Milwaukee made beer famous, which is reason enough to declare it one of the great cities on earth. But Wisconsin's biggest metropolis also has a municipal ordinance on the books that other cities, ours in particular, would do well to copy.
The ordinance kicks in approximately a week after any heavy snow. It attacks the problem of snow-covered sidewalks that owners are too lazy or too forgetful to shovel.
Under Milwaukee law, the Department of Public Works has the right to send a work crew to the offending sidewalk, shovel it and then add the cost of doing so to the owner's property tax.
The tab varies according to the size of the sidewalk, ranging between $50 and $100. According to Herb Goetsch, Milwaukee's commissioner of public works, the system has "worked very, very well."
Like every major city that suffers from falling white stuff, Washington requires property owners to shovel their sidewalks. But is that requirement enforced? Are you kidding?
All too typical is the sort of thing that befell Marion Hayes of Northwest after one of the mid-January storms. One of her neighbors didn't/wouldn't clean off his sidewalk. So she called the cops.
"I got a very bored-sounding desk officer who said yes, there was a law," Marion said. But when she asked whether they could send someone around to enforce it, the desk officer said:
"What do you want me to do, lady? Tell the guy to clean his bathtub, too? We've got better things to worry about."
Granted, snow removal doesn't rank with murder in police priority. But an ordinance like Milwaukee's would keep the police from having to worry about snow removal at all.
I think it's an idea whose time ought to come. How about it, City Council?