Not addressing the problem

You might have noticed item 11d on tonight’s City Council agenda proposing the following:

Emergency Preamble


Whereas, The deferred operation of this ordinance would defeat its purpose, which
is to immediately provide relief from the obligation to remove snow and ice from
sidewalks on state highways abutting rear lot line of properties, therefore it is hereby
declared to be an emergency ordinance, necessary for the immediate preservation of
the public convenience.

Now, Therefore, this ordinance is declared an emergency ordinance under section
2-9 of the city charter such that it shall be passed with finality in one meeting of the
city council and shall, thereby, take effect immediately.

Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of Worcester, as follows:

For one hundred-twenty days from the effective date of this ordinance, the provisions
of section 23 of chapter 12 of the Revised Ordinances of the city of Worcester shall
not require any owner or occupant of any property whose rear lot line abuts any city
street or state highway to clear any sidewalk on that portion of the state highway so
long as any such property owner or occupant otherwise complies with said section 23
with respect to any other sidewalk on any city street or state highway abutting the
property on any front or side lot line.

In other words, this ordinance would be adopted to that the folks on Meadow Lane would not have to shovel along 122.

The problem with Meadow Lane was not that the city is making elderly folks shovel their walks.  If those folks had a district councilor who worked hard, he could have contacted one of the organizations on the city’s list and gotten them snow shoveling services.

The problem is not an ordinance that makes people clear sidewalks.  People should clear sidewalks that abut their property.

The problem is that the city feels that the City-with-a-capital-c and the Commonwealth are exempt from said ordinance.

The problem is that when the city thought that the state was the abutter, they were in no way inclined to make the state shovel the walk.

The problem is that when Bill takes pictures of the Pharmasphere sidewalks, that the city should be clearing those walks, as the city still owns that land.

Councilors Eddy, O’Brien, Petty, Rushton, Palmieri, Germain, Lukes, Smith, and Haller — that is, those who are sponsoring this piece of legislation — are rewarding a few folks who have vocally opposed doing their civic duty, and by their silence on the larger inequity are also rewarding the city, which is equally committed to not shoveling something that no one will hold them accountable for.

This ordinance is, unfortunately, a knee-jerk reaction instead of a thoughtful investigation into what aspects of the ordinance are not working and which ones are.  But one can’t expect too much more in an election year.

9 thoughts on “Not addressing the problem

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by CaraLisa Berg Powers, Nic Apostola. Nic Apostola said: Not addressing the problem: […]

  2. zed says:

    Our elected leaders should also examine inferior plowing practices but they are too busy rubber-stamping everything the City Dismantler wants.

  3. t-traveler says:

    think there was an issue of liability and responsibility in recruiting a shoveler from the city’s list

  4. Tracy says:

    I used to count on Jeff for this, so I’ll say it here: if you see schools that are not clearing sidewalks, let me know. Our guys are usually good (because we’ve got to get the kids in), but I do want to know if it’s not working.

  5. Brian O'Connell says:

    I’m a resident of Meadow Lane and I have indeed “vocally opposed” the ordinace on shoveling. There has been an awful lot said about this and I’m only trying to keep the record straight on our position. Two years ago we started getting tickets for not shoveling the sidewalk on Pleasent St. This is the same sidewalk we have not been shoveling for the last half century. We didn’t shovel it because we firmly believed that we did not abutt the side walk. There is a city brook and anywhere between 1200 and 1600 square feet of land between our property line and the sidewalk. We approached the DPW and got a letter from Matt Labovites (Assistant DPW Director) That the ordinance would not be inforced in our case because the State owned the land in question. Now the fun starts, the City DPW agreed with every thing we said and went to the State DPW to have them clear their sidewalks. The state went Old Testament on them and started quoting Ma. General Law chapter and verse that exempts the State from having to shovel sidewalks on it’s property [unless that sidewalk happens to be on a “Drawbridge”]. The city then decided we were a softer target than the State and took the position that even though the State clearly owned the property, we abutted the “Right of Way” to the state road and were responsible. We got Atty. Bic from Taylor Abstract to look into it and his opinion was that our “frontage was erased by a fee simple transaction” done by the State in 1959. City Solicitor Moore then found some “missing” pages in the Registrar of Deeds that explained the “apparent void” between us and the sidewalk. We recently got Atty Moe Bergman to represent us. Remember the City Solicitor issued an Opinion, not a judgement. We disagree with the City’s opinion, we aren’t complaining about being old or disabled. The real insanity started with people bringing up the issue of “Rear Abuttment” and civic duty. According to Bill Eddy, the author of this moratorium, “It’s too dangerous to have convicts or volunteers out there shoveling, the City would be liable if anyone got hurt.” The bottom line is that we on Meadow Lane had nothing to do with this moratorium, we didn’t request it and we certainly don’t endorse it. As far as Civic Duty goes, where does it end and Conscript Labor begin? I could go on all night on the legal issues but I don’t feel “rewarded” by the latest action of the City Council.

    • Joe says:

      This is the first I’ve heard of a state law that exempts the state from the responsibility to clear abutting sidewalks. You would think that one of the news outlets (T&G or WoMag) would have mentioned this, or the City itself.

      Do you know the chapter and section of the M.G.L?

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