Alderman: Ticket snowy sidewalks via smart phone

October 27, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The 44th Ward alderman made the recommendation after the Department of Streets and Sanitation demonstrated mobile electronic ticketing. The Blackberry technology could be used to expose Chicagoans who neglect to shovel their snow-covered sidewalks this winter. There would be warnings followed by a ticket.

"I understand that we're broke and trying to get revenue, but I feel like the... new mayor is taxing us on top of taxes," said Chicagoan Karen Castleberry.

Tunney says that by law, homeowners and businesses are required to shovel the sidewalks in front of their property in a timely manner but that the ordinance is usually not enforced.

"We're not changing the law, just the tools out there to identify the property owners and the violation have changed immensely," said Tunney.

The alderman suggests that the law can be enforced by using a smartphone.

"I have the capability now in my hand to be able to take a picture of the violation and be able to identify who the property owner is and electronically send them a violation notice," said Tunney.

Tunney stressed tickets would not be issued on the same day. People would be warned, and tickets would be reserved for repeat offenders.

"We'll send a warning, we'll send a second warning, but ultimately, if there's going to be a behavioral change, ultimately they're going to have to be issued a ticket," said Tunney.

"It will teach you to clean your sidewalks, if that's what you have to do," said Chicagoan Jodi Mereish.

On Wednesday, the state senate approved using red light cameras to catch speeders around Chicago schools and parks.

"This is really trying to [improve] Chicago pedestrian safety, bike safety, personal responsibility and community building," said Tunney.

"Every day on the news it's a new tax - today it's snow, tomorrow it's gonna be grass, next week, it's gonna be our children. We're paying taxes on top of taxes but what services are we getting?" said Karen Castleberry.

Other revenue-generating ideas have been floated recently, including Ald. Richard Mell suggesting that the city license bicycle riders.

Alderman Tunney said he believes the smartphone snow ticketing technology can be used to foster greater responsibility in property owners and managers.

He added that if a homeowner or renter is unable to shovel snow from their sidewalks because of a disability, sickness or because of their age, it's time the community step up and find someone to do the job.

He says what residents need to is meet each other and look out for one another just like they used to do.

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