For all of you who bundled up and grabbed your snow shovel or paid someone else to clear your sidewalks or perhaps even made arrangements to have your walks cleared while you were out of town for the holiday, the city has two words for you: Never mind.
The city’s new snow shoveling ordinance has been in effect for more than a year, but this is the first time there has been sufficient snow to put it into effect — or almost. City officials said Monday that they would start issuing tickets for people who hadn’t met the deadline of clearing public sidewalks on their property within 48 hours after the snow ended on Sunday.
Officials had said the ordinance would be enforced on a complaint basis, but about 250 complaints received by the city by Tuesday indicates local residents thought there were some problem areas. Perhaps some of them who took the effort to meet the 48-hour deadline were a little peeved at neighbors and others who hadn’t done the same. That’s fair. There is a law on the books and the expectation should be that it will be enforced.
Well, maybe next time.
By the time the deadline arrived on Tuesday, city officials had backed off their instructions to issue tickets, saying they would instead be issuing warnings about snow removal. It’s a matter of “public education,” they said, even though the snow ordinance has been effect for a year and received significant publicity when it was passed as well as during the recent storm.
Officials also used the volume of snow as a reason to delay enforcement, apparently reasoning that an 8.5-inch snowfall couldn’t be removed within 48 hours. Another way to look at it is that 8.5 inches of snow is much more of a hazard for pedestrians than 2 inches of snow, making it even more important to enforce the law.
Because additional snow fell Wednesday, the clock apparently will be reset, giving residents an additional 48 hours to shovel their walks. Those who are given warnings are being told to expect another call from city officials next week to make sure their snow has been removed. In most cases, such leniency would have made the shovel issue moot because warmer weather would have simply melted away the evidence. This time, the extended forecast calls for at least 10 days of freezing temperatures, so that snow will still be there next week if it isn’t shoveled away.
The question is whether city employees also will be there and willing to issue tickets to people who, even after explicit warnings, have failed to comply with the law. One of the main drivers behind the current ordinance was to do away with the warnings and put some teeth into a law that had been virtually unenforceable.
The ordinance is there, but it will only work if it’s enforced. City officials owe it to the people who make the effort to comply with the law to enforce that law for the people who don’t.