Our sidewalks are not being cleared of snow to universal approval.
Havre’s current ordinance calls for homeowners to clear the sidewalks on their property within 24 hours.
Why are the property owners being asked to maintain a public walkway? Are they asked to clear the streets in front of their houses and businesses as well? The answer is, obviously, “No.”
This expectation of the citizens to take responsibility for shoveling sidewalks is downright dangerous because it lessens our dependence on government services.
Furthermore, why do we assume that everyone knows how to safely use a shovel or snowblower? Aren’t all the various snowthrowers contributing to global warming? Do solar or wind powered snowblowers exist that could be used to better clear the snow without warming the planet?
What, then, of sidewalk inequality? Some folks don’t even have sidewalks on their side of the street. Other people live in apartments or condominiums. Still other citizens live outside of the city limits and yet insist on using our city sidewalks for jogging. How do we make sure that the cost is being fairly shared by all?
Do we leave public school curricula and testing protocols to the local district? Of course not; we need the federal Department of Education to dictate what will be taught. It is ludicrous to even consider that people at the local level could teach their own kids. Does federal law allow people to choose a toilet that uses more than 1.6 gallons per flush? The answer again is, “NO!” People cannot be counted on to do the right thing; that is the role of the federal government. This problem cannot be solved at the local or state level.
The only way to make the traversing of public sidewalks safe and uniform is to create a federal Department of Sidewalk Snow Removal. Grants could be given to our universities to study and develop snow and ice removal standards. This would help to create jobs, thereby boosting the economy in those university towns. Federal workers could then remove the sidewalk snow at no expense to the local communities.
Our country was not founded on self-reliance and individual rights. Our country was founded on the belief that a central government should take care of us and provide us with cradle to grave benefits. Snow-free sidewalks are clearly a service for which we are entitled. The same federal government that administers our health care should certainly be able to keep our sidewalks clear, too.
(Rick Dow, a former member of Havre City Council, lives in Rochester, Minn.)