COLUMBIA, 1/5/12  (Beat Byte) -- City Hall owns all the sidewalks, so why won't City Hall take care of them?  That's the question new, "more punitive" sidewalk snow-plowing laws aimed at central Columbia residents and business owners have recently raised. 

Columbia's "snow removal laws (current and proposed) are crazy," says Mizzou philosophy professor Peter Vallentyne, who has shared his thoughts with the Columbia City Council.  "Either the city should do it, or people should be free to leave it un-shoveled." 

Vallentyne's thinking is mirrored in many cities around the U.S. and Canada.  Areas that get heavy snow also get heavy protection from City Hall -- none of this hand-wringing over which streets will be plowed first, and who gets to do the sidewalks.

Turns out, plowing sidewalks isn't difficult if you have the right commercial-grade equipment.  Specially-sized, city-owned sidewalk snow plows work across the country, so many in fact that a thriving second-hand market exists for cities short on cash (which Columbia always claims to be, to set more money aside for big developer friends, of course).

In Bloomington, Minn., for instance, "park maintenance is responsible for snow removal on over 250 miles of sidewalks throughout the city," the city's website explains"We have five sidewalk snow removal units.  Removal from a snowfall of 3-5 inches takes approximately four days to complete.  Walks are prioritized into three groups.  

First priority:  School walking areas, heavily used wheelchair accessible areas and high use areas by main roads.
Second priority:  Walks expanding out from the school and along major roads.
Third priority:  Residential and industrial areas.

"If snow falls over a long time period, the City may repeatedly return to priority one areas before clearing lesser-used areas."

In other words, the city takes care of snow plowing the sidewalks it owns. 

And for good reason.  For citizens constantly asked to pay higher taxes, "it can be enormous burden (physical or financial)," Vallentyne explained.  "The overall cost of forced snow removal by citizens is much less than the benefits.  If it is worth clearing the snow, then it is worth having the city do it, even if it involves higher taxes." 

(From NH to Minn.  Some complete with heavy metal sound tracks)