Missouri: You Need a Permit to Shovel Grandma’s Snow

by Evil HR Lady on January 22, 2019

Keyshawn Anderson was doing a good deed. Dropped off by his foster dad to shovel Grandma’s walk, he was doing what numerous kids have done for as long as anyone can remember: help out grandma when it snows.

But, in Normandy, Missouri, the police showed up and warned Anderson because he didn’t have a permit. 

To shovel snow.

For his grandmother.

Let that sink in. I’m all in favor of licensing for things that can cause other people harm. I’m glad that my doctor has degrees and has passed licensing exams. But, to shovel snow?

We’ve reached peak ridiculousness.

Now, according to the local news station there was a perfectly good reason for this:

To keep reading, click here: Missouri: You Need a Permit to Shovel Grandma’s Snow

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Goober January 22, 2019 at 5:19 pm

I lived in Missouri in my high school years, and this does not surprise me in the least. It’s a great place to be from, and the farther from the better.

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Elizabeth West January 22, 2019 at 5:29 pm

Missouri is ridiculous anyway. I grew up here and am still stuck in it (for the moment, anyway). 😛 The kid wasn’t actually soliciting, so the police should have used their discretion on this one, but apparently Normandy cops don’t have any.

This is like making receptionists have a bachelor’s degree. Why? Do you really need a degree to answer the phone and file things? Nah.

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nac January 22, 2019 at 5:37 pm

I’ve lived the past 30 + years within 5 miles of Normandy MO, To give some context to this local story the surrounding townships are areas known for higher rates of crime to property and people than any other areas of the county. While the crime rate is lower than it was 10 years ago, it is still much higher than the national average. For sure, I don’t think a grandson should have to have a permit to shovel for his family, I can tell you that indeed groups of teenagers walk around knocking on doors to see who is home, some wanting to make some money, but others aren’t even carrying shovels with them. I think the mentality is that if you want your walk shoveled you’ll call someone to do it, get on a neighborhood app like NextDoor and arrange something or do it yourself. With the crime rates the way they are in St Louis, you really can’t be too careful, and the police will be the first ones to tell you that. With a population decline in these areas each year, I’m sure the police are trying everything to keep crime down. I don’t equate this story to a lemonade stand – I think it is ridiculous that you can’t have a lemonade stand.

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BethRA January 22, 2019 at 7:07 pm

Thanks for the background. I googled an article from a local TV station about this, and they talked about the crime rate, and how some groups of “shovelers” were really just casing houses and looking for packages to swipe from porches. Not sure requiring permits is really the best response, but it’s certainly more complicated than presented here.

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MariaRose January 22, 2019 at 6:42 pm

First of all, I would like to thank the three comments from people who lived in Missouri, as I have come not to trust media coverage of most stories because they tend to not present the whole picture as in the incident described in article concerning a grandson shoveling snow. What point impressed me the most in this article explains why I can’t get anyone to shovel snow during the winter because they “need “a license, plus you can’t trust someone to do it properly without standing there supervising anyway. Especially with the attitude today of getting paid for just showing up and need more compensation to do job.

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Penton Husqvarna January 23, 2019 at 12:30 am

Permits for mundane activities such as this are becoming too common and I suspect it’s more about revenue generation than quality assurance, fraud protection, or other stated altruistic purposes as more governmental agencies seek to treat their “citizens” more as “tax payers” than the former.

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Goober January 23, 2019 at 7:03 am

According to the article, in this case, the permit is free.

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Lorax January 23, 2019 at 1:17 am

I also am a life-long St. Louis resident, with many family and friends who live in Normandy-adjacent areas (such as Furguson). While I totally agree with this from an employment permitting perspective, there are a couple bigger issues here for context. First, the permitting requirements are not a state-level law (so, no, I don’t believe this is about Missouri employment law, which is very anti-regulation and free-market by and large); these permitting requirements for door-to-door solicitation are set at the local level by individual cities and municipalities.

Another issue is crime, which has been addressed in another comment. North St. Louis City and the inner-ring North County suburbs have crime rates that are much, much higher than average for urban areas, and policing has been stepped up accordingly. Requiring “permits” to shovel snow is certainly NOT the way to go about stopping crime, but you can imagine some residents might not be too opposed if it gives police grounds to stop suspicious people going door to door. In this case, once it was clear that this kid was just helping grandma, the police should have used discretion and not issued a fine.

On the other hand, this fine for failure to permit correctly is only one of many such fines imposed at the local level, and it brings up an issue that was raised in the recent Ferguson Report following the death of Michael Brown. St. Louis County is a separate legal entity from the City of St. Louis, and within St. Louis County, there are many individual municipalities, most of which have their own city councils and run their own police forces. Because the populations of these municipalities are so small (sometimes we’re talking only a few dozen or few hundred people), police forces are funded primarily through traffic tickets and other fines imposed for relatively minor infractions. The North County inner ring suburban municipalities in particular are notorious speed traps and are well known for their heavy handed policing of minor infractions of local regulations (such as permitting requirements for solicitation). The demographic breakdown of what often happens is this: the local governments who set these policies and the police forces who enforce them are comprised primarily of relatively well-to-do middle class white residents, while those who suffer the brunt of the fees are primarily poorer black residents. The Ferguson Report called out this dynamic of relying on overly strict regulations as a means of revenue generation as one of the big drivers of racial and class inequality in the region, even though the impetus for these regulations and policing tactics is likely simply to earn enough revenue to exist as an independent municipality. Essentially, the drive to remain independent rather than consolidate with neighboring municipalities (and thereby gaining the advantage of economies of scale) has had the unintended consequence of a heavy-handed police presence focused on the “low hanging fruit” of minor infractions that is felt primarily by the poorer population, leaving many hopelessly indebted with fines and fees from violations of regulations that were likely unreasonably strict to begin with. It’s essentially funding government by fining your least well-connected residents into oblivion, instead of raising taxes on more well-to-do residents or seeking efficiencies through consolidation. I think this explains why police DIDN’T use reasonable discretion in this case: they’re used to handing out fees to poor residents over things like this, often because they have a minimum quota of fines they need to generate to keep their departments funded.

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BethRA January 23, 2019 at 3:47 pm

Thank you for that reminder, and a thoughtful post.

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Semi-Evil Tech Manager January 27, 2019 at 4:02 pm

Yep. My first two thoughts were:

1. Don’t deal with the specific problem. Create regulation around a (tenuous) related activity in an attempt to alter behavior.

2. Punish and control people the local government deems “undesirable”.

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TexanInExile January 24, 2019 at 6:30 pm

This looks racist to me. I am pretty sure white kids shoveling snow – or offering to shovel snow – would not be stopped.

And you can’t scam someone about shoveling snow unless you get the money in advance and then don’t shovel. They way you deal with that? You don’t pay until the shoveling is done.

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Nicholas Moses January 29, 2019 at 1:32 pm

Mrs. Lucas, I agree with you about 98% of the time and I largely agree that there is a lot of overreach in commercial licensing in particular. Obvious non-transformative services sales of ordinary consumer goods should not be subjected to these hawks.

However, I have to strongly disagree with your assessment on this one:

“An employment attorney friend of mine was licensed in Pennsylvania and got a job in New Jersey, which meant she needed to pass the New Jersey Bar. The New Jersey Bar exam doesn’t even cover employment law. What a waste of her time and money. She had to study up on family law, which comes in handy for her neighbors but not for her career.”

Attorneys, doctors, nurses and other professions with intimate interfacing with their clients are bound by a certain deontological code*. Among other things they won’t intervene professionally in non-urgent situations outside their domains of expertise or jurisdiction. An attorney needs a new licence when moving to a new state because the legal precedents are not the same and can be quite dramatically different, for example including substantial portions of Roman law in Louisiana or incorporating case laws on water rights going back to the Spanish colonial period in California. In your friend’s case the differences between Pennsylvania’s legal system and New Jersey’s seem to have been minimal, particularly in her domain of expertise. Nevertheless, deontological bounds by their nature do not care about such casuistry. The fact that an attorney is always bound to follow those rules and formalities helps ensure the law will be consistent and predictable, and that the client can trust and understand his lawyer.

* In many countries journalists are also bound to deontological codes, and in most countries freedom of the press is subject to well-defined limitations. For example, the legal definition of defamation tends to be larger and less permissive and often involves penal as well as civil liability. And in France, images of a “perp walk” in a periodical would quite possibly lead to a prison sentence for the photographer and the author or editor of the page as well as anyone up the hierarchy who had a hand in deciding on their inclusion.

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