Home / Be The Change / Flex Your rights / 76-Year-Old Woman Fined $200 for Not Shoveling Snow Fast Enough – Fights Back

76-Year-Old Woman Fined $200 for Not Shoveling Snow Fast Enough – Fights Back

Boston, MA — A 76-year-old woman must pay $200 for the oh-so-serious transgression of not shoveling snow fast enough for the whims of the City of Boston.

“I don’t think it was fair because it was icy and it was difficult to get up,” South Boston resident Lorraine Walsh told a local CBS News affiliate.

Walsh did, in fact, attempt to remove the snow from the sidewalk in front of her residence — even going so far as to apply an ice melter on areas she was unable to clear — but subfreezing temperatures and unforgiving winds soon forced her to retreat.

“Really windy if you remember,” the elderly woman, who incidentally says she enjoys shoveling, continued. “Fifty-five miles an hour all the next day.”

But the city does not want to hear excuses — Boston expects residents and businesses to shovel snow, or hire someone else to do it, within a short time frame following a major storm.

“The rules are, three hours after a snowstorm we’re asking residents to shovel their sidewalks and businesses to shovel their sidewalks and if you can’t shovel it, get somebody to shovel it for you,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh — no relation to Lorraine — flatly stated.

While the city’s policy indeed pertains to safety concerns, the mayor did not offer an explanation for the obvious personal safety concerns the elderly face shoveling snow amid treacherous winter conditions.

Worse, though a resident would normally be fined a still-outrageous $50 for failure to clear snow, Walsh garnered a business fine of $200 because her family runs a small insurance business from the home.

More than 500 Boston residents and businesses were fined last week for failing to meet the city’s strict ordinances regarding snow removal — and city officials aren’t the least bit apologetic for doling out those fines.

Chief of Streets Chris Osgood, responsible for overseeing the effort to keep streets and sidewalks clear of snow and ice, says city workers are “constantly encouraging neighbors to help neighbors” ensure each other’s snow is removed to the satisfaction of the ordinances.

“The last thing we want to do is penalize people and write fines,” the mayor continued, ignoring that officials wrote hundreds of tickets last week and suggesting Walsh could file an appeal, “but if we don’t, we won’t have people shoveling sidewalks and we’ll have situations where people can’t get passed [sic] on the sidewalk.”

Walsh affirmed she will fight the ridiculous $200 charge, saying, “I do intend to call and I will write an appeal letter. We’ve never had a ticket like this before so I don’t know how strict they are with it, and whether I have a chance of appealing it or not, but I hope.”

Cities in colder climes around the country frequently ticket or fine residents for issues in the aftermath of winter storms, including failure to clear snow quickly enough and parking on routes officials need to plow. And while they all cite safety concerns as the impetus for restrictive rules, the factor of easy additional revenue generation shouldn’t be ignored.

But the mayor and chief of streets — as well as Boston’s ordinances — fail the sniff test against the reality of blizzards.

As a coastal city, Boston faces high snowfall totals each winter — but the flakes are nothing compared to often blustery, frigid winds. While these conditions would be uncomfortable but endurable for an average, healthy person to shovel snow, the elderly and infirm would face very real dangers from exposure.

Making the assumption a resident would be able to convince a neighbor to assist with clearing snow is a stretch — particularly in a big city — as is the inference an average person would have additional funds to hire a stranger or company to do so.

Where the City of Boston and officials appear cooly rigid on the topic of authoritarian snow removal policies, Walsh wisely proffered some reasonable adjustments to passing out stiff penalties, asserting,

“Give us a little flexibility. Consider a warning. We realize it was windy and there were ice problems so we’re going to give you an extra day, that type of thing. That would be fair, wouldn’t it?”

  • The Cat’s Vagina

    This is bullshit because sidewalks are city property. Try setting up a garage sale on one and see how fast they run in screaming about how that’s THEIR PROPERTY and you can’t use it for your personal needs.

    • Guy

      City Of San Jose Calif, will fine the homeowners for the repair of the City Sidewalk, even though the Sidewalk belongs to them as well as the Tree that they maintain ! The residence have been fighting that one for years, while the City just gives em the *Bird* by adding it to their tax bill !

      • Bruce_Mitchell

        I almost wish they would do that here in L.A., where in many areas the sidewalks are impassable, with entire sections lifted so high by tree roots that in many places the elderly and mothers pushing strollers have to go into the street to get around the ‘barrier’ where fences and shrubbery prevent walking on the opposite side. This city is so far behind on sidewalk repairs that the estimates are that at the present rate of repairs it will take 90 years to complete the task.

        The worst sections are invariably in front of apartment buildings. Seems to me reasonable for such neglectful landlords to be forced to make repairs.

        • Sam Taylor, Jr.

          Why? The city owns the sidewalk and the parking strip

          You can’t have it both ways. If I am responsible for fixing the root damage to the sidewalk, then I have to be able to decide to take out the tree. If I am not allowed to take out the tree (which, of course, is *not legally on my land*) then I can’t be held responsible for the damage to the sidewalk (which, of course, is ALSO *not legally on my land.)

          • Guy

            The City planted the tree and maintains it, as well installing the City Sidewalk. The tree heaves the sidewalk up causing cracks in the pavement. The City removes the tree and then bills the homeowner for the sidewalk repairs.

          • Bruce_Mitchell

            They already have it both ways. That’s a given, at least in L.A. The property owner always pays for sidewalk repairs, with the cost added onto the annual property tax bill but separately amortized over some years.

            The problem arises from the city not having sufficient resources allocated for sidewalk repairs — that’s why they’re on something like a 90-year cycle. Yet when sidewalks in front of apartment buildings are dangerous, it does not seem unreasonable to me to expect the property owner to pay a private contractor to do the work — which is exactly what responsible owners do. Most owners will not pay the cost up front, though.

            Note that I’m not advocating this up front cost for homeowners, only apartment building owners, most of whom can well afford it in L.A. where rents are continually climbing and for the last several years have skyrocketed.

          • Sam Taylor, Jr.

            Your assumption, that apartment building owners can afford it, is really uninformed.

          • Bruce_Mitchell

            Your assumption, that apartment building owners cannot afford it, is really uninformed. Rents are skyrocketing throughout L.A., to gouging levels really, while costs remain relatively stable. Meaning profits are greatly increasing as well.

            In any case, I specifically said MOST building owners can well afford it, not ALL.

            Of course there will be those individual or smaller company owners of the lesser buildings who may be struggling. All you need do is go about the city to see the reality. The responsible owners are fixing sidewalks, plain and simple. 🙂

          • Sam Taylor, Jr.

            Bruce, after 20 years of being an apartment building owner in Los Angeles, I sold my building last year, because Los Angeles’ rent control combined with the Santa Monica Courthouse basically allowing tenants to not pay rent had hurt my family enough. I know tons of other building owners who also saw that the only real profit came in the increased value of the property, not the operation — meaning, you only saw a profit when you sold, not when you held. The idea that costs are stable is tremendously naive. Maintenance costs have risen crazily; the costs of lumber and labor mean that any framing, like a new staircase, for instance, has more than tripled in the time I owned the building. Replacing roofing is nearly twice as high, as well.

            The cost of finding and attracting tenants who won’t cost you money through damage or missed rent and legal fees to attempt — usually unsuccessfully, as I said, at the Santa Monica Courthouse — to get non-paying tenants out, have also risen dramatically. And rent control means that a tenant who is paying below value on their apartment will remain below value forever, even if you raise every year the piddling amount the law allows.

            So, again, your *opinion* is uninformed. And my *knowledge* comes from 20 years of personal experience combined with networking with 7 other apartment building owners. In America, our idea of egalitarianism has spawned this idea that your opinion is equal to my fact. It’s a mistaken idea.

          • TOPDOG1

            If you were allowed to have your way. You would be allowed complete control to constantly and repeatedly raise your rent, as well as kick out all who will not or can not pay the hyper-inflated prices. Soon the rental rates skyrocket.The homeless population would triple at your expense while you profiteer off this misfortune. Most city’s will comply by hyper-inflating property values solely to increase tax revenue. Again to the misfortune of the citizens. Greed is the greatest hate crime of them all.

          • Sam Taylor, Jr.

            This is, of course, a straw man argument, since I have said nothing of the kind. It is also an idiotic argument, since the idea lacks a basic understanding that tripling the homeless population would mean that landlords were paying mortgages on empty buildings…

            Greed isn’t nearly so great a crime as entitlement — “I know you made a huge personal investment in the building I live in, and I signed a lease saying I’d pay the rent on time, but that doesn’t mean I should really pay the rent on time, does it? After all, you own a building; you’re rich! You can afford for me to shirk my responsibility…”

          • Bruce_Mitchell

            Your assumption of things about me that you cannot possibly know shows how far removed from reality you are. My opinion is based on experience as well as observation and knowledge of friends and colleagues, all of whom are doing quite well with property ownership. The very negative tone in which you write is quite contrary to this.

            Apparently you think your experience is absolutely typical of all property owners, which is far from the truth. If owning apartments is such a bad deal for all, there wouldn’t be the massive construction and renovation of apartment buildings going on all over the city as we speak. Many are making money in the current market; the fact that you did not does not mean others are not or will not. Certainly if an owner is incapable of properly maintaining a property, for whatever reason, it is best to get out of the business as you have done.

          • Sam Taylor, Jr.

            “Massive construction and renovation” generally refers to corporate landlords, not the owners of 4-8 unit buildings that are hurt when people make assumptions that “landlords can afford to repair the sidewalks.”

            Meanwhile, ALL of your friends and colleagues are doing quite well with residential real estate rental? LOL. OK, Bruce, sure.

            In general, I think you’re full of shit, and I don’t care to continue the foolishness of a discussion with you. Have a nice life.

        • Anonymous

          Yes, and if the landlord dares to pull the tree out he gets in trouble with the city for doing so!!!

          • Bruce_Mitchell

            Not so, in L.A., if they follow the rules. The city may actually assist. I know of several specific cases where problem trees were removed by apartment building owners, with the blessing of the city, simply by conforming to regulations.

            There is a reason for those regulations, to prevent owners from acting irresponsibly. It wouldn’t do to have owners ripping out trees at will for no reason at all, which many would do in the absence of regulations.

          • Sam Taylor, Jr.

            As you can see from our earlier exchange, Bruce just makes stuff up, and thinks that “several specific cases” without any info will sound more credible. It’s not, Bruce. You are lying. In Los Angeles, you can’t remove the tree, and the city won’t. The only 2 times I’ve ever seen the city remove a parking strip tree were when it was completely infested with bees, and vector control came out and made it vanish, and when a windstorm in 2007 knocked a big redwood down, blocking the street and crushing a car. Perhaps if you were a major developer, and were re-building and re-landscaping a whole development, they might, but that’s a completely different issue than we are discussion here.

          • Bruce_Mitchell

            Funny, a friend who owns a very nice building on Riverside Drive went through this very situation last year without any significant difficulty in removing the tree. One of the specific instances referred to earlier. Sad to see the big old tree go, but necessary to avoid impeding foot traffic. All with the blessing of the city. Go figure.

    • ortcutt

      Sidewalks are the property of the homeowner. If you don’t believe me, check your deed. Sidewalks are public right-of-ways, i.e. the public has a right to use them, and the City regulates how they can be used.

    • permalink

      “This is bullshit because sidewalks are city property.”

      That depends on the municipality.

      “Try setting up a garage sale”

      In local cities by me, there are numerous garage sales thru the summer. In fact, the cities more or less organize them for specific weekends.

      This is just another bunch of social justice warriors getting wound up over nothing. If you had any civic pride, you would commit to shoveling/ clearing this woman’s sidewalk yourself instead of “wailing to the wind”.

      • The Cat’s Vagina

        I live in Texas, actually, so fuck you most syphilitically for that last bit.

        • Guy

          I live in Calif, which has become simply depressing, mostly because it has been taken over by the Liberal Democrats while turning into a Welfare State. With You living in Texas, I can’t even imagine what that has become like and would think that you have become near suicidal !

          • The Cat’s Vagina

            At least there’s no fucking snow!

          • Bruce_Mitchell

            Geez, am I ever with you on that! Although, to be fair, I am very glad there is massive snow in the mountains here just now, after years of drought… just don’t wanna see it down here. 🙂

            I love all you always cut to the chase.

          • Bruce_Mitchell

            Yeah, right, California “a welfare state” with the fastest growth of any state in the union and the 6th biggest economy in the world, bigger than France, India, Italy, Brazil, Canada, twice as big as Russia. Looks like those ‘Liberal Democrats’ are doing a right fine job of managing things… including supporting your failing red states with a significant percentage of our tax dollars which do not come back to us from the feds.

          • Guy

            Oh Really ? Next time you look at your tax bill or City Garbage and Water Bill, check out the section about additional fees added. Like property assessments, School Taxes, State Bond Assessments, etc, so forth and so on, then add them up !

            One other cavet, If CA is growing so fast and has such a fantastic economie, how come business are leaving our state at the rate they are, not being replaced as they have been in the past, with Companies like Ford or GMC. The Steel Industry is gone, and just about every other heavy industry that was here has now vanished, to be replaced with strip malls and quicky markets ?

            Your right about one thing, Ca is fast growing, with people, houses, apartments section 8, low income housing, senior living centers, plus medical centers and hospitals to take care of all of em.

        • permalink

          “I live in Texas”

          What! Are you feeling lucky now?

          Then you don’t even know what snow is.

          • The Cat’s Vagina

            I’m quite lucky, actually!

          • Bruce_Mitchell

            I know exactly what snow is, grew up with the stuff in all its forms, which is why I moved to Sunny Southern California. I consider you to be blessed. Wish I had been.

    • good point!!!

  • john smith


  • EliWebber

    Have to ask what you pay taxes for ..

    • The Cat’s Vagina

      This is what comes of voting for politicians who promise that you can keep more of your money. Whenever they promise to lower taxes without cutting vital infrastructure, THIS is what they’re talking about… this and those $700 business licenses they’ll pop you for not having if you try to shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk.

  • TechGump

    “The rules are, three hours after a snowstorm we’re asking residents to shovel their sidewalks and businesses to shovel their sidewalks and if you can’t shovel it, get somebody to shovel it for you,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh

    Um no, you are NOT asking. You’re forcing under threat of theft. Friggen Statists, don’t understand what the difference is between thier own violence and volentaryism.

  • Robin W. Tong

    It is not ‘her’ sidewalk. It is a public easement for a public sidewalk built and maintained at tax payer expense. Just because the public easement and the public sidewalk border her residency does not make it ‘her’ sidewalk.

    The city of Boston is fining this woman because she could not clear snow from a public sidewalk. That is no better than cracking the whip and calling her a fucking slave and attempting to steal her money because she was unable to perform labors clearing a PUBLIC SIDEWALK that WAS NOT HER PROPERTY.

    There are better ways to handle this than to crack the whip at elderly people and treating them as disobedient slaves. A non-profit foundation can be set up funded with donations and employing volunteer youth and adults to help out in their neighborhoods.

    Don’t let the claims made by the major fool anyone. It is all about forcing people to slave labor for the benefit of the municipality, and making an example out of anyone whom dare not or can not obey the crack of the whip and raking them over the coals for the $$$$$.

    • permalink

      “It is not ‘her’ sidewalk.”

      Ah but it is for liability purposes. Watch and see what happens when someone falls because that snow is not removed.

      You must be an apartment dweller… not a home owner.

      • Janet Lingel Aldrich

        States where snow and ice are a part of life generally don’t allow lawsuits for slip and fall — with rare exceptions. When my husband practiced law, he had clients who wanted to sue and they couldn’t. (Ohio)

        • permalink

          “When my husband practiced law, he had clients who wanted to sue and they couldn’t. (Ohio)”

          Last time I looked at a map, Boston was in Massachusetts… No one cares how you do “stuff” in Ohio.

    • FiuToYou

      reform school chain-gangs, (or in this case ‘shovel-gangs). Problem solved. To make this lady pay $200.00 for not getting the job done on time is a horrible joke. Next time lady, go get 5 gallons of gas and a big bag of rock salt. Drench the sidewalk, light it no more ice and snow cover it with rock salt!

  • permalink

    Let’s look at this closer…

    City passes law telling residents they must clear their side walks of snow accumulation after x hours of snowfall.

    Then city residents whine because they get fined for not clearing snow.

    Yes, this is a typical free thought about project. I’d be willing to bet nearly every city in the “snowbelt” region has this rule.

    If you don’t like the rule, change it or move.

    • Blaine

      I live in Upstate NY, we have no such law in my town and I don’t think it could pass if it were proposed.

      When I lived in Rochester, I had to pay a little extra on my prop taxes for having sidewalks on my street. Narrow wheelbase tractors cleared the sidewalks, in many cases faster than the plows clearing the roads.

      To be fair to how crappy Rochester is in other respects, I did get a ticket for failing to move my car on an alternate side parking street…5 minutes after the time had changed over. If you aren’t waiting by your car to move it precisely at the change over time on your street, expect to pay. It wasn’t like that 15 years ago.

      3 hours is complete BS too, a single storm could last longer than three hours.

      • permalink

        “I live in Upstate NY, we have no such law in my town and I don’t think it could pass if it were proposed.”

        Even the two little “podunk” towns near me have such a rule, and have had for years, and yes there are those folks that dislike it.

        I just don’t understand the anger I see many times in thefreethoughtproject articles. St Paul, MN had a law not to spit on the sidewalk…

        For some freethinkers it takes very little to “get their panties in a twist”.

        • Blaine

          Looking into this, city of Rochester has a similar law on the books (if the snow has fallen after 8PM, the sidewalks are to be clear by 9AM. If it falls after 9AM, you have until 8PM), but since the “owner” is responsible and over half the real-estate is rental, the resident is not responsible and the City never enforces code.

          All over the map for surrounding towns, mine is included in my property taxes. So I stand corrected somewhat. The Boston regs seem extremely punitive in any event.

          And yes, it bugs the crap out of me to see folks spitting on the sidewalk!

  • Chloe

    It is a family run business, where is the rest of the family? This is not about an elderly woman being taken advantage of, it is a business trying to get out of a fine by making her out to be the sympathetic victim. Real people get hurt on the ice. Stop passing the buck and be a responsible business owner.

    • The Cat’s Vagina

      Fuck you!

      • Chloe

        Okay, thank you. I’ll send you my address. Bring condoms

  • Sheisbrave

    I would not be able to do this because of a back injury and trying to get someone to shovel within 3 hours – when my back was not injured, I would be at work and not able to shovel until I get home. Who passed that law?

  • Andy

    Fucking America….LMAO America #1 huh ??? City have same TIME requirements for clearing the STREETS as people do for sidewalks ?? City have any injury liability if I get hurt cleaning the MANDATED sidewalks ?? SO that I am correct, Snow falls at 1 AM I have to clear sidewalks by 4 AM ?? FUCK YOU BOSTON !!!!

    • The Cat’s Vagina

      I didn’t really think about all the implications of that three-hour deadline. That is pretty fucked up – thanks for pointing it out!

  • Sam Taylor, Jr.

    I should also point out that it would be completely different if the city cleared the sidewalk and charged her for the service… I still wouldn’t like it, but at least it wouldn’t be a completely shameless cash grab…

  • Bob Btme

    just another way we fuck over sick and weak people in increasingly Nazi USA.

    The Nazi holocaust wasn’t just Jewish people – they killed anyone too sick or weak to work in a factory.

  • Dennis P Ginther

    I’m from Minnesota. The city pretty much has to wait til we get off work before anyone shovels. If we had tickets waiting for us when we got home? There would be a riot. Winter living in Minnesota can be very harsh as it is. I think city officials here know this and let it slide a little. But I can give you all a tip on how to shovel snow the fastest without a snowblower. It’s best to get it fresh. It’s easier to shovel. Get yourself a shovel that has been manufactured bent for bad backs. Push a path of snow to one end of sidewalk. Turn around and push another path to the other end. Leaving the previous pile there. And just keep doing this until you have 2 big piles at either end. It doesn’t take long. Call your kids out and have them shovel the piles where you want them.

  • TheGovAlwaysLies

    The Land of The Free?,,,dosen”t look like it from here,,,Complay with the State,or they screw you as soon as they can,,no excuses taken,just bend to our will

  • bojimbo26

    Boston Mayor Marty Walsh – Wanker .

  • Samuel Lane

    This is obviously a fake story. This is a “Christian nation” and this sort of thing could NEVER happen.

  • Donald Holland

    No doubt the ones making these laws have someone to shovel for them…

    • TechGump

      Yep, with thier exuberant salaries. It’s getting crazy, this world.

      • The Cat’s Vagina

        I think you meant exorbitant. Exuberant means “joyously energetic.”

  • junktex

    How progressive!

  • Ibcamn

    the same corrupt cops that brought you the smoke bombing for martial law in boston,are back at it with winter fun for all[the cops]want to squeeze as much blood as they can from the people of boston,and they want it now….

  • Where does the money from the fines go? I’m going to take a wild guess at where it doesn’t go; To providing funds for hiring people to assist seniors in removing snow, distributing rock salt to low income families or targeted funding to the municipal works department to maintain the passibility of public sidewalks.

  • tom browne

    just another excuse and a lame one to extract money from innocent civilians. similar to red light cameras etc. etc.