Fifteen notebooks and not the right now – 2.20.23

This seems to be the winter of our discontent as the week of February 19 brings snow and ice to […]

Jane McClure headshot

This seems to be the winter of our discontent as the week of February 19 brings snow and ice to Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. I’m watching what the National Weather Service describes as a “snow burst” while I write this.

Many of us don’t recall seeing so much ice and snow on streets, roads and sidewalks, and for it staying around for so long. Our alley in St. Paul could star in an episode of Ice Road Truckers this winter.

Falls are real fear for those of us with disabilities. Falls can also be so disabling and can change our lives forever.

In most communities, keeping sidewalks clear is the responsibility of property owners. Some do a much better job than others. Others don’t even try.

Organizations that provide free or low cost sidewalk clearing are overwhelmed with demand this winter. So it’s interesting to see news reports about Minneapolis leaders considering a municipal sidewalk clearing program. It’s a need highlighted by the Minneapolis Sidewalk Hunters Group, which highlights access issues year-round.

Some Minneapolis City Council members are on board with the snow removal idea, led by the advocacy group Our Streets Minneapolis. The advocacy group is seeking support for a municipal snow removal program. Such a program could give priority to school walking routes, heavily used wheelchair accessible areas and high-use areas by main streets. Second priority would be walks leading from schools and along major streets. Industrial and residential areas would be third in line.

Minneapolis leaders have debated the idea since the 1940s, so it’s not anything new. But it is a real equity issue. Often absentee landlords don’t shovel, meaning that access is a problem in areas where they own much property. That frankly has a disproportionate impact on low-income neighborhoods and neighborhoods around colleges. Should cities spend resources on such scofflaws? Would heavy fines be attached to such snow removal programs?

And with more housing going up in industrial areas, what would that mean? The lines of land use blur as needs change in cities.

The big question is cost and who pays. Property taxes already draw many complaints. If a city starts paying to clear more walks, how does that affect property taxes? What must be cut to pay for such a need?

This issue will take a long time to sort out, alas. Don’t be surprised to see a summer debate in the halls of government, when a snowflake cannot be found.

Wednesdays at the Capitol

Remember the change this session.

Rather than Tuesdays at the Capitol, join the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MNCCD) every Wednesday in the Department of Transportation Cafeteria. The group will gather from 10 to 11 a.m. to share policy priorities, give updates, and energize advocates to take action. Questions or

want more information about Wednesdays at the Capitol? Email Project Coordinator Bridget Carter at [email protected] Grassroots Co-chair Jess Tabbutt at [email protected].

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