Shoveling sidewalks in front of residences and businesses is important for pedestrians. Many communities have penalties on the books for those who do not clear their sidewalks, including Chicago:
Property owners in the city are legally required to shovel their sidewalks after it snows. And on the South Side, one alderman has been out cracking down on the problem.
Ald. Ray Lopez has been out in his 15th Ward neighborhoods since Tuesday, directing Streets and Sanitation workers to problem spots to hold people accountable.
Department workers were writing tickets to home and business owners who did not comply. Fines range up to $500…
Thirty two businesses got ticketed in the 15th Ward Tuesday, and Lopez said he expects there to be just as many Wednesday.
Even if neighbors get mad at a lack of shoveling, who wants to be the politician or local official who gives tickets to homeowners for this offense? From the information provided in the article above, it looks like the tickets were issued to businesses. It could be argued that businesses have a strong obligation to snow as it would be good for potential customers and they are often located in areas where there are more pedestrians (street corners, commercial areas along busy streets, etc.). But, imagine the optics of giving a ticket to an elderly homeowner or a single mother with multiple small children. Americans may like local government but not when that government appears to be heavy-handed.
A similar comparison might be fines many communities issue regarding long grass. If people do not keep their lawn below a certain height, some communities will come mow that lawn and then send a sizable bill. Neighbors do not like the message tall grass sends (regular lawn maintenance suggests a certain standing). I do not know the recidivism rates after this is done; it would be interesting to know if this helps promote more lawn mowing in the future.
Or, consider traffic tickets. Many drivers speed but few want to be ticketed if they are swept up in efforts to generate revenue for the community, outsiders are targeted, or routine acts are criminalized. Arguments can be made about safety and the good of the community might I would guess few people support getting a ticket.
All of this can put local officials in a tough position. These problems, unshoveled snow, long grass, and bad driving, can create dangers and resentment in a community if not addressed. But, fines may not be the best way to prompt action. Tomorrow, I will consider other options for clearing sidewalks beyond fines.