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Letter: Why don’t municipalities clear snow from sidewalks

Why don’t municipalities clear snow from sidewalks

Like clockwork every year, I read an article about people not shoveling sidewalks. And every time the same question comes into my mind: Exactly where does a municipality like say, Amherst, get the power to order a private citizen out of his home to perform manual labor on government property with the threat of a fine? To me, this resembles a form of governmental servitude or conscription.

Just about every sidewalk that parallels a road is inside the right of way, which means it’s owned by a government entity i.e., county, town, state. You cannot perform any kind of work inside that right of way without a permit except, apparently, snow shoveling. If municipalities do have this power, then can’t they order you to also clear a paved shoulder, curb, gutter, storm drain, fire hydrant, mailbox or a bus stop adjacent to your property?

Really? Just because it’s a town ordinance doesn’t mean it would withstand a constitutional challenge in court.

Now I’m not saying that it isn’t a noble gesture to clear a sidewalk. I’m in my 70s and live on a five-lane road where the sidewalks get creamed by the road plows, but I make a path regularly because I can. But some people can’t do it.

What I would really like is for some knowledgeable person who is well-versed in constitutional law or the Bill of Rights or civil rights or whatever to write in and explain to me how a town has this power over us. Does anybody know?

George Knab


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