Given the lack of snow this winter in Evanston, concerns about shoveling sidewalks have largely melted away — but a new plan next door in Chicago could revive interest in having the city take on sidewalk snow shoveling chores.

A group called Better Streets Chicago wants sidewalk snow and ice removal to become a municipal service.

And Block Club Chicago reports they’ve persuaded Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) to introduce in Chicago’s City Council Wednesday an ordinance to establish a pilot city-run sidewalk shoveling program.

As in Evanston, a Chicago ordinance currently requires building owners to clear sidewalks near their properties. But even with $500 fines, Villegas says, the plowing often doesn’t get done.

“Instead of trying to nickel-and-dime people, I think it’s best the city takes over this service,” he told Block Club.

Wilmette is among the communities that already have a sidewalk snow shoveling program. The village says it plows sidewalks near school zones on school days after a snowfall of two inches or more and all residential sidewalks after a four-inch snowfall.

In Rochester, New York, the city still requires property owners to remove snow, but provides what it describes as a “supplemental service” for 878 miles of sidewalks after a snowfall of four inches or more.

Rochester pays for its sidewalk snow plowing with what it calls “an embellishment fee” on property tax bills that’s based on a property’s street frontage.

Villegas says he’s gotten support for the pilot program from “more than 10” other alders on the 50-member Chicago City Council.

Uncleared sidewalks are seen as a special concern for older residents and persons with disabilities, making the service an equity issue, according to Better Streets Chicago activists.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Many other communities shovel/plow sidewalks in the business districts, schools, other high volume pedestrian areas. When I moved here I was shocked Evanston didn’t plow all the business area sidewalks. I honestly can’t believe of much money the city wastes and doesn’t do actual services that people pay taxes for. Wilmette also plows all the alleys in residential areas! That is mind blowing a community that actually helps its citizens rather than fining or ticketing them.

  2. It is worthwhile to have the discussion in the appropriate committees, IMO.

    Two main issues as I see it are:
    1. Cost. cost to the city vs the aggregation of all property owners doing it
    2. Enforcement. Just because the city takes on the responsibility for the work does not mean it will get done. If that happens then the city is not going to write itself a ticket to correct its behavior.

    The city does a good job of clearing the roads when it snows, which is a good sign. If they contract out sidewalk shoveling then there is the risk of lack of oversight. Also, Evanston’s big neighbor to the south occasionally deals with equity issues related to snow removal (

    Regarding cost, they would probably get quotes and decide if its worth it. If the contractor is not subject to a fair work week ordinance where they would need a 2-week lead time to schedule workers to shovel, then it would probably work well.

  3. “City expenses growing faster than revenue”…
    The headline from yesterday’s newsletter. Will our city leaders get it? When will all this nonsense stop? We cannot afford to adopt programs that we cannot pay for without burdening taxpayers more. We talk about making Evanston affordable and then we propose schemes like city-funded sidewalk shoveling.
    Snow removal has been and should remain the responsibility of the homeowner. In the “good old days,” some homeowners took it upon themselves to assist neighbors who needed help during storms. We plowed and pushed stuck cars out of alleys. We called it being neighborly. How about we all become a little more civic-minded, and, civil? Rather than designing another bureaucracy, let’s focus on the basics.

    1. There is some irony that Baby Boomers call Millennials snowflakes when the younger generation seems overly needy to their sensibilities. I believe that “in the olden days” people were expected to take care of their own property & not expect handouts. Seems like Boomers might like to bend those rules when they’re the recipient of the assistance. Snowflakes indeed.

  4. As a business owner in Chicago who has their sidewalks shoveled whenever it snows, IT IS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. They shovel it, they salt it. It’s the best. I haven’t shoveled or salted in front of my business in like 5 years. It’s the greatest thing Chicago has ever done outside of banning smoking in bars.

  5. Putting this article right next to the article “City expenses growing faster than revenue” made me smile and either through intent or chance points out the dilemma.

  6. I do thing the city should plow the sidewalk. It can get done faster. Get done early in the morning and not wait to stores open. If there is no store or close for the day. That part of sidewalk. Will not be shoveled. So places they don’t but salt on the side walk. It is hard to walk in it very early morning when you leave for work. Big stores and residential places.shovel fast. Small place and restaurants. Do it slower.

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