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City Lax on Sidewalk Snow Removal

Longtime Georgetown resident Ed Emes is pleading with neighbors to remove ice from their sidewalks as new snow falls and creates compound dangers. "Through the past two snow storms," Emes wrote on the Georgetown Forum, "the three-block south side of Prospect St. from Potomac to 34th (with few exceptions), has been a linear mess of unshoveled slippery snow and treacherous blue ice on brick." "With the impending storm Friday-Saturday, snow will hide ice underneath and people will be badly hurt along this dangerous walk," Emes wrote. "Common decency, in lieu of an injury suit, would dictate that the sidewalks be clear." It turns out, D.C.'s arcane laws on the subject are part of the problem. According to Charles Allen, Chief of Staff to D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells (Ward 6), current law requires that snow be removed from sidewalks eight daylight hours after the snow stops falling, but the enforcement mechanism is filing suit against violators. As a consequence, the City has simply failed to use this burdensome, if not extreme, mechanism to enforce the law. Wells and Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3) are proposing that the city drop the lawsuit remedy and instead impose a fine: $25 for residents and $250 for businesses who don't clear the sidewalks after a storm. But the legislation seems to have been -- forgive us -- buried under a blizzard of bureaucracy. The bill hasn't even had a hearing yet, unlike emergency legislation regarding snow removal from cars that sailed through the Council in December. Citizens can help move D.C. Council Bill 18-596, called "The Winter Sidewalk Safety Amendment Act of 2009" by contacting Councilmember Jim Graham, Chairman of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, at 202.724.8181 or Photo by John Weiss