Separation of church and state?

St. Cecilia

Because I apparently had my camera with me today, I took this shot in front of St. Cecilia's, a church on Belvidere Street in the Back Bay. There were about a dozen Boston Department of Public Works workers shoveling and plowing snow from the sidewalks and street around the church.

I stopped to watch. I asked one of the drivers what he was doing and he replied, "Plowing out the church." I asked him if the city did it for all churches, to which he replied, "I guess the ones that have pull?"

Further down the street, another DPW truck was blocking the road off. I asked him the same question, does the city do this for all churches? His response, "Yes, sir; all of them."

That's a lot of churches. I assume the city must then also do it for all synagogues and mosques?

If you're cynical like I am, you assume someone of significance either died or is getting married and called in a favor ...

Or, perhaps this is much ado about nothing?



Free tagging: 


Public Works

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if I was with the DPW crew I would have told you to mind your own business. Do you stand in front of the Roxbury mosque with your camera?

Mind your own business?

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What part of PUBLIC are you NOT getting here?

A citizen has not only a right but a duty to ask questions about public funds being used for private facility maintenance!

You need to go live in Russia if your attitude is otherwise.

How patronizing and

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How patronizing and condescending can you get? A citizen doesn't have a "right" to impudently harass public employees while they are working. Do you think a citizen has a "right" to go up to any public employee on the street or in city hall and ask them for an explanation of what they are doing. What utter arrogance.


Yes, obviously there's a right to ask questions

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What exactly constitutes the "harassment" of which you speak?

Of course a citizen, standing in a place to which the public has a right of access, has the right to ask anybody else within earshot any question he or she pleases. Whether or not the other person answers is kind of up to him or her, or perhaps subject to an agreement between that person and his or her employer (for all I know, maybe Tastee-Freez, or UPS, or Federal Express requires their drivers to give their names and employee numbers if requested by the public. Maybe DPW has some requirement that its employees answer questions.

But in any case, what exactly is wrong, illegal, or immoral about the person asking the question?


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This is how I imagined it in my head:

"Oh, hey, guys, what are you doing?"
"Plowing out the church."
"Oh. You do that for all the churches?"
"I guess the ones that have pull?"
"Alright, buddy, take 'er easy."

I'm pretty sure it wasn't as bad as you seem to think.

Brought to you by the

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Brought to you by the high-maintenance ego citizens insisting it's perfectly acceptable to interrupt an active crime scene.


I wouldn't stress to much

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I wouldn't stress to much about it... pretty sure city workers are on salaries anyway. They may as well do something instead of having trucks/cars turned on and seating in them.

Too soon

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I agree that potholes need fixing, but if the city is still shoveling snow it's too soon to fix them

I highly doubt that

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I'm pretty sure they're hourly workers....especially if they plow. That's why the city gets hammered w/overtime whenever there's a storm. Glad to see some private citizens get free plowing services, where do I sign up?

Let's ask Will L.!

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Q: Will, does the city remove the snow from mosques and synagogues?

A: Well, as we all know, the Irish still run this town. The synagogue's lawyers told them to make sure no one slips in front of their place and the mosques have plenty of sand to throw around,amirite?


Yeah, Catholics really have a

Yeah, Catholics really have a stranglehold on Boston in 2013. And just yesterday, I saw a gang of Irish Catholic toughs beating up a Jewish boy on Blue Hill ave.



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Fun Fact: The Mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, is Italian.

Ruuuuun, it's Catholics!

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As a Protestant, I wonder if they only help the Catholics or if they clear out Protestant churches? What about Unitarians? Won't someone think of the Unitarians?

ASC soutions

At the Arlington Street Church, the UUs would first reason with the snow. If it didn't go away, they'd pour coffee on it.

They don't do all the churches...

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I can say with 100% certainty the city does not do all the churches in Boston. I am a deacon at Old South and we have very hard working sextons that take care of our sidewalks.

Because people who work at church are all 90?

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Seriously, have you ever seen an employee of a Catholic church who was able-bodied enough to lift a snow-shovel out of a broom closet? The lil' ol' lady who writes out Mass cards in her 1930s cursive sure isn't going to be shoveling.

Hey, watch out, you're

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Hey, watch out, you're talking about my mother now! She'd just as soon take a shovel to your head as write you a mass card in her Palmer Method!


On the other hand, I have to

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On the other hand, I have to walk past quite a few churches/places of worship to get to work. Given that the sidewalks are public use, as long as somebody shovels them out, I'm happy.

Public use, but not public obligation

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I'm not happy if my tax dollars are being spent to shovel a sidewalk that someone else is legally obligated to shovel.

There are only three ways a sidewalk gets shoveled:

  1. The owner of the adjoining property shovels it.
  2. The owner of the adjoining property hires someone to shovel it.
  3. The owner of the adjoining property pays taxes to the city, who in turn hires someone to shovel it.

Option #3 has so much overhead and inefficiency in it, I really don't want the city doing that job.

Actually public use, public ownership...

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...but City ordinance passing the duty onto the adjoining property owner.

The sidewalks are owned by the city, so there is probably only so much of that obligation that they be kept in safe condition that they can pass on. Sure, they can issue fines, but not much else.

The duty is always ultimately on the property owner

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One way or the other, the property owner is going to be paying for snow removal. Either the property owner takes care of it, or the property owner pays taxes to the city, who in turn hires people to take care of it.

We, the citizens, acting through our elected government, chose the first option over the second. In no way did "the city" (umm.. that would be us) pass the duty to anyone.


They don't shovel my church

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I am a pastor of a church that has several locations around the city. We have always been responsible for our own shoveling. Perhaps this is more about the location of that particular church.

Kevin White

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Wasn't this the church where Kevin White's funeral was held?

Think he still has enough power from where he is now, to get this job done by city workers?

Issue resolved ...

I received a nice phone call in return to my inquiry to the office of Councilor Bill Linehan (D-2). They told me that it was not standard operating procedure to plow out all churches, mosques, temples, etc. If asked as a favor, the city's DPW will go to remove large piles of snow, but never from private property - only from out front or where the public passes through.

This wasn't about whether "churches" get special treatment over other houses of worship. It was whether privately-owned property owners can get special treatment through connections with city hall.

The street on which St Cecilia's is located is narrow. Plus, there's a lot of activity across from it due to the construction of the new Berklee building. On the heels of several large storms, no doubt there was a lot of snow piled up that was making passing through very difficult.

See? Nothing to get your skirts in a bunch about. Someone (me) saw something interesting, questioned it, got an answer.

There's a lot that goes on around us that no one thinks to ask about - and that's too bad.