Abraham Piper, armed with photos, calls bullshit on Mpls sidewalk shoveling rules

Snow on the 24th Street footbridge over I-35

Snow on the 24th Street footbridge over I-35

Abraham Piper wants folks to know he's not mad -- certainly not "steaming mad" like Bill Hudson described him last night on WCCO -- but he wants the City of Minneapolis to practice what it preaches when it comes to keeping sidewalks clear of snow.

Here's why. A couple of days after trying to negotiate the ice-covered sidewalk beside Hiawatha Avenue, Piper and everyone else on his block -- both sides -- received written warnings from a city inspector to comply with Ordinance No. 445. That's the law that requires homeowners to shovel their sidewalks in a timely manner after a snow storm.

"That's fine. That's his job. I'm OK with that," Piper said today. "But they're being picky."

Tweaked at what he thought was a classic case of hypocrisy, he took to his blog to write an open letter to inspector Jack Murphy, who issued the warnings in Piper's neighborhood on 11th Avenue, about a mile south of the Metrodome. Piper accompanied the post with photos he's taken while walking around the city. And then he announced his post to reporters via Twitter.

Here's the problem:

The City of Minneapolis has miles of sidewalks that it is failing to clear according to the requirements of its own laws. These are sidewalks that no one is responsible for but the city. And they are very well-traveled.

Franklin Avenue near the light rail station

Franklin Avenue near the light rail station

If I am endangering or disrespecting pedestrians with my 40 feet of inadequately shoveled snow, what does that say about the city of Minneapolis?

If my bad snow removal job warrants the threat and potential levying of a $102 fine, how much of a fine should the City of Minneapolis be threatened with?

What should be done?

There are two obvious things that should be done here if justice carries any weight. (Man, does that sound melodramatic! It feels like an overstatement, but I'm not the one who has decided to charge ordinary folks city-wide hundreds of dollars for a violation that I myself pick and choose when to obey.)

So, to make things right...

The city of Minneapolis should obey Ordinance No. 445. (This is so obvious that it feels silly to write.)

Until the city has begun valuing this ordinance enough to follow it themselves, there ought to be a moratorium on ticketing homeowners for violating it.

WCCO and KSTP both got Director of Winter Operations Mike Kennedy to fess up about the city not practicing what it preaches, and he promised improvements.

Meanwhile, Piper wants everyone to know he's not mad. Really. Peeved, maybe. But not mad. And he doesn't want a return visit from the sidewalk inspector after the next snow storm, either.