Street cleaning a balancing act

Elected officials and residents are struggling over how to keep the streets clean year round and provide the residents with cars the maximum amount of legal street parking spaces on any day.

City officials announced last week that the North End will be the pilot case for year round street cleaning starting on December 1.

Most residents with cars would breathe a sigh of relief when November 30 rolls around.

That was the date that street cleaning ends. Wondering if it was the fifth Monday or a holiday and which side of the street to park on became immaterial after that date. You saw a legal space and you could park there.

This sense of being able to get a legal parking space regardless of the day of the month becomes all the more critical in the winter when snow on the streets could reduce the limited amount of street parking spaces by more than half.

Now with street sweeping extended this brief hiatus from a $40 ticket and a $150 tow has ended.

We can not criticize Boston officials for trying to keep the streets clean, nor can we fault them for doing what they consider is necessary to do the job right.

We can not fault residents who want cleaner streets and more parking spaces.

However, is there some middle ground?

Former Chief of Public Works Dennis Royer told residents in Beacon Hill when they wanted their streets cleaned in the winter that the problem is when the trash freezes, no street sweeper is going to move a block of iced trash in the gutter or that is stuck to a snow mound.

We recently saw in East Boston a city worker sweeping the streets with a broom and shovel.

Could this not work in the North End during the winter? Thus preventing the need to tow or ticket cars.

Could we not use the labor force from the Suffolk County Jail to hand sweep the streets during the winter.

However, many residents are opposed to using jail house help as they do not want criminals roaming their streets.

There are also union issues – using jail inmates evades union wage requirements for the city’s unions.

But both objections should be revisited due to the change in street sweeping and the precarious finances of the City.

In the end, these actions of street sweeping are not treating the cause for why the trash exists.

Can we not put down more temporary barrels to hold the trash?

Can we not put up more signs asking people not to litter? Could we not ask the meter maids if they see someone throwing down their trash on the street to ask them not to do it?

The North End is a tourist destination and an epicurean paradise. In addition, it is also home to thousands of residents living cheek to jowl.

We need a balancing act for both of these constituents.

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