I’ve been asked by several constituents about my lone vote against residential sidewalk clearing last Monday evening…
I support the city clearing arterial road sidewalks, bus stops, central business district sidewalks and public facilities. However, I believe residential side streets should be eliminated from the 2010 budget (not this year). I also support an assistance program for residents who are not physically able to clear sidewalks.
My reasons for supporting the discontinuation of residential sidewalk clearing are as follows:
1. The quality of sidewalk clearing is not adequate to make the sidewalks walkable. The current ploughs leave a compacted layer of snow and ice, which is more dangerous to walk on than a sidewalk that has been cleared by residents with a snow shovel or snow blower. If our goal is to keep our city walkable, we need residents to play a role. Last year, most pedestrians (including mail carriers and school children) walked on the road, because the sidewalks were not walkable.
2. Sidewalk ploughs currently dispatched to clear residential streets are not able to meet the established turnaround time for clearing snow. These same ploughs can be reassigned to clear arterial roads and bus stops faster.
3. Phase 2 of the Sidewalk Winter Control report will examine new and improved ways to increase the quality of residential sidewalk clearing, ie. using snow blowers vs. mechanical ploughs. The report states that the use of snow blowers takes a lot more time and resources = the cost will go up dramatically!
4. 50% of residents surveyed (as part of the service review process) indicated they would be willing to clear their own sidewalks, which means we, as a community, can really make a difference.
5. We are one of three municipalities left in Ontario that still clear residential side streets. We need to ask ourselves, as we move forward as a growing municipality, if this is a service that is worth continuing, given rising fuel prices and increased development. Are we creating an expectation that we will deliver a service that is not sustainable?
In the end, I respect the democratic process and the collective voice of Council. The vote passed 11-1 to continue residential sidewalk clearing and therefore, I respect the decision of Council. We will now move forward with Phase 2 of the service review — to find efficiencies and improvements in delivery of the service.