With the weather getting colder, I think everyone in Moorhead is anticipating when the first snow will fall. Everyone knows with snow, comes hot beverages, curling up in blankets and, of course, terrible road conditions.
One would assume with how much snow Moorhead gets in a winter there would be an efficient, well-thought out snow removal plan. However, Moorhead could not be further away from this.
Last year Moorhead put into effect the Blue Snow Removal District. Judging by the name, one would believe this to be a snow removal plan. I, however, believe it was created for another reason: making money.
After having my car towed last year, I decided to do some research, and I found this snow removal plan to be oppressive towards college students in the community and persons who live within the Blue Snow Removal District.
Here are the problems with this snow removal plan: While the city placed signs on every block, informed local news stations, sent out letters and notified both Concordia and MSUM, there seemed to be some terrible hiccups when this plan went into effect.
First, let’s look at the Blue Snow Removal map. The snow district stretches between Fourth and 20th street South and from Main to 16th avenue South. Within this region is MSUM, Concordia and Romkey Park, which contains a large amount of college residential properties as well as low-income families. The Blue Snow District covers the largest commuted area in Moorhead.
Next, let’s discuss the signs. They are 10 by 8-inch signs that read, “Snow Removal District Subject to Tow Schedule: cityofmoorhead.com/snowdistrict.” Nowhere on the sign does it read what day or time your car is subject to tow. The only information given is a website.
While many people have smartphones now a days and are able to hop right online, not all people do. The sign should list more than a website. Not only is the sign not clear, the website is extremely unclear as well.
When I explored the web address, it gave me four options: Sign up for notifications, snow district brochure, snow district removal map and other snow removal information. In the snow district brochure, it explains what the snow district is and that after a heavy snowfall, routine snow removal will take place and cars are subject to being towed.
The website says nothing about what side of street one can park on or what time one can park on the street. The only place I could find a time when cars are towed is under the snow district removal map. The time listed for snow removal in the legend of the map is incorrect.
It reads no parking from 1 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays. The actual time is from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The day of towing also depends on when the city decides to put the Blue Snow Removal District into effect. The only beneficial thing on this extremely outdated and poorly created website is being able to sign up for notifications through email, Facebook and Twitter.
Creating a snow removal policy where all of the rules and notifications are located on the Internet is good, but it also assumes that everyone in the city has access to Internet all day, everyday. This is simply not true; many college students and families of low-income cannot afford Internet and have to go somewhere to use it.
The other problem is the snow removal plan does not go into effect after every snowfall; it is up to the city to decide, and the city decides daily. Because of this, putting the notifications and rules online means people will need daily Internet access.
Another major hiccup in creating this policy is, while both universities were notified as well as local news stations and newspapers and letters sent out, all these forms of communication seemed to fail when 130 plus cars were towed on the first day the plan went into effect.
MSUM sent out the notification just before 9 a.m., after cars had already started to be towed. The letters sent out by the city, from my knowledge, only went to residential properties that were within the snow district.
I find this ridiculous considering the majority of students that commute to campus most likely do not live in the snow district. Another reason it was oppressive to college students is the fact that, while local news stations and newspapers were informed, not all college students have Internet, television or receive a weekly paper.
The week after 130 plus cars had been towed, the student senate held a public forum in the MSUM ballroom with city council members Mark Altenburg and Heidi Durand. They were there to explain the Blue Snow Removal District, and hear any complaints or suggestions to make it better.
In the meeting they explained that city council did not know the city would keep about half of the $95 towing fee, with the other half going to the towing company. I have a problem with this considering, when I went to get my car, the police officer told me I was ignorant of the law.
If I cannot be ignorant of the law, why can the city council members be ignorant about where the money in their own snow removal plan goes?
My answer is simply that the city council knew from the beginning that the city would be keeping half of the towing fee. In addition to this, both city council members said they would make a motion to reimburse students the money that the city of Moorhead kept.
This sounded fair enough to me. However, at the next city council meeting, besides Altenburg and Durand, the rest of city council voted no.
What you need to know about the Blue Snow Removal District is this: the city will decide after a snowfall whether or not to put the plan into effect. The first day it goes into effect, cars can park on either side of streets or avenues.
On day two, cars cannot park in front of even numbered residential areas (north and east sides of streets) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. On day three cars cannot park in front of odd numbered residential areas (south and west sides of streets) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
You should also go to the website cityofmoorhead.com/snowdistrict and sign up for email notifications, and follow the city of Moorhead on Facebook and Twitter for notifications.
Overall, even though I truly want to believe that the city council created the Blue Snow Removal District with only good intentions of an efficient way of removing snow, I cannot help but think this law was created to make money.
I cannot understand why the city would keep a law so oppressive to college students who rent housing and supply business both by working and consuming within the community.
After living in Moorhead and attending MSUM for five years, I will be leaving this town after I graduate if poor policies and laws like this continue. Who knows, maybe the grass is greener on the other side, other side of the river that is.
BY JOEL KROMER