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?”