COLUMBIA, 1/3/12  (Op Ed) -- Two sets of rules -- one for Central Columbia residents and another for Everyone Else -- have cropped up in a new proposal for sidewalk snow removal.

Senior city management is pushing a "sidewalk snow clearance priority area" in the central city only, bounded by Interstate 70 to the north, Stadium Boulevard to the south and west, and Old 63 to the east, but excluding University of Missouri properties.  The boundaries include the Old Southwest, North Central, the Grasslands, downtown, and many of Columbia's older neighborhoods. 

Called "more punitive" than the existing ordinance, central city property owners will have 48 hours to clear sidewalks after 2 inches of snow accumulate.  If a property owner does not comply, the city will clear the sidewalk -- and bill the owner.   Just what low-income housing residents need, eh?

City planner Rachel Bacon -- who steered a citizen commission involved in the proposal -- said the recommendations will probably go to the City Council at its Jan. 17 meeting.   No mention in the rules why areas outside this central city "priority region" are not included, other than the vague notion that central city residents "use sidewalks more" than residents in other parts of town.
This is more bad legislation from the folks who brought Garagezilla and her wonderful LIGHTS! to the central city; are dragging their feet mightily about making basic central city storm water repairs that are nearly 50 years past due; are happy to let central city, City Hall-owned historic monuments like the Blind Boone Home and Heibel-March Store sit and rot;  and cannot seem to get a solid grasp on a drive-by crime problem largely driven by slum housing.

Which of course raises the question:   What exactly are you strolling past on your cleared sidewalks when you walk by the decrepit Heibel-March building or dodge a bullet from a vehicle racing past a drug house?   For those seeking answers, the implications seem to be that City Hall is seeking to make life harder and harder on central city residents and small business owners, presumably in the beginnings of a push to redevelop the area.  
IF the city is going to enforce a long-dormant sidewalk-clearing ordinance, it should enforce the law EQUALLY, in all parts of the city.  Central city residents have been particularly beleaguered of late, fighting everything from gerrymandering to TIF districts pushing blight declarations to eminent domain threats by the bunch who can always find an extra $20 million here or $30 million there to buy overpriced park land or build more admin offices.  

It's time for the heavy thumb of City Hall and its developer puppeteers to get off the backs of central city residents and property owners.  We know they want our land, and we know they want it cheap.  We should not make it this easy. 

[Ed. Note:  This writer lives in and owns property in the affected, central city regions.]