Archive for Thursday, December 31, 2009

Snow job

City officials owe it to local residents to enforce the snow ordinance that’s on the books.

December 31, 2009


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.


Amy Heeter 8 years, 3 months ago

I cleared my snow while most others complained about it. I was only one of two people on my block that complied with the ordinance. I do resent that the city allowed others to avoid consequences for violating the law. Selective enforcement is only one of the problems with this community.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 3 months ago

IF someone cleans their walk and snow is plowed over that clean walk will the city clean the walk right away? Walks can be important to electric wheel chair travelers,young cyclists going to school or pedestrians who do not drive.

Blocking cars in with plowed snow is unreasonable. People need to get to work,school etc etc. After cleaning our drive then cleaning the plowed snow the following day required 8 wheelbarrow loads. This takes time which not everyone on their way to work or school may have planned into their schedule. OR may not have been aware of the fact their vehicles are blocked in. This happens frequently.

My point being is this the most responsible manner in which to deal with making roads navigational? How many ways can this matter be approached?

Jonathan Becker 8 years, 3 months ago

In the form of full disclosure, my sidewalks are clean in less than six hours after the snow stops. If the snowplow comes along and throws snow on my sidewalk, I go out and remove that too. And my cars are not left out on the street, so no cars of my house are blocked in.

Selective application has always been part of law enforcement's methods. The reasons are (1) there are too many criminal statutes to enforce, (2) there are too few officers on the street to enforce all of the laws, and (3) the courthouse would need to be moved to Allen Fieldhouse to handle all of the violations that occur. That said, the City decided not to apply the law because of the amount of snow we got last weekend. The editorial writer disagrees with the city's choice, but was it an unreasonable choice? It may not have been my choice or the editorial writer's choice, but the sun will rise tomorrow and snow will melt a little today. Let's get on to some more serious issues. When sidewalks are not shoveled to the extent that it becomes a prevalent safety hazard, selective application will adjust the mindsets of those who decide not to shovel.

Bailey Perkins 8 years, 3 months ago

As a homeowner I am truly displeased with the city of Lawrence. It is now clear why HOA dues are nearly a grand every month - if you choose to pay the city to help out - otherwise it is your sole duty to do their job.

Also, there should be exceptions for those who are unable to complete such tasks. Do they fail to realize that people with health conditions (including self) are incapable of shoveling that much snow, if any. I get this odd and quirky feeling that Lawrence has law-suits right around the corner - sad.

Georgine McHenry 8 years, 3 months ago

I agree with the writer of this article. The city is pretty good at bending rules to their advantage. I used to work there and saw a lot of specialized treatment of bonifided slackers. I am not surprised with the politics of this at all.

John Hamm 8 years, 3 months ago

I agree with the writer of the article! I wonder if the City hasn't left itself open to third person (contributory) liability in lawsuits due to falls on uncleared sidewalks due to non-enforcement. Any legal eagles out there?

zzgoeb 8 years, 3 months ago

The ordinance is "unbalanced"; all streets do NOT have sidewalks on both the folks on the "without" side lucked out I guess? Also, with drifts everywhere, not to mentions snow plow piles, how many intersections are going to be passable? I have a feeling the law was written by someone that never shoveled snow maybe?

cmm889 8 years, 3 months ago

I absolutely disagree with the writer. I recieved one of these "warnings" and I'd NEVER heard of this city code. I would have been penalized for something that I'd never heard about before and I dont live in a cave either I read the paper and watch the news all the time. Fact of the matter is this city is built around a college campus most of whom are gone for break, I'm lucky that I was even home at all to recieve this notification... This is a ridiculous city code stipulation, I live on a corner house and cleared what I needed to get to my car etc, it took the city of lawrence 4 days before they cleared my street with a plow and even then you STILL can't park on the sides of the street due to how poor the job was. If we're going to be put on a 48 hour must clean policy than I expect the city to do the same. it wasn't a matter of shoveling snow either it was solid ice, I can't afford the tools it would've required me in order to remove that amount of ice,

All of a sudden the sidewalk is my property but thats ONLY when its covered in snow and ice.

This is just another cheap way for the city to make a quick buck. how ridiculous.

if your going to to attempt to ticket me for some stupid violation they should at least give us a warning (and its a good thing they did)

bman51501983 8 years, 3 months ago

If it is 16 degrees out, do people walk, no, how can i shovel my City Right of Way sidewalk when my back is hurt from digging out my driveway from the 2 ft tall snowmountain from street plowing? Is this the same law as invading my privacy by inspecting my rental home by the city. I love living here, but it would be a better place if it wasnt a Tree Huggers Paradise, do the sidewalks have rights now to?

headdoctor 8 years, 3 months ago

OonlyBonly (Anonymous) says… I agree with the writer of the article! I wonder if the City hasn't left itself open to third person (contributory) liability in lawsuits due to falls on uncleared sidewalks due to non-enforcement. Any legal eagles out there?

It isn't as if legal action can't be brought against the City but the procedure for lawsuits against a Government entity set forth in the Tort Claims Act gives the City a little more insulation from legal action than what an individual might have. One of the biggest issues is proving negligence on the part of the City which may sound easy but it isn't and can be quite expensive to try to do so. While it will be openly denied the Courts tend to be adverse in some types of legal action as well. The Courts will try to avoid situations where a ruling may result in a flood of similar lawsuits being filed.

repaste 8 years, 3 months ago

Bman - many people do walk, no matter the temp. Sidewalks do need to be cleared, problem is not all sidewalks are equal. Mayor Chestnuts street (he does not have to shovel) is not important as Iowa or 6th. Anyone watching people mix with traffic can see this is a serious issue, many people need to walk. Seems city should undertake this job on a priority basis not hoist it on the homeowners unequally, like sidewalk repair. If owned an apartment complex, $20 day would be way cheaper than snow removal. How much it cost to send the summons out? Were they equally distributed? Seems like an impossible task to do equitably.

Stuart Evans 8 years, 3 months ago

who is responsible for the sidewalk along 6th street, particularly at the Iowa street junction? I saw pedestrians having to walk in the traffic lane because there was so much snow piled up on the sidewalk.

IrishCat 8 years, 3 months ago

I live on the end of a dead end street where only the last two houses closest to the dead end have sidewalks. Sidewalks that nobody even walks on. All the rest of the houses on this street have no sidewalks..who's design was this? I would be more concerned about streets like Ridge Court where there are no sidewalks period and people with little kids and strollers have to walk out in the middle of traffic just to get down the street. If someone comes up over that hill quickly, they could very easily get hit by a car. I'm just sayin...

IrishCat 8 years, 3 months ago

and just for the record, I am in one of those houses with the sidewalks and I shovel it each time so that I don't get fined. I'm not sure who I'm shoveling it for exactly, but it's shoveled nonetheless.

Blessed4x 8 years, 3 months ago

I really like this idea, but I fear that the city elders are missing a golden opportunity. If they were wise, they would tie this to voting. The incumbent city commissioners could exclude people that vote for them from having to pay fines for not scooping their sidewalks while those that voted for candidates that were not successful, or simply chose not to vote, would have to pay for their fine as well as the person who was exempted. Obama, Pelosi, Ben Nelson and I agree that this is a completely fair and equitable plan.

jayhawklawrence 8 years, 3 months ago

I completely disagree with this writer.

I don't think city government should be allowed to enforce this kind of ordinance. It is an intrusion in our lives that I resent.

Another law that I resent is the practice of issuing tickets if my car sticks out over the sidewalk in my driveway. When I started getting tickets, I had never heard of this law. No warning. Just a fine.

I might feel different about it if I had gotten a warning first, but there are no signs and they are very aggressive about ticketing people.

Have you ever seen grass grow? No. It happens very slowly. Allowing government more and more control over our lives is not a good thing. It sounds innocent and logical but it is like submitting to a bully. I have a hard time doing that.

This law, though sounding innocent, is just another way to give up your rights as an American citizen. How much of this can we continue to put up with?

We have seen how congress spends our tax dollars. We have seen how big corporations ship our jobs and technology to China. We saw how the supreme court expanded the rights of government to seize private property, and we know that our congress is not on the up and up with health care and military contractors.

It is becoming too popular for governments to take whatever they want from the private citizens and tax whenever they want. Sooner or later, the American people have to stand up and say enough is enough.

Even for a seemingly small thing like snow on the sidewalk. Enough is enough.

sugars_mom 8 years, 3 months ago

The walks that are cleared are probably the same walks that were cleared in years past before an ordinance was enacted by the city. In this day and age it seems there are ordinances and laws past to enforce what used to be common courtesy and community pride.

Pat Long 8 years, 3 months ago

I shovel my walks for the same reason I pick up after my's the right thing to do. As she gets four walks a day, it would be great if my fellow citizens would contribute to the civic good, get off their dead a$$es and shovel.

bman51501983 8 years, 3 months ago

It is winter people! is this a longterm issue? what about the "HUGE" cell phone while driving hazard issue? C'mon people!

mr_right_wing 8 years, 3 months ago

So when someone falls and get injured, do they get to sue the property owner, or the city, or both perhaps? You people who use these lame arguments because you're too lazy to shovel (you're probably so morbidly obese you can't) make me sick. Exercise, sunshine and fresh air, how terrifying to sooo many bloggers! Yikes...

chubpat 8 years, 3 months ago

I am all for rules and the idea that everyone should follow them but be realistic. This snow was far worse than anything we have had in a long time and it came on a holiday when many people are out of town. The city wants us to be patient with them as they have yet to clear many miles of their own sidewalks then of course they should have compassion for the citizens of this town. Many of whom, like my neighbors, spent their time shoveling streets that the city hadn't cleared yet. I'm sure once they recover from that they will make the two block jaunt around the neighborhood to shovel their 20 feet of sidewalk. The problem isn't educating people about the ordinance it is educating them about what sidewalks they are responsible for clearing. Should you be responsible for a sidewalk that lies 20 yards beyond a city made ravine? If this were truly about public safety, then the city shouldn't have created 6 foot snow banks at the corner of every major intersection, making it impossible to reach the crosswalk buttons and causing people to have to stand in the street and hope that the car turning doesn't hit them. If it were about public safety then the city would have had a plan in place for this big of storm and they would have hired more contractors. Instead many available crews were plowing parking lots Christmas morning for businesses that weren't even going to be open. This isn't about public safety. It's about finding a way to make money at the mercy of its citizens. If you want the ordinance to be fair then they should ticket everyone that doesn't shovel. Instead the only people that get penalized are those that live on busy streets or those that have neighbors who instead of helping out would rather complain. If the editor is really concerned about public safety, then maybe he should put down his pen and pick up a shovel.

BigPrune 8 years, 3 months ago

What if you're injured and unable to shovel snow without experiencing excruciating pain? Will you need a note from your doctor to get out of the ticket?

jackpot 8 years, 3 months ago

I see why the city is backing off tickets.I go by the park at Peterson & North Iowa, I see the city has not cleaned the sidewalk. But it's only 2010 now.

SnakeFist 8 years, 3 months ago

Here's an idea: if you want to walk on the sidewalk, either walk through the snow (gasp!) or shovel it yourself.

I don't understand the whining of the conventional moralists who shoveled their sidewalks simply because the law says to, and are now jealous that the postconventional moralists didn't shovel because they recognize the law to be intrusive, unwarranted (contrary to the hyperbole of the editorial, there is no walking "hazard" from snow, it is simply inconvenient), and, I believe, unconstitutional. Again, requiring an easement is one thing, requiring private citizens to invest labor and money in maintaining the easement for the public good is another.

And I have no respect for the busybodies who have nothing better to do than complain that their neighbors haven't shoveled the sidewalk.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 3 months ago

Relax and have a popsicle, todd. It's a cool and fruity treat on a winter day.

kernal 8 years, 3 months ago

Draw in those fangs, Snakefist. While walking in the downtown area, I've encountered a lot of intersections with piles of snow on sidewalks from city plows. A couple of days ago, I was walking on some of those snow covered sidewalks near downtown and in the next block, saw an elderly man trying to walk throught the slush,ice and snow the city plow left in front of the sidewalk at Vermont Towers. The street and sidewalks were fine, but the pile up of snow on the corner was at least a foot high. He fell trying to get through. Two people nearby helped him up and he seemed to be okay. He did not seem physically capable of shoveling it himself, as many people in this town aren't. Suggest you get a shovel and join a volunteer group that shovels for those who are physically unable.

GardenMomma 8 years, 3 months ago

Hmmm, I shoveled my driveway because I wanted to get my car out of the garage so I could make it to work. I shoveled my sidewalk because it was the right thing to do (and the jogger that goes by everyday at 8:15 a.m. might like a cleared off path) and I put down salt to keep the ice from building up. I swept off my steps and salted those too because I don't like excess snow tracked in the house.

Seems to me that shoveling the snow away is really a no-brainer.

And a huge thank you to the neighbor across the street who used his snow blower to clear the three elderly neighbor's driveways and sidewalks. What a thoughtful person.

budwhysir 8 years, 3 months ago

And this just in, if you complain you are wasting alot of time that could be used shoveling the snow on your sidewalk.

jayhawklawrence 8 years, 3 months ago

I was born in the Eisenhower years. The government continues to find ways to increase fees, taxes, fines and regulations that wither away your rights and your income.

Court costs, education related fees, traffic fines, and a myriad of more things continue to appear and increase in costs. Life is getting tougher.

I recently saw a Chinese propaganda film on Sunflower cable called "I love China". Hundreds of "happy" faced workers were cleaning the streets while singing patriotic songs. Interviews with Chinese "actors" spoke of how wonderful the Chinese government and people were.

Is this our future?

Reagan complained about the monopoly of government in our lives. But it was not just the government's increasing monopoly that is a concern. Now we are in an era monopolies where jobs are being shipped overseas by corporate monopolies under the protection of government. Wall street tycoons are becoming the Secretaries of our Treasury and asking for the freedom to write checks without anyone asking questions. Checks to their friends and associates for amounts nearing a trillion dollars.

We won't lose our freedoms and our rights because of an invading army. We will sign them away to people who are just as dumb as we are. One small thing at a time.

Get ready for the day when we workers will be singing patriotic songs and cleaning the streets with our brooms...out of fear.

Liberty275 8 years, 3 months ago

Maybe the congress should pass a law mandating everyone to buy a snow-blower or pay $750 or 2% of their income as a fine. The Big-Snow-Removal corporaticy may be evil, but the government should feed them more of our money.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.