Toledo officials are properly cracking down on business owners who don’t clear snow and ice from sidewalks next to their stores. During one of the snowiest winters in the city’s history, such enforcement should have begun weeks ago.
Ten municipal inspectors are fanning out across the city this week to warn businesses about snow-covered sidewalks in the public right of way. An offending business gets a letter demanding that the sidewalk be cleared within 72 hours. If the business still fails to comply, the owner can be fined $75 for a nuisance violation of the city building code.
It is ridiculous that businesses that depend on public goodwill must be told to shovel their sidewalks. That the city did not start inspections and enforcement until mid-February — in a winter in which nearly 70 inches of snow already has fallen — is equally ludicrous.
The municipal code requires all property owners, residential and commercial, to clear public sidewalks within 24 hours after a storm ends. It has been a brutal winter, to be sure, but we all owe it to our neighbors to do our part.
It’s about showing consideration for those around you: users of public transportation; dog walkers; disabled people who need cleared areas to navigate with wheelchairs, walkers, or canes, and schoolchildren walking to or from the bus stop. These folks are often forced to walk in the street — an unfair and extremely dangerous proposition.
It is particularly unacceptable for business owners to neglect snow removal. Many of these merchants pay to have their parking lots plowed, but not their sidewalks. Such services are available; they just might cost more. But they are an imperative cost of doing business.
Some Toledoans whine about the city’s audacity in threatening to cite owners of businesses and homes while it has not plowed every street to their satisfaction. That excuse for personal irresponsibility does not fly.
“The city definitely needs to do a good job as well,” Lisa Ward, spokesman for Mayor D. Michael Collins, told The Blade’s editorial page. But keeping sidewalks clear in front of homes and business is a necessary courtesy, not contingent on how well the city clears streets.
It is appropriate that the city go after those businesses — albeit embarrassingly late — that ignore their responsibilities as corporate citizens. If there is not a prompt, marked improvement in snow removal, the city may need to go beyond warnings and token fines.