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Talk about timing: Councilors to consider exempting the elderly and disabled from snow shoveling at hearing tomorrow

A City Council committee is scheduled to consider exempting elderly and disabled homeowners from the requirement to shovel their sidewalks at a hearing Tuesday morning.

Councilor Michael Flaherty's Council on Government Operations starts its hearing at 10 a.m. in the council's fifth-floor chambers in City Hall.

Councilor Tito Jackson (Roxbury) proposed the measure due to the health risks associated with snow shoveling.

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Comments

If anyone gets a formal exemption from snow shoveling from the city, the city should be required to ensure that said property is shoveled in an adequate and timely manner.

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Yes - Exemption alone prevents mobility, does not improve it.

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Exactly.

I really hope someone in the City Council is smart enough to follow-through the reasoning of this idiotic proposal...

So now x% of residents no longer have to shovel their sidewalks--and would have ZERO responsibility to ensure someone else does it for them? Do they still have to stop at red lights? Can they now park wherever they want?

I understand the physical demands of shoveling make it so many elderly & disabled residents can't do it, but isn't the alternative that they hire someone? ...If they can't afford that, I'm sure we could means-test (if it came to that) but it's dangerous for EVERYONE in the community if the sidewalk is always icy & around the same homes. (I would think they'd still be liable for a legitimate slip-and-fall injury, too.)

C'mon Tito, think sh!t through before saying things out loud! Next it will be a proposal that old people don't have to observe traffic lights, if it's within 15 minutes of the start of NCIS or Matlock.

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I have an idea
All of you bitching and moaning about unshoveled sidewalks get off your ass and shovel it yourself. Property owners pay taxes for city services that benefit all. And renters benefit from those services without being held financially responsible for them. Why should I as a propery owner be responsible for you walking down a public sidewalk that I don't own/ I can't control or keep people from walking on? Why are the sidewalks different from other publicly owned property such as the library/ city streets / or signs? And before you answer - yes I do shovel in front of my house. But to have to risk physical harm or incur costs to take care of property I don't own is unreasonable. UNLESs I can deduct the full cost from the taxes I pay to the city. After last years storm I am due a credit

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Renters pay our taxes through our landlords. It is baked into our rent. What planet do you live on?

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Your landlord pays taxes. You pay market rate for the rights to live there. Unless you make the faulty presumption that all landlords are profitable you will fing that is ultimately the landlord responsible for such costs.

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Of course landlords pass property tax costs on to their renters. How else would it work? In the long term, they have to charge rent that exceeds the total cost of owning the property, otherwise it wouldn't make any sense to rent out.

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Not all landlords make money. Market rate doesnt cover taxes? Too bad for the landlord.

You have zero claim to paying property taxes unless you actually pay property taxes.

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Somebody who has never had their landlord hand them a tax bill and say "this is why I'm raising your rent".

When I rented, the portion of the property that I was responsible for clearing was also in my lease - yes, as a renter we did shovel the sidewalk in front of the property. Our neighbor was assigned the front and rear walks and steps.

Stop being a dimwit. Part of the taxable value of a property lies in the income that it can generate.

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Sure in the current market that is a cost easy enough to pass on. In a renters market? Not so much. Market conditions change and a landlord can only charge what the market will bear.The landlord is the tax payer in the relationship.

Is micro econ a complicated subject for you?

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By that logic, you don't pay a dime of gas tax because the gas station pays it and the price on the big sign is set by them.

If you're trying to at elasticity and tax burden (which is what your micro econ class would have taught you), then you would know that in truth, both renter and landlord incur a portion of the tax bill.

All of which is beside the point as this thing about equating renting with not being a good citizen or having no interest in the neighborhood is garbage. There are plenty of absentee landlords, great landlords, people who rent for decades who love their neighborhoods, people who rent short term, etc.

Bothering to get a mortgage did not make you a better person.

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What your land lord was doing was illegal.

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No it wasn't. There's no law saying snow removal can't be the tenant's responsibility in a lease.

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Because its part of the social contract of living in a damned city. Boo hoo, I own property but don't want to deal with all the responsibilities that it entails! Oh poor, unfortunate me.

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Property owners own the sidewalks in front of their homes? Since when?

No wonder so many towns oppose putting in new sidewalks.

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You could save a lot of tax money if shovelling the street in front of your house was up to you!

Or, better yet, if clearing the streets was entirely funded out of excise taxes ... that's an idea, too!

Yes, these are all ideas! They must have equal merit! Being ideas and all ...

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But to have to risk physical harm or incur costs to take care of property I don't own is unreasonable.

Irrespective of whether the city cleans the sidewalk by requiring you to pay taxes and then turning around and using that tax money to hire someone to clean the sidewalk, or whether the city cuts out the inefficient middleman and cleans the sidewalk by requiring you to take care of it directly, in either case at the end of the day you're the one paying incurring the cost of cleaning the sidewalk.

Personally, I think for the job of putting tens of thousands of shovelers to work at the same time, distributed all over the city, asking property owners to take care of it themselves is way more efficient than centralizing it as a city service.

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But to have to risk physical harm or incur costs to take care of property I don't own is unreasonable.

Irrespective of whether the city cleans the sidewalk by requiring you to pay taxes and then turning around and using that tax money to hire someone to clean the sidewalk, or whether the city cuts out the inefficient middleman and cleans the sidewalk by requiring you to take care of it directly, in either case at the end of the day you're the one paying incurring the cost of cleaning the sidewalk.

Personally, I think for the job of putting tens of thousands of shovelers to work at the same time, distributed all over the city, asking property owners to take care of it themselves is way more efficient than centralizing it as a city service.

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I *do* shovel other people's sidewalks if they don't get to it...on my block. It's just not physically possible for me to shovel every sidewalk along which I might walk, let alone all the others in the city.

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We shared concern on Twitter w/ Councillor Jackson last month that exemption alone doesn't improve mobility for everyone - it seems to do more harm that good if not coupled w/ getting the areas cleared - and shared info on a Cambridge snow clearance exemption program. His response: "That is one of the models that we are exploring. The plan is to provide resources to clear the sidewalks"

https://twitter.com/titojackson/status/687386504201515008

Cambridge info can be found here; https://www.cambridgema.gov/Snow
"Am I required to clear my sidewalk if I am elderly and/or have a disability?
If you are a homeowner on a low income and/or you are elderly or have a disability, you may qualify for the City’s Snow Exemption Program, in which case the City will shovel your sidewalk. To find out whether you are eligible, please call the Cambridge Council on Aging, 617-349-6220 (voice) or 617-349-6050 (TTY).

If you do not qualify for an exemption, the Council on Aging can provide you with a limited list of professional snow removal companies and a list of students who want to earn money by shoveling – you contact the student yourself and negotiate a price."

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Jackson said he came up with the idea because an elderly homeowner said she had to see because she got so many shoveling tickets it wasn't worth her keeping the house. I would like to see some numbers behind this and doubt entirely that the cost of tickets was the catalyst for selling.

This is such a terrible idea as so much of our housing stock is already owned by elderly who already get a tax discount. And it may sound harsh, but it would be better for family life in the city if elderly did not hold onto the houses they raised their kids in. It would be better if they downsized and sold to the next generation to raise children.

It would also make a huge difference if elderly housing actually meant elderly housing, not elderly being preyed on by drug addicts.

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In the sense that a high proportion of elderly find at some point that maintaining a single-family house by themselves becomes too much for them, and they move to a different living situation.

But this isn't a problem the Boston City Council created, and it's not one the Boston City Council can eradicate.

Mowing lawns, taking out trash, shoveling sidewalks, hiring roofers... there's a lot to do, and if it gets away from you it might be time to simplify.

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Adam, please delete!

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Is the presumption then that if said residents' front doors don't open directly onto the street, that they will be snowed in until the snow melts, because they can't clear the snow?

And that if said residents need emergency medical care, tough luck, because their front doors are inaccessible by snow?

Or is Councilor Jackson saying it's fine if said residents can afford to have someone clear the path to the street or to their cars, but don't have enough money to also clear the sidewalks abutting their property?

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Presuming they have any neighbors who are elderly and/or disabled, don't they need the sidewalk clear in order to safely go about their lives?

Generally one building without a clear sidewalk is enough to make an entire street's worth of shoveling useless...

I'm all for us as a society agreeing that the best way to do things is to come together and have one entity we jointly pay for do it for everyone (i.e., cities/taxes). But unless/until we do that, exempting groups here and there doesn't really solve much of anything.

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And disabled restaurant owners shouldn't have to provide handicapped access or toilets in their restaurants. And minorities should be legally allowed to discriminate in hiring against other minorities.

Call it the Tito Principle: if you are part of a protected group, you no longer have to respect laws or ordinances protecting other groups.

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If the city is going to exempt a segment of the population from shoveling, I think the city should provide someone to do it for them. How about students who are out of school because of these endless(and often unnecessary) snow days that are declared? Enterprising students could sign up to be on call for such a program should there be a snow day, and the city could pay them a few bucks. Sounds like a win-win to me.

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Double the fine for all the yuppies who don't shovel their sidewalks and cars, and for leaving junk mail and newspapers on their front steps.

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But will they be allowed to use space savers?

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This is political pandering. It may play well in the senior centers but it will actually make it more difficult for elderly and disabled persons (and all others, for that matter) who are trying to navigate the sidewalks. If you own property, there are certain responsibilities which go along with that. If you can't shovel, you need to hire someone to do it or make some other arrangement. In my neighborhood, the younger seniors have traditionally shoveled out the older seniors. Other neighbors have chipped in for a snow blower. Be creative, Cty Councilors - there are better ways of dealing with problems than causing worse problems. Moreover, the proposal that you can stop shoveling at 60 ignores the reality that most people that age are still quite active. What's next - if you are over 60, you are exempted from building code violations?

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Most older people can afford to pay someone to do the shoveling, so only poor seniors should be exempted, and the city needs to find a way to get it done for them.

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This only makes sense if the City agrees to shovel for all of these folks instead or provide a low-cost shoveling hot-line. And good luck with that....

I have a few questions:

How would this get enforced, so people who are younger and healthy don't get away without shoveling, too? Would the snow police knock on the door after slogging up an unshoveled walkway and demand to see the elderly homeowner? What if she's at zumba class or Foxwoods? Can she just leave a Lawrence Welk 8-track or bottle of Geritol on the porch as proof? (Do they still make that stuff?)

What age is "elderly"? My dad stopped mowing and shoveling at 95 but only because we made him. Whereas I feel quite elderly about shoveling at 55.

If an elderly or disabled person falls, hits his head, and dies on another elderly or disabled person's unshoveled sidewalk, how would the City justify that? Can it ever be fair and legal to exempt (I won't say "protect" since this plan creates a hazard for everyone) fragile homeowners at the expense of fragile pedestrians?

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What if an elderly person owns the house, but able-bodied sons/daughters/grandsons/granddaughters/freeloaders/etc. also live there?

Just wondering. It certainly is a slippery slope.

edit: And another question.....
Who decides who isn't able to shovel? I am seeing all sorts of fraud and political favors happening with this one.

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Does being elderly or disabled mean they cant pay a kid $20 to do it?

What an idiotic proposal. It only hurts the elderly and disabled the most when a single property blocks their ability to walk down an entire block

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than this proposal is the current law that requires abutters to maintain PUBLIC property they do not legally own or have the right to restrict use of.

THAT is what the City Council should be debating, not whether to give special exemptions to the law.

Other cities and towns manage to clear the PBLIC sidewalks themselves - it's time that Boston did the same. And, no, they don't need to increase everyone's taxes (which is the knee jerk reaction of everyone who defends the current system of extorting labor) to do so either.

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What towns around here clear all sidewalks, on residential side streets and not just commercial streets?

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I think midwest towns do sidewalks

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And quite wrong.

At least in the part of the midwest I grew up in, we accept that the sidewalks in front of our houses are the responsibility of the homeowner (as is trimming that wee bit of grass between the street and sidewalk in the summer) I can't say I ever witnessed the kind of whining there that people engage in here. It's kind of incredible, since Massachusetts is so much more pedestrian-aware, civic-minded, and less car-obsessed than my people are.

The city provides a sidewalk in front of your home, so that your neighbors can amble by freely to say hello, so that your mail carrier can, you know, carry your mail safely. The homeowner or responsible party can clear it. It's not unreasonable.

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Lol Midwest towns with sidewalks. Boy, you're in suburban territory there. Sidewalks are for people without cars, and the only people without cars in the great flyover are undesirables and poors

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They don' t have sidewalks in the country:)

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All NH towns, as it is required by law! A constitutional challenge found that forcing homeowners to clear their sidewalk was a "unfair tax".

"Q. Can we make abutters clear snow and ice from the sidewalk in front of their property?

A. No. Sidewalks on public roads must be maintained and repaired by the municipality at no additional cost to the abutters. State v. Jackman, 69 N.H. 318 (1898); RSA 231:113. Interestingly, an older statute (RSA 47:17, VII) says that municipalities may require abutters to clear snow and ice from the sidewalks in front of their buildings. However, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has held that, under the state constitution, abutters cannot be required to perform or pay for maintenance above the ordinary obligation of all citizens to pay taxes. State v. Jackman, 69 N.H. 318 (1898); see also Ritzman v. Kashulines, 126 N.H. 286 (1985); Rutkauskas v. Hodgins, 120 N.H. 788 (1980)"\

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Lexington, and I want to say either Burlington, Woburn or both, from what I've seen in my travels.

After that 1 to 2 inch slush storm after Christmas, I went running over by Oak Hill in Newton, 2 days after the stuff came down. I don't want to have to depend upon the city to clear the sidewalks. They don't clear as quick as they clear the streets, and I don't think they treat the sidewalks afterwards.

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Many, but not all streets in Cambridge are cleared by the city, but I'm sure it wouldn't work in Boston so we should just stick with what doesn't work.

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The only sidewalks cleared by Cambridge are in front of city property, or for seniors or people with disabilities (or possibly low-income people) who received a snow exemption.

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Technology/software allows civic participation without having to trudge over to Boston City Hall. Boston City Council could setup Hearings that engage via the Net.

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How bout allowing more time to remove the snow that way ppl are not pressed to get it done.
3 hours after dawn after a snowstorm? Come on, ppl have to go to work. 24 hrs would be a more sensible amount of time.

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But as you said yourself, people have to go to work.

Not everyone owns a car. Some people have to walk as part of their commute, and depend on having the sidewalks cleared.

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As a homeowner, I often wish I had more time to shovel. But you can't leave the sidewalk unshoveled all day, or you'll end up with kids walking in the street on the way to/from school.

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People have to go to work, exactly, how are they supposed to get to the T or bus or walk to work safely if you cant be bothered to shovel your sidewalk for 24 hours? Should the city wait 24 hours to plow the streets?

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MY sidewalk?

lol.

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Paying enough in taxes to cover the cost of the city clearing your sidewalk.

That's the alternative.

Uncleared sidewalks are not an alternative.

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The City properly allocates the amount in taxes we already pay to cover the cost of snow removal on the public sidewalks.

If they can provise a "new and improved" web page that's totally unnecessary, if they can float proposals to illunimate the exterior of City Hall at night, if they can send throngs of ISD folks out to ticket people who aren't gullible enough to be duped into maintainign property they don't own and have no legal control over the use of, then they can find a way to clear the PUBLIC sidewalks with their own forces.

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The City is full of rat bastards who are eager to drop a dime on property owners who haven't shoveled five minutes into a snowstorm.

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Your assignment: attempt to navigate your neighborhood in a wheelchair and get to the T to get to work after the next snowstorm.

Or you could just calculate out how much it costs our economy when people can't hold a job and have to be on disability because they can't reliably get around because they live amongst people too self-absorbed to live up to their responsibilities.

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I'm one of those rat bastards. Want to know why? Because I am sick of taking dixie's in front of my lazy ass fully abled neighbors houses as well as businesses. I don't report it 5 minutes after the storm - I report it after the allotted time.

And yes, we shovel ours down to the pavement and the full sidewalk to boot. We do this for any neighbor that is on vacation or is elderly. That is just common courteously.

I have never heard so many ppl b*tch about clearing snow out in front of their houses. WTH is that about? Is that a new thing? My neighbors won't even shovel out the ramps on the sidewalks. Have you walked down Centre street in W. Roxbury after a storm or even the next day and see the ramps by businesses? Not done nor are 1/2 the sidewalks. Think about being elderly or handicapped and trying to get around. But I guess that would mean thinking about someone other than yourself.

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Should the elderly/disabled be allowed to use space savers and vandalize vehicles that violate their marked claims?

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IMAGE(http://www.myparkingsign.com/img/md/K/ada-handicap-reserved-parking-sign-k-1449.png)

They aren't hard to get if you actually have mobility impairments.

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They aren't hard to get if you DON'T have a disability either.

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