The law and the reality

As everybody knows, what the law allows and forbids is one thing; what people actually do is another.
One glaring example is the distracted driving law. Everybody knows you’re supposed to keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. But judging by how many people are fiddling with their cell phones while driving, the law is being widely ignored.
Law enforcement is always playing catch-up when it comes to this sort of thing. Bad habits are entrenched long before the law gets around to doing something about it. And of course there never is nearly enough in the way of enforcement resources. Most people get away with most stuff most of the time
This leads us to recent Town of Slave Lake efforts to more effectively deal with unsightly premises and sidewalk clearing in winter. On the latter point an actual change in policy is proposed, which would reduce the town’s responsibility for clearing snow off sidewalks and transfer it to adjacent property owners. The best example is along Main St., south of the railway tracks. Until now, the town has done all the snow-clearing, letting the property owners off the hook. Why? Probably because it was deemed too important to have those walks cleared to leave it up to property owners. But if property owners in the rest of town have to clear their own bit of sidewalk, why not SL Ford and Boston Pizza (as just two examples)? Apparently council has recently come around to that way of thinking – motivated at least in part by the need to cut town spending.
Probably most residents don’t care who maintains those sidewalks, as long as they get done. Or rather, most pedestrians only care that they get done. Would they? If the town is going to shift the responsibility to the property owners on those important routes, they’d better have a plan for making sure it happens. That would mean an increase in enforcement, which might also cost the town more money. At current enforcement levels, a lot of things don’t get touched.
One thing that doesn’t get enough attention is unsightly premises. Like many other areas of bylaw enforcement, violations for the most part are acted upon only when there’s a complaint. Even then, the response may not go beyond a letter being sent to the offender, advising him or her that the grass really ought to be cut, or those derelict vehicles really ought to be hauled away. Sometimes it can take months or even years to get the desired response.
Not a lot of change has been proposed. Fines have been increased, but that doesn’t mean problems will disappear. It still comes down to citizens making complaints. The more complaints the town gets about a property, the more likely it is it will be investigated.
In some cases the fix could be quite simple. A business that leaves a mess in its yard (or on its piece of sidewalk) might just need to be told about it. It might never have occurred to them.

Share this post