What doesn’t freeze is community

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Winter in Minnesota is one of the most characteristic things about our great state. The cold, the snow, and the hardiness of residents all frame the perception that many other states have of us. Of course, with frequent snowfall comes the need for a consistant and thorough plow service – one of those public services that suffers no partisan divide. If the streets aren’t plowed, the economy of any city can shut down quickly. We need clear streets for cars to drive, for buses to circulate, and for trucks to continue hauling freight and delivering goods. The need for effective snow removal is clear.

From time to time, the snow gets bad enough that a city needs to institute emergency procedures. Minneapolis and Saint Paul both have specific snow emergency plans to ensure that all the streets – especially the residential ones – are plowed. Both cities have already had one snow emergency this year, during the snowstorm that took place on Saturday, November 13th. Each snow emergency is different, and some can cost more than others. The City of Saint Paul has three to four snow emergencies budgeted for this winter. Three to four may sound low, but according to Kevin Nelson of the St. Paul Public Works department, that number is typical. (There were three declared snow emergencies in St. Paul last winter.) The metro area was lucky during the last emergency, because there was no deep freeze overnight to slow down plowing efforts. Also important to any emergency procedure is public education. Both cities are increasing its efforts to inform residents about them and the parking restrictions that accompany them, as the Star Tribune outlined well.

Any state with harsh climates needs its cities and towns to have solid, reliable services to deal with those climates, and deal with the emergencies that come with them. That is why Minnesotans can proudly laugh at other states that shut down after a few inches of snow, while we are going strong after a couple of feet (and temperatures to match). However, Local Government Aid cuts threaten the necessary public services that keep us going, and we should watch those cuts closely. As I mentioned in a previous blog, MnDOT will do whatever it takes to make the budget work without cutting any plowing services, but that does have consequences.

Our harsh winters also show the strengths of Minnesota’s communities. We pay our taxes which fund the snow plows, but we also shovel our snow. In St. Paul, city ordinance dictates that every property owner is responsible for shoveling the sidewalks in front of their property. Having just moved to a rental triplex in St. Paul, my roommates and I enthusiastically shoveled the sidewalk three times during that snow emergency in November. I remember that what impressed me the most was looking down the street and seeing all of my neighbors doing the same thing. When each individual pitches in, the strength of the community is shown by the clear sidewalk stretching down a freshly plowed street. Let’s stay true to that community.