BOSTON (CBS) – The WBZ-TV weather team is all over what looks like the first significant storm of the winter Thursday night, and while it looks like Boston will be spared the worst of it, you know it’s just a matter of time until we get hit. And that forces us to once again confront a perennial wintertime issue around here – what to do about people who don’t bother to clear the sidewalk abutting their property?
Gov. Charlie Baker may act as early as Thursday on a bill that would allow Boston to boost fines for non-compliance with the city shoveling ordinance by commercial property owners from the current $300 to as much as $1,500.
Will that be enough to curb the disregard for others reflected in the failure to clear sidewalks, or the outright dumping of snow onto public property?
And what about residential property scofflaws, whose negligence drives schoolkids, the elderly and baby strollers into the streets, if they dare venture out at all?
Right now Boston only issues a $50 fine for a homeowner who doesn’t shovel. Compare that with Somerville, where a third offense can get you a $200 ticket, or Chicago, where the fines can range up to $500.
I like the way they handle things in Minneapolis, where folks who don’t shovel get a warning at first. If they haven’t cleaned up the mess after three days, a city crew comes and shovels it out and the property owner is billed for their time plus a fee, so the penalty is pegged to the size of the offense and the public hazard is promptly removed.
Maybe we could learn something from our friends in Minnesota. Sometimes, fines and even shame aren’t enough to get people to do the right thing.