Although forecasts indicate the District could see light snow this week, the D.C. Council delayed a vote Tuesday on whether homeowners should be fined if they don’t shovel their sidewalks within eight hours of a storm.
Trying to put teeth behind a decades-old law requiring sidewalks be shoveled, the bill would authorize District officials to write tickets after one warning for non-compliance.
But several council members, uneasy about the District’s reputation for being too aggressive in issuing tickets, put up stiff opposition to the bill. Opponents succeeded in stalling the vote, which underscores how badly divided the council is over the issue.
“Residents are tired of getting ticketed for everything,” said Council member Kwame R. Brown (D).
Under the bill introduced by council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), homeowners would be fined $25 while business owners would be fined $125.
Currently, to penalize a homeowner or business owner, the District’s Attorney General has to go to court to get a judgement for not shoveling a sidewalk. That has happened only once since 1922, said CCheh (D-Ward 3).
“It creates a very difficult problem for people who are trying to get around,” said Cheh, noting New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago all issue fines for not shoveling sidewalks.
Skeptical of the bill, council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) introduced an amendment stating no fine could be issued until the city successfully clears snow from a street in front of a house or business.
“If we are going to go this far, let’s at least have the District of Columbia hold up its responsibilities,” Graham said.
But council member David A. Catania (I-At large) lashed out at Graham’s proposal, saying it was a “rotten, selfish idealogy.”
“I want to live in a city where we have a responsibility to our neighbors,” Catania said.
Graham’s amendment failed on a tie 6 to 6 vote.
Council member Vincent B. Orange (D-At large) then proposed an amendment to push back the grace period to 24 hours to give residents more time to clear sidewalks after an overnight snowfall..
“Under current law, the snow would have to be removed by 4 p.m. and you know how our ticket writers are,” Orange said. “They are going to see this is a great way to generate revenue.”
There appeared to be broad support for Orange’s amendment, which would have likely cleared the way for final approval.
But council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) successfully rallied his colleagues to put off the vote, arguing he wanted time to review how many ticket writers would be needed to implement the legislation.
The voted marked the second time in a month that the measure came before the body only to be tabled due to opposition.