Saturday, December 17, 2005
Your editorial "If you clear it, they will come," in the Dec. 11 edition was significantly short on facts and quick to blame the "newcomers."
The answer is not "simple." Certainly, it is the responsibility of the merchants to clear the walks in front of their store, and there are plenty of merchants who do an admirable job of snow removal. However, had you taken the time to research the efforts taken by some downtown merchants during the past 10 to 15 years you would have written a completely different editorial.
In the early '90s, the downtown merchants reviewed the city ordinance regarding the removal of snow on the sidewalks that clearly states all snow must be removed from the storefronts to the curb and cannot be put into the street. Because 90 percent of the snow on the sidewalks is put there from plowing streets and 10 percent is from the sidewalks, it is an impossible situation for the merchants. The city agreed to frequent removal of the snow that accumulates on the sidewalk. Wow, a compromise for a change. At the time, the city agreed with the merchants that the safety of people getting from their vehicles, across the large piles of snow at the curb area and corners, was important, particularly on Lincoln Avenue, where vehicle traffic is dangerous at best. In addition to safety, the convenience of parking near the businesses seemed to support the argument that more sales would occur and more sales taxes would be collected. Of course, the city apparently now must think there is less traffic, safety is no longer a concern, sales are soaring, and the merchants better get their 10 percent of the snow off the sidewalk as well as the 90 percent that accumulates from snowplowing, but don't even think of putting it in the street, where most of it came from. The city, as we all know, has no funding source to continue a project that was very successful when it was a partner with the merchants (think cost overruns).
The current thinking at City Hall is to remove the accumulated snow, but not on a frequent basis, which is with no apparent concern for the safety of our community. Remember, most of the snow in question comes from the roads and not the sidewalks.
No, the snow removal problem downtown is not "simple," and the city is not a partner with the merchants -- those same merchants who collect sales tax dollars, nor is the city a partner with the locals who shop downtown. And you, the Pilot, need to do your homework and write editorials having done a little research first.