffic lights and all City signage, provide books and educational materials for our community through libraries, keep trees free of disease, keep our parks and park facilities neat, clean and liveable, inspect buildings and uphold standards of construction, repair police and fire trucks so that first responders can come to the aid of anyone in distress. This is just to name a few services.

    5. Public employees ARE hired on the basis of merit and skills. Anyone hired by the City of Evanston must have a resume, and must submit to testing and interviewing to determine if they are fit for the job.

    6. Yes, I think everyone contributed their share of shoveling and shared a "can do" spirit in their neighborhoods during the blizzard. That is not done on the basis of party-affiliation. But all the bigger jobs must be done by trained people, who have the equipment, and are organized by an entity not out to seek profit for their work. These trained people are called public employees, and the organization to which they pledge their services is the residents of the City of Evanston.

    7. The resolution to the problem of the private sector workers sinking in wages and benefits should be solved by those workers forming unions in their workplace. Let's have a race to the top, not a race to the bottom.

    1. Anti-Public Sector “Union” Field Day

      Just to be clear, I'm against public sector unions rather than the public sector. My intent was to create an anti-public sector "union" field day rather than the anti-public sector field day you suggested.

      A world with public sector unions is a world where your boss needs your money and vote to keep his job today. In exchance for your cash and vote, he's allowed to give you a pension that costs nothing today and will be paid years after he retires.

      That's a system that will fail like it has in California and Illinois. Government workers did not create the recession but they did contribute greatly to the current budget mess unless you think it is just a coincidence that the states with the most powerful public sector unions have the biggest budget issues.

      If you doubt this is what's going on, look no further than public sector union campaign contributions. The American Society of County, State and Municipal Employees, for example, was the largest single campaign donor in 2010, spending $87.5 million.

      Do you think that cash and their campaign endorsements were made with no strings attached? Finally, I strongly support private sector unions so this is not an anti-union rant. This is a better government rant.

    2. The government union pension system is unsustainable

      To F. Stella Estes … 

      1) Nobody ever said government workers caused the Recession. The cause is complicated and blame can be spread around.

      2) Yes, government union employees pay into their pensions near 10 percent of their pay each year. They can retire as early as age 55 and collect for life 50-75 percent of their final salary regardless of how poorly the economy or stock market is (pensions are funded on stock performance) and they get a guaranteed 3 percent raise every year for life. That's not to mention the nearly free healthcare benefits during retirement through cadillac insurance plans that taxpayers pay for. In short, most economists and bipartisan watchdog groups concur that the government union pension system always has been unsustainable. Recently, our former fire chief retired at age 53 and is collecting $100,000 per year for life. In a decade, he would have collected a MILLION DOLLARS!!!!!

      3) Illinois taxes anyone who makes an early withdrawal from their 401k plan.

      4) Nobody is arguing that we have to pay taxes for public services. The argument is paying for the jackpot pensions that is going to bankrupt this state, which has raised income taxes to try and keep up with ballooning pensions. This strategy will send Illinois and cities spiraling into a deeper recession as more businesses leave and none come in because our politicians are backed by well-funded and well-organized special interest groups such as government unions. That is why we got hit with a 68 percent income tax hike.

      5) Public union employees may be hired on merit and skills but they are not PAID based on merit, and that is what I pointed out in my previous post.

      6) On this point I responded to Dr. Who Knows who said: "I've been seeing some right-wingers spread nonsense about we can get out of this blizzard by rugged individualism and self-reliance." I simply pointed out how wrong he was and that residents helped each other out shoveling snow. I guess, according to Dr. Who Knows, there are a lot of right-wingers in Evanston.

      7) I have no beef what the unions do in the private sector as long as there are secret ballots to unionize. I do have a huge problem with government union employees who consistently vote, campaign for and donate almost always to Democrat politicians who return the favor. As we have seen, in this Recession the only growth industry has been government. Not one state union employee lost their job under our last two Democrat governors.

      It's interesting to note you conveniently failed to address my points about the Evanston Fire Union suing the City of Evanston and getting a sweetheart deal that favors the Evanston Fire Union and hurts the city taxpayers. You also neglected to respond to my post responding to Ted Loda, a committee member of the Democratic Party of Evanston who urged the support of HB 174 to raise state income taxes.

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