Q & A: Sidewalk snow removal

I am happy that our city sidewalk have never been cleaner.  There have been a number or questions on Rochester sidewalk snow removal policies.  I have kids that may walk in a couple of years to school, seniors in my neighborhoods, and I represent at least 2 legally blind men how need sidewalks for mobility.  I will protect their safety even if it is unpopular.

Here are a few questions and if you send me more I will answer them here:

Q:  Why do you want to stick it to us?

I don’t want to stick it to you.  I want property owners to be responsible and clear sidewalks.  Zero fines is my desired outcome.

Q:  Why did you change the policy?

We have not changed the policy, but are now taking steps to enforce the policy we already had.

Q:  Why do we need shovel sidewalks?

In Minnesota 40% of our population does not drive.  That includes children, seniors, poor, and disabled.  Where is driving is a privilege, I feel that walking is a right.  Any amount of snow and ice presents a slipping hazard, particularly to seniors.  Poorly cleared sidewalks forces some to stay inside their home.  I have also seen children walk through into the street to avoid unshoveled sidewalks.

Q:  Why only 24 hours?

We are providing a minimum of a full day after a snowstorm.  In practice it will often be longer.  This is sufficient time particularly considering many commute or exercies by walking every day.

Q:  Why are the fines so high?  The city must be making a bunch of money off this.

We advertised for bids and got many responses for snow removal.  We selected the lowest bidder and pass those prenegotiated rates on.  We also charge an administrative fine on which likely does not cover the city’s cost.  We may be losing money on this initiative, but we do it for safety.

Q:  Is this just busy work for the city?

No, in most areas this is complaint driven.  If there is no complaint there is no visit or fine.

Q:  What about those that can’t shovel in 24 hours?

They should make arrangements to have it done.  Property ownership is a responsibility.

Q:  What about those that can’t shovel, don’t have a willing friend, and afford to hire someone.

Property ownership comes with responsibility.  People choose whether or not to own property.  By choosing to own property in Rochester you are obligated to meet you responsibilities.

Q:  What about Seniors?

This policy is written to promote active living and protect senior mobility.  Property ownership comes with responsibility.

Q:  What if I am gone?

Talk to a friend or neighbor.  Property ownership comes with responsibility.

Q:  What if I have a vindictive neighbor?

They may be vindictive but you won’t ever get a fine if you meet your responsibility.  Property ownership comes with responsibility.

Q:  Aren’t these fines are regressive towards property value?

Yes and no, state law would require us to be consistent in application, we can’t charge the wealth more.  However more expensive properties often have more frontage and thus higher fines.

Q:  Some city trails aren’t cleared, are you a hypocrite?

Yes we are.  We do clear most of the heavy ped use trails.  I am in favor of directing staff to clear all trails withing 24 hours of the end of a snow event.  Minneapolis and St. Paul do this.  When I have 3 more votes it will happen.  I realize that this will come with a cost.

You can find what trails we do and do not clear here.



  1. What do you mean (in your last answer) that you need three more votes. I’ll give you my vote RIGHT now, if that will decrease it to two… and I’ll get the other two by tonight if that is all it takes.
    Thank you for being such a responsible representative to all of us… pedestrian, car rider, bike rider or the like. As you said so often, but needs to be reinforced AT EVERY TURN…
    Property ownership comes with responsibility! (Well said!)

  2. So you need 3 other “council members” to vote along with you? How can an ordinary citizen such as myself help to ‘convince’ three (and maybe all) other council members?
    Tish Torchia

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