Over the past few years a familiar cry has been "Take Back My Neighborhood". Against crime. Against litter. How about against snowstorms?
Everyone from the Mayor down agree digging out of the blizzard of 2010 caused the people of our city a lot of pain, suffering, inconvenience, frustration, anger, disgust and many more hurts. The first plan did not work. The second plan worked a little better. Lessons were learned along the way. And unless we have short memories and "go back to the old ways" there are promises of a fresh start in the form of a task force that will critique the crisis plans and recommend new ones.
My purpose is to make recommendations about one part of the problem. The sidewalks. I'll let others deal with the type and quantity of equipment that's needed to clean primary, second and third-class streets in an old, hilly city with narrow streets, vehicles parked on both sides of the street and a shortage of off-street parking. (We're not the suburbs, you know). I'll let others work out the media messages that plead with the public to stay off the roads so the city can clean them. To walk instead of drive. To take public transportation. But hey, walking is great if you can, but you can't.
Take me. I live on Ellsworth Ave. in Shadyside. Walnut Street is two blocks south. Giant Eagle, Shadyside Hospital and places to eat are two blocks north. Everything I need in an emergency is within easy reach. One problem. Forget the roads being treacherous. The sidewalks are even more treacherous. On February 11, I tried walking to Walnut Street. Except for a half dozen buildings with multiple dwellings sidewalks were not cleaned. I walked one block to the right. Two blocks to the left. One block to the right. Finally I reached my destination. On the trip I walked on clean sidewalks, ice-covered sidewalks. Snow covered sidewalks. Impassable drifts. In the middle of three streets and up a plowed alley.
We need a plan to get the sidewalks clean so should Public Works stumble cleaning the streets, our citizens are able to get out of their homes and walk to destination places. Let's drop the threats that property owners will be fined if sidewalks are not cleaned 24 hours after a storm. That's okay if you're going to punish the mayor and everyone in Public Works if they don't have the streets cleaned 24 hours after a storm. Let's forget the idle threats. Instead let's think out of the box and come up with solutions.
Many laughed six years ago when Citizens Against Litter came up with the bright idea to turn to citizens in all 90 neighborhoods and give them responsibility to recruit volunteers to pick up everyday litter. We now have Redd Ups twice a year with 10,000 volunteers--school kids, college kids, young people, old people. We do this for pennies. I believe it is possible to keep sidewalks cleaner in crisis if such a plan as city government support and cooperation and cooperation of the media.
I propose something similar to Citizens Against Litter. I propose "Citizens Against Snowstorms: Take Back Our Sidewalks".
The definition of crisis is: a crucial point or situation in the course of anything. Therefore, when schools and businesses are closed thousands of people join a pool of available resources for crisis duty for sidewalk shoveling.
Consider legislation to specifically deal with sidewalk cleaning and maintenance during snowstorms.
Recruit an army of volunteer shovelers in the city who would be paid by property owners to clean their sidewalks. A payment schedule would be recommended.
Create a network of neighborhood Clean Sidewalk Stewards to recruit, organize and direct volunteers for their neighborhood sidewalk clean ups.
Tap into these and other crisis situation resources: public schools, colleges, unemployment offices, social networking organizations, service groups.
Investigate federal and state funded emergency programs to recruit shovelers.
Redirect parking meter maids during the crisis to visit neighborhood businesses to remind them to clean their sidewalks.
Appeal to print, radio and TV executives to engage in a media blitz appealing to the public to clean their sidewalks and volunteer as crisis shovelers.
Appeal to media to balance dissemination of snowstorm news and information between weather forecasts, negative road condition reports with positive action the public can take to clean sidewalks.
-- Boris Weinstein
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