Monthly Archive for September, 2004

Opponents Claim Victory after the Council Buys Into their Misinformation

Letter: Cheers to councilors for defeating snow-shoveling ordinance
Friday, September 24, 2004
The Watertown Tab

The Watertown Citizens of Common Sense Government applaud the good judgment of the Town Council for rejecting a proposed snow-shoveling ordinance.
Councilor Mark Sideris worked long and hard to fashion a compromise that mitigated the fines, provided exemptions and one-year sunset provision. Ultimately those amendments were not enough to countermand the costly unintentional consequences. Nonetheless, Watertown was well served by his effort.
Councilor Fred Pugliese gets our “Parliamentarian Award.” When Mr. Portz moved the question, there was no second. Mr. Pugliese realized that if there was no vote, this nonsense could be re-introduced. He alertly provided a second in order to kill the measure for at least six months.
Councilors Bailey and Falkoff had a “Damascus Road” experience. After listening to our presentations, they expressed concerns about how this ordinance could affect homeowners' insurance rates. They ultimately changed their position and voted nay.
We admire the open-minded manner with which they deliberated this measure.
Councilor Devaney gets a “thumbs up.” She had suggested common-sense ways of encouraging residents to shovel their sidewalks as well as those of their elderly and handicapped neighbors.
Councilor Falkoff gets additional kudos. She suggested the School Committee look into ways of involving our youth. This proposal is most intriguing. Involving our youth would serve two purposes. It provides help for those in need while cultivating good citizenship habits in our youth. This is exactly the kind of creative, non-intrusive, common-sense approach we whole-heartedly embrace.
However, there is one councilor with whom we remain thoroughly unimpressed. Despite our presentation and the town attorney's concurrence, Councilor John Portz insisted on voting yea on this intrusive attempt to micro-manage good citizenship.
We cannot help but conclude that Councilor Portz could care less about our insurance premiums. He showed no concern about the unrealistic burdens this would place on homeowners. The man who fancies himself as a guardian of civil rights (when it comes to the Patriot Act) did not care that the ordinance amounted to involuntary servitude at no wages for some homeowners.
Councilor Portz, when Uncle Sam drafted citizens, he had the decency to pay them for their service!
The WCCSG will continue to research issues, agendas and special interest groups. We will also monitor the way councilors deliberate and vote. We will give praise when it's due, but we will not shrink from informing the mainstream when councilors fail them.
John DiMascio
Watertown Citizens For Common Sense Government

Snow Shoveling Editorial

Editorial: Shovel anyway
Friday, September 24, 2004
The Watertown Tab

Last week, the Town Council voted down an ordinance that would have required homeowners to remove snow from the walkways in front of their homes within 12 hours of snowfall. Amid fears that the measure would raise homeowners' insurance premiums and prove an unfair burden to some who are too old or frail to do the job themselves, all but one councilor decided the ordinance would be too burdensome and shot it down.
The ordinance, if passed, may have turned out to have been impractical and unenforceable. But the idea behind it – that everyone has a responsibility to the public good – is important to keep in mind this winter, law or no law.
You may not be legally obligated to shovel in front of your property, but your right to leave the snow where it is impedes on pedestrians' rights to walk safely down the street out of the way of traffic. It's unrealistic that the town remove snow from all the sidewalks; after a heavy storm, they work through the night just clearing the roads, and probably wouldn't get to the sidewalks within 12 hours anyway. And even if they could, it would only cost residents' more tax dollars or lost services somewhere else.
Councilors, while rejecting the measure, recognized that snow removal can be a problem, and offered some good suggestions for encouraging, if not requiring, sidewalk shoveling. For example, Councilor Susan Falkoff suggesting finding a way to involve teens as a community service project, and Councilor Marilyn Petitto Devaney added that the Council should send out notices to residents urging them to pick up their shovels this winter.
If you're able-bodied, please clear the snow from your sidewalks in a timely manner. Neighbors, postal workers and delivery people all will thank you. If you're not able-bodied, call friends, family or neighbors and ask them to help, or call your town councilor for assistance.
Winter is hard enough. A little public spirit can make it a lot easier for everyone.

Ordinance Defeated

S'no go with ordinance
By Monica Deady/ Staff Writer
Friday, September 17, 2004
The Watertown Tab

A proposed snow ordinance that would require residents to shovel their walks or face fines was not approved by the Town Council Wednesday night after staunch public opposition, as well as the council's questioning of liability of residents and the town for injuries on an unshoveled walkway.
The ordinance was voted down, 8-1, with only the chairman of the committee who wrote it, Town Councilor John Portz, voting in favor of it.
The proposed ordinance would have required the police to give tickets to residents who, 12 hours after the cessation of a snowfall, had not shoveled their sidewalks, much like the law that is in place for business owners.
It had stipulations for people who had snow from snowplows forced onto their sidewalks, and did not force elderly or handicapped people to shovel.
Several residents spoke, all in opposition, questioning the liability, rising insurance costs and the reason for the ordinance in the first place. Others feared residents would shovel and suffer injury or heart attacks in doing so.
Instead of the snow ordinance, the town will spread a message of courtesy and urge people to be helpful to each other while shoveling.
Town Councilor Marilyn Devaney suggested that the town add a sentence to its communication about snow and the winter parking ban asking people to shovel as best as they can and to help their neighbors.
Monica Deady can be reached at

Opposing the Snow Shoveling Ordinance

Letter: Shoveling ordinance would snow homeowners with suits
Friday, September 3, 2004
The Watertown Tab

On Sept. 15 our Town Council will revisit a measure that would hold private property owners responsible for what happens on public property. I am referring to the proposed snow-shoveling ordinance.
The Watertown Citizens for Common Sense Government recognize this question boils down to a classic tension between individual freedom and public safety. Therefore, it requires compromise, balance and unassailable safeguards for homeowners. After all, we are not facing a crisis that demands draconian measures.
Among other problems, this ordinance is a trial lawyers dream. Any language that requires private persons to clear public sidewalks could shift additional liability onto homeowners. Anyone injured could bolster his or her case by claiming a homeowner violated a town ordinance. Further, the attorneys we've spoken with agree; the odds of a private citizens being successfully sued are arguably increased by such a measure.
This could have an immediate financial impact on every resident. Property owners would be forced to purchase the appropriate insurance. Assuming such coverage were available, the premiums will increase. Those costs would eventually be passed on to tenants.
Therefore, we call upon the Town Council to deliberate this matter further. Expert testimony from underwriters and attorneys specialized in indemnity must be sought. The end result should be a compromise that makes it unequivocally clear that the responsibility for the safety of pedestrians on public sidewalks remains with the Town.
We believe the only solution is a measure encouraging property owners to help shovel and sand the Town's sidewalks. Any language containing a requirement will inevitably lead us into the murky waters of convoluted liability and into the dark hole of endless litigation. Nonetheless, we are willing to hear other proposals, so long as they include guaranties that no private person would have to assume any additional liability.
We encourage the residents to call their councilors and ask them to craft a measure that makes common sense for everyone. We need a resolution or ordinance that addresses public safety and at the same time explicitly protects homeowners from legal action.
We also challenge councilors and organizations purporting to defend our “civil liberties” to join the fight and protect the rights of law-abiding homeowners.
Finally we urge residents; attend the Council meeting on Sept. 15. Decisions are made by those that show up!
John DiMascio
Watertown Citizens For Common Sense Government

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