a Chicago tax: Don't Shovel and Get a Ticket (Plus, a Q& A with Ald. Tom Tunney)

Ald. Tom Tunney is proposing the revival of an ordinance which allows the city, namely the Dept. of Streets and Sanitation, to give tickets to people that don’t shovel or clear the sidewalks by their property and I agree with him 100%.

But, will the enforcement of this ordinance be city-wide or just in neighborhoods with high property tax values and where the city thinks people will pay these tickets? And, how will Streets and Sans be able to write tickets for this when most of their manpower is being used to clear streets with their plows, especially with their high worker absentee rate?

Also, what will constitute someone getting a ticket? Will the tickets be given out using a measuring stick to determine how high snow is on sidewalks? Will property owners with more acreage be fined the same amount as people with smaller lots? Will this ordinance be enforced 24/7 or only during certain hours? And, will this ordinance be basically a ‘Chicago tax’ where Chicagoans are better off paying the ticket than losing a day’s pay to fight the ticket?

I suggest Ald. Tunney and the rest of the city council fine-tune the ordinance, which is already on the books, before Chicagoans are fleeced out of more money to make up for the horrible economic state our city was left in by former mayor Daley and our alderman. And, I wonder if this shoveling ordinance will lead to “DIBS” permits as well?


Q&A with Ald. Tom Tunney


  • What about the elderly, disabled, and injured people that can’t get out to shovel? And, can’t afford to pay people to shovel their sidewalks. Will each ward provide Streets and San people or volunteers to shovel for them? 
  • Tom Tunney “‎I cannot speak for all wards, but yes, our streets and sanitation crews and our office make it out to clear sidewalks for special requests. Uncleared ice and snow present a safety hazard for all, especially the elderly, disabled and injured.”


  • Sounds good, in theory, although isn’t this process similar to the red light cameras? I worry though about a situation in which a homeowner leaves on a 10-day cruise, it snows the day they leave, and then they’re ticketed. Are you suggesting snow removal is now going to become a basic tenet of home ownership in Chicago? If a large tree branch breaks during a thunderstorm and falls onto the sidewalk, what’s the current law–are homeowners responsible for clearing it, or is there a city service available to assist the homeowner? Will you send out an e-ticket the day after it happens?
  • Tom Tunney“As my statement says, property managers and owners already are responsible by city ordinance to remove snow and ice from the sidewalks. Tickets would not be issued on the same day. People would have ample time and warning to shovel before a ticket would be issued. Repeat offenders (people who do not shovel all year long) would be identified and ticketed. As for trees, trees that are city property are maintained by city crews.”


  • So, then, sidewalks are the property of homeowners? 
  • Tom Tunney‎”No, but ordinance 10-8-180 requires all buildings abutting the public way (sidewalks) to clear them of ice and snow.”


  • Who will be giving out the tickets?
  •  Tom Tunney‎”The ticket is issued by Streets and Sanitation, not by Revenue or any other agency. Streets and Sanitation always had this ability to ticket property owners and managers.”


  • How will the tickets be given out? By a set number of inches? And, if so, how many inches? Will the inches be measured in each ward or determined by a city average? It seems some wards closer to the lake get more snow and some get less away from the lake.  Also, will there be city wide enforcement of the ordinance? Or, will these tickets be determined by property value and who can afford to pay these tickets as opposed to not meting them out in poor neighborhoods where collection of ticket monies isn’t a possiblity?
  • Tom Tunney“‎The ordinance has already been in place for decades and has only been sporadically enforced. My proposal for electronic ticketing is a response to a common complaint I get from 44th Ward neighbors each year about unsafe and slippery sidewalks that never get shoveled. There are no inch or property requirements, just the fact that all sidewalks must be cleared of snow and ice in a timely manner”


  • If I was a homeowner, I think I should only be responsible for the property I own. What the guy next door does to the sidewalk…I don’t care. But me, personally, given our sporadic and unpredictable snow storms, I’d rather people step around on the (cleared) street than have the responsibility fall on me to keep someone else’s (the City of Chicago) property clear.
  • Tom Tunney “The public way is just that, owned by the public. The ordinance is written the way it is and we all have a responsibility to keep our sidewalks clear and safe, especially in a time of budget crisis.”


  •  I hope this applies to owners of vacant lots as well.
  • Tom Tunney ‎”The law on the books applies to every owner of property.”


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  • " ... a basic tenant of home ownership ... " 'Tenet' perhaps?

    However, I believe it's up to the public purse to pay for clearance of public areas, if required. If individuals are forced to clear public paths then they should also have the right to charge for others to use them, reducing the public ownership tenet.

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    Yes, just what we need more government interference in our lives.
    The government is the enemy of the people.

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