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Baltimore council members criticize city's plan to issue fines during snow clean-up

Several members of the Baltimore City Council on Tuesday criticized the Rawlings-Blake administration's plan to begin giving citations to businesses and some homeowners who have not shoveled their sidewalks during the record storm.

Baltimore will begin enforcing the sidewalk-clearing ordinance, charging $50 to homeowners and $100 to businesses owners who leave their areas unshoveled, Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano said Tuesday. Those citations will be distributed beginning in the higher-traffic, commercial areas of downtown, where walking in the street is dangerous, he said.

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But council members argued the city has already created much frustration by failing to plow many streets, and fining residents could spur more anger.

"One request I have of the administration is not to give citations to anyone who has snow on the sidewalk," City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young said Tuesday during the council meeting. "I'm hoping we will not cite our citizens during this horrendous blizzard because there's no place to put the snow. ... I'm asking that no citizens be cited for snow on the sidewalk."

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Councilman Bill Henry said he agreed with Young, but wanted to see business owners cited.

He noted that some residents have been "trapped in their homes" for as many as four days.

"The city has not come by to plow their streets," Henry said. "The last thing we need is for them to get citations ... the plows come back and throw the snow up on the sidewalks they have already shoveled."

That said, Henry argued, some business owners aren't doing their jobs shoveling.

"If we don't threaten them, they will wait for the snow to melt," he said.

Howard Libit, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said the administration does not plan to target residents who live on low-traffic streets. But, he said, sidewalks that haven't been shoveled in high-traffic areas can force pedestrians into the road, creating a safety concern.

Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this article.

Twitter.com/lukebroadwater

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