Unsurprisingly, GC:PVD Is More Adventurous Than We

December 2009 Blizzard

Jef’s been slipping and sliding and snow-blogging like crazy.

11 thoughts on “Unsurprisingly, GC:PVD Is More Adventurous Than We”

  1. Yeah, Narducci told me that, and that was the last I heard of it. I didn’t bother contacting him this year.

    Right now, talking to merchants in person seems to be getting more traction than going through formal channels, like I tried last year. There are still a couple holdouts.

    What really drives me nuts is that government remains by far the biggest offender. I count two City lots in my immediate neighbourhood with unshoveled frontage, including one directly across from a school and another that seems to have been adopted by a church. (Which is just as baffling to me as it must be to anyone else.)

    I’m out of time this week, but I hope to run some plots by City Hall next week to find out who really owns them, and then see about contacting those people.

  2. I think the thinking of most merchants is similar to that of those who make many public policies: those who don’t drive don’t matter very much, and in a cost/benefit analysis you can mostly ignore them. As much, I think that most merchants drive themselves, and it just never occurs to them that anyone might need to walk. Sometimes they seem genuinely baffled: I spent much more time today than should have been necessary explaining to one merchant that their property included a heavily-used bus stop and that children and elderly regularly used their public frontage. Another seemed genuinely surprised to learn that their property fronts three traffic lights and three bus stops. It’s as if they magically teleport to work without ever seeing the outside of their properties or what goes on right outside their doors.

    I was never a big Buddy booster, but I’ve gotta admit, when he was there, the walks were cleared. The Phoenix ran a picture of him every week during the winter season with him holding a shovel and pointing to it, reminding people of their obligation to clear their walks. I don’t recall the level of enforcement at the time. Maybe it would be enough for Cici to do the same, and save his feel-good talk.

    I can’t help wondering if there are legal exemptions in place. Surely, in this city’s long history, we’re not the first to have or express concerns about this stuff. We’re not the first to notice how hard it is to walk from Canal Street to the State House. (The rails have been there for more than a century, and there used to be a lot more of them. So there have been over-rail bridges in the city for many decades, with the same weather.) I’m hoping that someone reading this convo can offer some insights. If not, then when I get back from vaca I may try to tap my councilcritter about this. I’ve got a few related concerns about public safety I’d like to discuss with him anyway.

  3. I meant to add, as evidence that the City apparently exempts itself from these requirements is that one parcel I observed today that I know is municipal property was not cleared at all. Parcel 71-460, across from Esek Hopkins Middle School, is owned by Providence Public Building Authority, according to information provided by The Providence Plan’s Mapper tools. In the ten years I’ve lived on Charles Street, I’ve seen cars parked on this lot ticketed and towed by the City, but when it comes to their own frontage ordinances they apparently see it as someone else’s problem.

    Perhaps the City’s laxity in enforcing the snow shoveling ordinance comes partly from their inability or unwillingness to observe it themselves?

    Regardless, how long will it be until some kid gets struck and killed in the street because a walk was illegally left uncleared?

  4. On the merchant front, I really can’t fathom why a regulation is even needed. The equation of customers not able to reach your front door equals customers not able to spend money in your store should be pretty obvious, but it is not. Not owning a store of my own, maybe I am missing something in the equation.

    On the government area front. The mayor is on record supporting a city where one need not own a car. Obviously, uncleared sidewalks are counter to that. His words need to be thrown back at him and his actions should equal his rhetoric. Some of these bridges may be state jurisdiction, but the mayor has a responsibility to his residents. If the state is not doing what is required, the mayor and city council should be demanding they do, and if they don’t, do it for them and send them a bill.

  5. I spent part of today handing out copies of the shoveling ordinance in my neighbourhood and explaining it to non-compliant merchants.

    I’m trying to figure out why the ordinance isn’t being followed. One explanation I’ve heard is that it’s often hard to determine who owns a particular property, and because the ordinance is enforced against owners specifically, this makes it hard to enforce. I’m not entirely buying that. First of all, my understanding is that Rhode Island property law (or at least tenancy law) provides that all property owners must have a local (in-state) agent, no matter where they live or headquarter themselves. That means that at least in theory, they’re all accessible to the law within state jurisdictions. Second, this is 2009, not 1409. How freakin’ hard can it be to find out who owns a property? I feel sure that the Tax Department, if no one else, has a bead on this.

    In talking to merchants, it seemed to me that many of them were unfamiliar with the ordinance, which is why I provided handy copies, with full references. It’s necessarily in legalese, but I made an effort to clarify it as the obligation to make it possible for “a little old lady in a wheelchair” to use their frontage within the prescribed period (no later than four hours of daylight following the end of snow falling) and to keep it clear. I made a point to visit those places that were poor or inconsistent about this last year, further explaining my (acknowledged unqualified and unprofessional) opinion that non-compliance might invoke their liability in the event of consequent accident, damage, or injury.

    One very disappointing thing I observed in my walk today is that sidewalks over bridges are never cleared, and I don’t know who’s supposed to be responsible for that, or even if anyone is responsible for clearing them. The already dangerous Charles Street bridge is all but impassible to anyone not able to get through the snow piled up on its narrow sidewalks or unwilling to risk their lives walking in the street. (I did, one way, but took a bus back rather than risk it again.) The Charles Street bridge over the Moshassuck next to Home Depot is quite short, but still requires walkers to move into travel lanes of a busy street.

    And the Branch Avenue bridges over the tracks and over I-95, while both having good sidewalks, are piled high with snow from the four-lane road following storms. There is no bus through this corridor, yet this is the connection for many people in Charles Village and along Main Street to major shopping places such as Stop & Shop and Wal-Mart. I regularly see people walking in the travel lanes after storms, sometimes for days or weeks.

    Whoever actually owns these spaces or is responsible for them (or not), I think most people believe they belong to some nebulous ‘government,’ who obviously don’t think they need to clear them. Besides the obvious hazard this presents to a largely pedestrian citizenship, it also sends a message that snow clearing is something ‘the government’ demands but doesn’t do themselves.

    This will make it harder to enforce the standing ordinance, since ‘the government’ apparently doesn’t feel that their dour public safety arguments apply to themselves, so why should anyone else take it seriously? As a resident, I can only ask my neighbours nicely to comply. I make the same arguments, but I have no answer to the question that comes up more than it should have to, of why many ‘government’ frontages are never cleared.

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