In the wake of the 2010 Snowpocalypse and New York City's poorly handled holiday snowmaggedon, Washington DC is threatening to start enforcing snow laws on the books this year.
Washington has been talking a big sturm and drang about ticketing residents who don't shovel their front walks this year. From this week's snow-related DDOT press release:
There may also be enough snow to shovel and residents and businesses are reminded they should be prepared to clear the walkways adjacent to their properties, as required by District law. To encourage compliance, DDOT and DPW are launching a public awareness campaign called "Is your sidewalk shoveled?" The campaign's simple message is driven home on a poster by the image of a mother pushing a baby stroller in the street adjacent to a snow covered sidewalk. "It is our responsibility to make sure the roadways are treated, plowed and passable," said DDOT's Interim Director Terry Bellamy, "But many people moving around the city are on foot, and we need every property owner to pitch in to ensure the sidewalks are as safe and clear as the streets." The two agencies will promote the campaign on their web and social media sites and make the information and materials available to local residents, businesses, BIDs, bloggers and media outlets to help spread the message. DDOT also plans to post the campaign poster on bus shelters in the city later this winter.
Last night snows covered DC in two inches of quality white powder. Today news from the blogosphere points out that to enforce the snow shoveling requirement -- dated 1922 -- the DC Attorney General must actually file a lawsuit to collect the measly $25 these old laws permit:
The District's Office of the Attorney General is responsible for bringing such lawsuits. We've put in a request with OAG to see if anyone's ever actually been sued over shoveling and for such a tiny amount of money, and will update if they respond. But we're having difficulty finding anyone who's lived in D.C. long enough to remember multiple blizzards who can remember OAG ever bringing such a lawsuit. And why would they? The amount of time, energy and money which such a trial would cost would certainly tower over the recuperation of a measly twenty-five bucks.
In most cases remedy lies not in changing the laws but in updating enforcement. In this case, it sounds like the update will require a bit of finagling:
As [DCist] noted in today's Morning Roundup, a bill being considered by the D.C. Council (PDF) would remedy the issue by allowing agents from the Department of Public Works, the Metropolitan Police Department and the Department of Transportation to issue tickets to residents and businesses who don't shovel the walk. However, even if (or when) that law passes the Council, it certainly won't make it out of the 30-day Congressional review for another few months. So until next winter rolls around, we'll just have to hope that people can be guilted into embracing their neighborly spirit.
Shovel your sidewalks, kids. Because you're responsible and an adult, and because you know the city council isn't going to clear your sidewalk for you and for your neighbors physically less capable of shoveling than you.
Kathryn Ciano is the Warren T. Brookes Journalism Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.