City Hall – Entitled to Entitlements?

Civic workers in Thunder Bay stepped up again with a generous donation to the United Way
Civic workers in Thunder Bay stepped up again with a generous donation to the United Way

Slide on in and slip into the businesses in Downtown Thunder Bay South.
Slide on in and slip into the businesses in Downtown Thunder Bay South.

Slide on Down to Downtown?

THUNDER BAY – Civic Politics – Getting the little things right is important. In Thunder Bay often it appears that while things can keep improving, City Hall seems to figure that they belong at the front of the line when it comes to care. This morning the first snowfall of the season generated an amazing job of snow clearing. The sidewalks at City Hall in Thunder Bay have been cleared, sanded and are safe for people working at, and visiting City Hall.

The problem is only a few feet away, the sidewalks are left. Business owners, and property owners, the individuals who carry the tax burden in the downtown face the task of having slippery sidewalks for their customers to brave.

City Hall Should Take Care of Taxpayers

It is important that the bus route and City Hall be safe for walking.
It is important that the bus route and City Hall be safe for walking.

Snow clearing in the downtown in major cities is taken as a serious priority. In Thunder Bay over the past several years, it is almost as if a sense of entitlement has developed. City Hall has a private contractor hired to ensure that the sidewalks are kept spotless. In the rest of downtown, well, slide on in.

It will get far worse as winter continues to grab on in Thunder Bay. The City does not remove the snowbanks from downtown sidewalks in the winter. They become a tall slippery mini-mountain that is very hard, and potentially dangerous for a passenger getting out of a vehicle. 

Across the street from City Hall, snow clearing is left to business owners this morning.
Across the street from City Hall, snow clearing is left to business owners this morning.

The level of priority in keeping the streets of the downtown clear just does not seem to hold the same priority as keeping City Hall clean.

 Solutions for City Hall

There are solutions. City officials say that it would cost a lot of money to clear the snowbanks and sidewalks better than the status quo. 

Some of the solutions could include following the lead of Calgary, Winnipeg, Edmonton and other cities where there are tax savings found by not ploughing residential sidewalks unless there is a major snowfall. For most residents with a sidewalk, the snow plough goes through on the sidewalk leaving a snowbank that by the end of the day ends up a solid and hard to remove icy block. Letting residents take care of sidewalk clearing for the minor snowfalls would allow the city to re-direct efforts to the business areas of the city.

The snowbanks, which along Victoria Avenue in the downtown Fort William topped two and a half feet of solid ice by last spring were finally cleared after complaints last spring. There were syringes, broken glass, and a lot of litter left in the melting snow. The message to visitors, tourists, and residents was a big “who cares”.

Streets and Sidewalks across downtown Fort William Business District are tough to walk in winter. This image from April 18 2013 shows the tall snowbanks.
Streets and Sidewalks across downtown Fort William Business District are tough to walk in winter. This image from April 18 2013 shows the tall snowbanks.

Thunder Bay Does Care – Right?

The reality City Hall and City Administration care. City Councillors, especially heading into an election cycle care too.

There are times however that the City Administration needs to be far more pro-active. Sending the message, like it was last Friday when over 350 people were out in the brisk evening for the Fort William Business District 19th Annual Tree Lighting and the Peace Walk, that the City is taking downtown issues seriously is the real message. 

The sidewalks in the downtown could be a great example of that kind of pro-active action. It is all up to making a decision that the best care should be for taxpayers, not for City Administration.

The alternative might be someone slipping, falling and suing the City of Thunder Bay for their injuries. That would send a terrible message about priorities, one that Thunder Bay should never consider a possibility.

James Murray

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