A Proposal for Modest Revenue Generation in Cities and Towns Throughout New England

December 19, 2005 psipsina

Problem 1:  cities and towns around the country are often strapped for revenues, even facing periodic short-term budget shortfalls.

Problem 2:  New England, with its hundreds of colleges and universities (40+ in the Boston area alone), is populated with otherwise educated, intelligent people who have not grasped that the concept of inertia (stuff stays where it is until someone moves it) applies to snow.  These brainy folks also seem unfamiliar with why the freezing point of water is called that, or maybe they are unaware that snow is frozen water.  A quick lesson, then:

  1. If it snows today AND
  2. The high temperature tomorrow is supposed to be 34 degrees AND
  3. The low temperature tomorrow night is supposed to be 28 degrees, AND
  4. You leave the snow where it lands, THEN
  5. Your sidewalks will become a safety hazard in a mere two days.

Or maybe residents of New England, the birthplace of democracy and the rule of law in America, a region legendary for town meetings and civic responsibility, don’t care who falls and gets hurt.  Or maybe they haven’t cottoned onto the fact that property owners are responsible for removing snow from their sidewalks.

(Last winter, my friend Ginger had another take on this rant, which I commend to my readers’ attention.)

Proposal:  Fine property owners who do not clear their walks.  This would not require passing any new laws; enforcing existing laws will do.

Roughly a quarter of households in Somerville, where I live, do not own a car.  With this number of pedestrians walking, slipping, sliding, and stumbling around to the peril of their safety, our city should take this problem seriously.  The thoroughly stupid part  is that few lots in Somerville are all that big.  Our house, for example, has about 20 feet of sidewalk.  Clearing this walk is not a big project.  Our landlady, a fit retiree, clears it herself if we do not beat her to it.  Now, if that doesn’t make the young, non-sidewalk clearing folks of Somerville ashamed, I don’t know what will.

Sure, someone will complain that there are frail elderly people who cannot clear the walks themselves and cannot afford to pay someone else.  No doubt this is true.  But the Red-Haired Boy and I attended a party in an affluent part of Cambridge this past Friday – and walks were not cleared there, either, a week after the last snowfall.  We’d been through so many freeze/thaw cycles in one week that some walks had a sheet of ice at least 2 inches thick.  Our only reassurance was that property owners in these neighborhoods could in fact afford to pay any settlement imposed by the courts if we were to fall on our asses and break our backs.  Cold comfort.

Next up, for those of you who have seen the error of your ways:  tips, from a former resident of upstate New York, for clearing your walk.


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