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Ask Anyone

I live in the city and love it. But a few people in my block club have a gripe. They were issued $50 fines at 8am in the morning, just after the garbage trucks went down the street, for leaving their empty garbage totes on the sidewalk. When they tried to ask why, they were told it was a public works initiative designed to improve our quality of life.

Clearly, the person issuing the tickets simply followed the garbage truck, then took pictures of the empty totes on the sidewalk and sent out the penalties. How does that improve the quality of life? Has this kind of thing happened to anybody else? What can my neighbors do?

Curbside Conundrum

The Practical Cogitator says: You’ve got to be kidding me. Last summer, someone—a human—WENT TO THE BATHROOM ON MY SIDEWALK. In fact, maybe we will have to start a campaign to insist on garbage totes being left out, so that when these urges hit, folks will have somewhere to go. Literally.

The Straight Skinny says: Ah, our city government: so well intentioned, and yet forever oafishly stumbling backward into the china cabinet and breaking things.

I remember one recent quality-of-life campaign that focused on unkempt yards—high grass, weeds, garbage, that sort of thing. It turned out that in some neighborhoods, the lots most often written up by the police were owned by the city itself.

The first thing your neighbors should do is call your district council member. This is ass-backwards, of course: It’s not the council member’s job to field such complaints, but that’s the way this city works. Then they should call the city’s 311 complaint line, and finally, if not exhausted, they should the Department of Public Works and/or the Buffalo Police Department (or whoever issued the tickets) to explain what happened. Be nice about it. Citizens who holler over the phone at City Hall workers don’t get a lot of satisfaction.

Finally, they shouldn’t pay the fines. If they need to, they should go to court, where judges tend to be more reasonable than the folks who issue the citations. It’s worth the 50 bucks and the principle. Believe me, you can fight City Hall—and it’s fun.

The final question is why did this happen at all. Most likely, someone on your block or on a block nearby complained about another neighbor’s totes—that’s how this stuff usually starts. A block club meeting is a good place to suss that out. Of course, there could be more sinister reasons for your block being punished so unreasonably. Does Sam Hoyt live on your street?

The Sales Guy says: It’s hard to answer your concern because it really makes no sense to me. Is the fine because the containers were placed on the sidewalk instead of the grassy area between the street and sidewalk blocking pedestrians? If so, why aren’t the crews responsible for keeping the emptied containers in some sort of order? Where is it written that homeowners have to immediately retrieve the containers from the curb instead of when they get back from work?

It sounds like your block club concerns are justified and the city ordinance needs to be adjusted to reality.

Strictly Classified says: Since you were all cited together, you can band together and fight the tickets. I believe that Garbage totes can be placed at the curb at 7:00 pm the night before trash is collected. Totes should be removed from the curb by 8:00 pm after collection. I would imagine that the citation should have the date and time (as well as the official’s name or ID number); this should leave you and your neighbors in the clear.

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