Stuff that's burning a hole in my "In" box....

A few weeks ago, I lauded the Milwaukee city government for requiring homeowners to remove snow from their sidewalks and assessing a property tax penalty if they don't.

But Marie M. Murray of Havre De Grace, Md., points out that similar laws in other cities have been challenged in court and struck down.

The legal argument was very simple, she writes. "The sidewalk in front of your house does not belong to you but to the municipality in which you live. It is, therefore, not possible for these municipalities to force you to clean land which does not belong to you."

Meanwhile, Lee Summers of Arlington writes to say that the Milwaukee system is just dandy if you happen to be young and able-bodied. Unfortunately, she is neither.

"I am an elderly widow with advanced arthritis," she writes. "I have no family whatsoever, no neighbors who do a thing for one another and no young people in the neighborhood."

Why didn't I consider the effect of the Milwaukee law on someone like her, Lee asks, rather than thinking only of my own comfort as a pedestrian who might have to use "her" snow-covered sidewalk?

I should have stressed in my earlier column -- and didn't -- that Milwaukee and other cities with similar ordinances have an appeals process. Furthermore, Milwaukee officials assure me that the elderly and the infirm have never been socked with a fine in situations in which they were physically unable to do the shoveling themselves.

Meanwhile, let me assure you readers that I meant no offense to elderly homeowners who aren't up to shoveling anymore.