I’d like to thank Brian for commenting on my blog again. He’s in an extremely frustrating position, and I think some of the items he’s responding are not so much to what I wrote as to what’s going on in the media at large.
I think clearing sidewalks that abut your property is a civic duty in the same way that clearing a fire hydrant abutting your property is your civic duty. The difference, from the city’s perspective, is that you will (or, rather, might) be held financially responsible if you don’t do the former; if you do the latter, you’re a nice person, but if you don’t, the city won’t hold you responsible.
I’m going to leave aside the issue of whether the residents of Meadow Lane actually abut 122 or not. I don’t think debating that will bring any clarity to the ultimate issue of whether or not sidewalks should be cleared by the abutter.
Here’s where we were at Tuesday at 7:00pm:
If the state owned this land, the city would not make the state clear the sidewalk.
When the city thought the state owned this land, the city wasn’t going to make the state clear the sidewalk. In fact, the city wanted folks they didn’t think owned the land to clear the sidewalk. That’s wrong by anyone’s definition.
Now the city finds that the residents of Meadow Lane own the land. The city still wants them to clear the sidewalk.
Here’s what I would have liked to see in response to the sidewalk ordinance situation:
The city committing that all city-abutted sidewalks would be cleared.
The city committing that all bus stops would be cleared so that folks wouldn’t have to wait in the street and/or climb over snowbanks to get to their buses.
The City Council holding hearings to listen to those with particular hardships and thoughtfully getting us to a point where all sidewalks are cleared for pedestrian access. The City Council also holding hearings to discuss areas where space is at a premium (that is, there’s nowhere to put the snow) to see what can be done.
Here’s what we got instead:
The City Council has decided to create an exception specially tailored to Meadow Lane so that those residents — who, by the way, didn’t ask for this — don’t have to clear that sidewalk.
Either all sidewalks need to be cleared, or they don’t. If they don’t, we need to determine which sidewalks don’t need to be cleared and why that doesn’t pose a hazard to pedestrians (and what the process for determining which sidewalks don’t need to be cleared after the initial determination).
At this point, anyone with a sidewalk that doesn’t abut his immediate residence is going to be asking himself why he should be shoveling that sidewalk when the residents of Meadow Lane don’t have to. That wasn’t the intention of the Meadow Lane residents, that likely wasn’t the intention of the City Council, but that’s where we’re at.
If I owned a piece of land five blocks away from me that had a sidewalk, it would be a hardship for me to shovel that sidewalk. So — at this point — why should I?
My frustration is not with the residents of Meadow Lane. My frustration is with a City Council (barring Paul Clancy) that isn’t willing to listen to those folks, and to others, and to think about a long-term strategy to make the city safer for pedestrians (and users of public transportation) in the winter.