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Snow Gates – An Unnecessary Mandate

I am fascinated at the logic being used to force the mandatory use of snow gates for the April 8 city election.

A small amount of history is necessary to understand my thinking. During the last mayoral campaign, Candidate Kermit Staggers proposed using snow gates. Kermit Staggers is the same person who believes the city should be responsible for all the sidewalks in town.  Mr. Staggers lost the mayoral election. However, newly elected Mayor Mike Huether took it upon himself to purchase a few snow gates to experiment with their over-all usefulness and economic efficiency.

Test areas were set up and sophisticated criteria were created to make judgments.

Meanwhile, some citizens, mostly people being mentored by Kermit Staggers, were unhappy with what they thought was the city’s lack of speed to complete the work. So they began a campaign painting the city as non-responsive, and telling everyone how snow gates were the complete answer to every citizen’s problem with snow removal.

The ballot issue reads in part:

An Ordinance of the City of Sioux Falls, South Dakota to MANDATE(my emphasis) the use of snow gates for removing snow from public streets.

“The City of Sioux Falls  shall (my emphasis) use snow gates or other devices to prevent snow, in an amount that prevents usual access, from being plowed or placed into driveways or their openings to public streets from and after Nov. 1, 2013. This section shall cover City employees and contract employees. Snow gates are discretionary upon the declaration of a snow emergency on routes that have been declared snow emergency routes.”

This is what I know about snow gates. They don’t work in every snow situation. Heavy, wet, snow and large snow amounts cause problems for this equipment.

It takes longer to plow the streets, costing all of us more money. Estimates from city staff range from $325,000 to $500,000 a year, depending on the number of snow events.

Requiring private contractors to buy or attach city owned snow gates to their equipment may cause them to back away from providing the service all together. That would force the city to buy more equipment and hire more employees to move snow a few times a year, or take even longer to plow the streets.

We scream all the time at mandates from the Feds and State Government. Yet some are willing to mandate the use of something which may not be efficient or effective at the local level. Staggers, and other libertarian minded people, usually argue for less government and yet now they are demanding more.

For the record, I don’t like shoveling the snow at my driveway entrance. Yet, I have done mine and neighbors when I knew they needed the help. It is part of being a home owner and a good neighbor. I would never think it should be the city’s job.

I am smart enough to know I don’t know everything about snow removal. When I was the Mayor of Sioux Falls, I relied on the expertise and experience of the men and women whose job and careers were based on street construction and maintenance, including snow removal. I didn’t force them to buy certain equipment and I didn’t order them to do their jobs, my way.  As voters, we shouldn’t either.

Polls show this issue will pass. I am not surprised since our society has developed a strong “we want something for nothing” or “ entitlement” attitude. 

 Next voters may require the city to clean all the sidewalks or demand the city mow the grass between the sidewalk and curb.

In my opinion, mandating the city to remove snow from your driveway entrance is wrong.

I am voting “NO.”

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