Dibs on Shoveled Parking Spots Declared Over
Chicago Officials to Residents: Remove Items from Streets, or We Will
by Robert Mitchum, Chicago Tribune
You spent hours clearing a car-shaped hole out of ice and snow, and you still have the sore back to prove it. So what's so wrong about protecting that spot, earned through pain and sweat, with a household item or two?
Plenty, Chicago officials said Thursday, wagging their fingers and shouting a stern "no fair" to the time-honored tradition of dibs. Citing a rare run of snowless weather for the city, the Department of Streets and Sanitation asked residents to remove the myriad folding chairs, orange cones, beer kegs and garden gnomes that have held sentry over precious patches of cleared asphalt in recent weeks.
The practice is technically against the law because it's an obstruction of the public way, Streets and Sanitation spokesman Matt Smith said. But the department uses common sense in allowing the informal justice of dibs to hold sway in the side streets for a few days after major snowstorms.
"We try to be tolerant with people putting out what we call street furniture or space-savers. We see this every year," Smith said. "When we have a heavy snow, we're busy with other things. There are bigger fish to fry in terms of snow-clearing operations.
"But after a while, when we see stuff on the street, we put out the word to get rid of it."
Typically, the dibs-claimer in question does not receive a fine, Smith said. But once the command goes out that dibs time is over, city crews will move place-holder items and sometimes trash them.
Perhaps because this winter has been harsher than normal, the admonishments to end the current dibs period have been particularly icy. On Wednesday, Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) sent a letter that scolded residents in his ward who stepped outside the acceptable bounds of dibs-claiming.
"A disturbing trend has been observed regarding this practice," Mell wrote in the e-mail alert. "It has been reported to our office that many parking markers are being put out prior to snowfalls, during snowfalls of little consequence and remain out long after a particular snowfall has melted."
As an alternative, Mell suggests that neighbors organize "a shoveling party" to clear the entire block of curbside snow in one fell swoop.
Smith agreed, saying the brief reprieve from freezing weather forecast for Chicago on Friday offers a golden opportunity for neighbors to work together against the weather, rather than resorting to every shoveler for himself.
"The best way around all of this is to be good neighbors," Smith said.