Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Ordinance to Fine People Who Don't Shovel Sidewalks Fails to Pass Again

a snow-covered sidewalk with footprints marking how many people have struggled to walk along the path
Scott Willis

Another attempt to fine Syracuse property owners who don’t clear the snow from their sidewalks has failed in the Common Council.  The vote was 7 to 2 against beefing up a snow removal ordinance to include a warning, followed by a $50 fine for those who don’t comply.  

The measure would have applied only to primary routes and those near schools, and might have included some discretion for the elderly or those with disabilities.  Councilor Bob Dougherty understands the concern, and had hoped to work with community and school groups to arrange volunteers to help:

"If you exempted the elderly in the city of Syracuse, you'd be down to not that many properties left that have to be cleared. When you start exempting anybody, the whole thing goes out the window. The idea is that you clear all the sidewalks because if I have to walk in the street for one house, I might as well stay in the street, and that's what kids do today."

Dougherty said the biggest challenge behind the ordinance was communication, to ensure people and businesses along major thoroughfares throughout the city were aware and compliant with the new rules. They even toyed with the idea of requiring only businesses to clear the walkways: 


The defeat of the ordinance is the second for Councilman Bob Dougherty, who had championed this and a tougher,  previous version.  The vote comes as news spread that he won’t seek re-election to the third district when his term expires at the end of next year.  

Dougherty says he’s slowly been telling Democratic Party leaders and others about his plans.  The retired county probation officer and administrator he says it’s more time-consuming than he thought, and he's ready to have time to devote to family instead of politics:

"I've found this political stuff pretty frustrating, and [the shoveling ordinance] is a prime example. I think there are some common sense things that we should be doing... I really think we could be more cooperative and less adversarial. I'll have words to the wise for the person who takes my place. "

Dougherty was first elected in 2011 to the seat formerly held by Ryan McMahon, who successfully ran for County Legislature.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at
Hannah vividly remembers pulling up in the driveway with her mom as a child and sitting in the car as it idled with the radio on, listening to Ira Glass finish his thought on This American Life. When he reached a transition, it was a wild race out of the car and into the house to flip on the story again and keep listening. Hannah’s love of radio reporting has stuck with her ever since.