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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

March 26, 2009 at 2:05 PM

Snow: the never-ending story

Ask not what your city can do for you

Much discussion about the winter storms has focused on what our city and our county did not do for us [“Staff botched snow response,” page one, March 19], and there seem to be real grounds for these criticisms. But far too little has been said about our responsibilities as citizens:

Storm drains: Everyone should know where their nearest drains are and keep them clear so that water can drain efficiently. Some people have drains on their own property, but most of us need to tend the drains along the streets where we live. They are not our personal property, but they are our city’s property, and that makes them ours.

Shoveling snow: Many of us got to work only by walking some distance to where the buses were, and it was always helpful to find a stretch of sidewalk that had been shoveled. A young man on our block even shoveled the sidewalks belonging to neighbors, whom he knew were old and less able to shovel.

If you keep your sidewalk shoveled — or hire a neighborhood kid to — you won’t even need to sprinkle salt. Salt on the roads is harmful to cars driving on them (ask anyone from the Midwest about rusting car parts). Salt on the roads is also harmful to the waterways that surround us: not all our runoff heads immediately for salty Puget Sound.

Take responsibility: Our city and county could do a more equitable job of plowing crucial streets. But do we also want to pay for more snowplows so that our streets will be plowed like they are in Chicago? Would this be the best use of our money?

Some very good bus drivers got many of us to our destinations, give or take a mile, and some very hardworking bus mechanics worked hard to keep buses in service. We need to remember to do our part, too, when the snow falls next winter: Shovel the sidewalks, clear the drains, look out for our neighbors, be willing to walk if we can, and expect to be inconvenienced.

— Mary and Karl Babl, Seattle

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