People can be persuaded to clean up snowy sidewalks without government intervention.
Following in the footsteps of Champaign, the city of Urbana is laying the groundwork for a snow-removal ordinance that would compel property owners in two areas of the city to clear their sidewalks after a storm.
Mayor Laurel Prussing has been pushing for a snow-removal ordinance for a couple of years, and it's only a matter of time before she gets something closely resembling her way. Whatever Laurel wants, Laurel gets.
Still, we'd prefer another approach, one that relies more on cooperation than compulsion. And Prussing is the ideal public official to lead the charge.
Instead of ordering snow removal and punishing those who don't comply, how about using the bully pulpit of the mayor's office to urge everyone — not just those living in specially designated areas — to clean their walks themselves or hire it done?
Under the mayor's plan, which she put together working with a committee, the city would require property owners in the downtown business and university districts to clear a 4-foot path within 24 hours of a 2-inch snowfall. That is pretty similar to the snow-removal ordinance that the city of Champaign passed a couple of years ago.
There is no doubt that accumulated snow on public sidewalks can be a serious obstacle to pedestrians, no matter if the sidewalks are in the university district or a nearby neighborhood.
That's why everyone has a public obligation to clear their sidewalks. It's not just good citizenship but common sense.
Indeed, those who don't clear their sidewalks could find themselves being warned by the post office that they won't get their mail until they do.
But upping the ante to the point of penalizing people for noncompliance is distasteful, especially considering that there could be innocent explanations for noncompliance.
Urbana has survived rather well for many decades without a snow-removal requirement. Does the city really need one now? No.