Many workplaces — including the Business Report — allow their staffers to bring their well-behaved dogs to work occasionally. A Lafayette business has taken the next step, however, naming one of its canine visitors as its official mascot.

The Creative Alliance, a Lafayette-based branding, public relations and design firm, has named Bernie, a Bernese mountain dog, to the newly created position. Bernie's human companion is client services manager Kate Rubsamen.

"Bernie plays a unique role here at TCA, helping us reduce stress while being more creative and playful," said T Taylor, TCA's founder and chief executive. "As Kate's sidekick in the office, he has faithfully assumed the duties of mascot without even being asked. We figured it was about time we put him on the payroll."

Bernie has been featured as a canine model in advertising for several TCA clients. "His modeling career is just taking off," said Rubsamen. "He's pretty hot right now. His star is definitely on the rise."

Elsewhere in Lafayette, city officials are saluting a star that rose at an age when most people are retiring.

Accountant Robert Wright was 66 in 1999 when he took a full-time job as Lafayette's finance director. Now, more than 14 years later, at age 80, he's finally ready for a well-deserved rest. He'll be replaced by city accounting manager Wade Nickerson.

Wright attributes Lafayette's solid financial standing to conservative financial practices, positive economic-development activities, conscientious budgeting and responsible spending.

"As we saw the economy begin to shift in 2007, we made hard decisions to hold the line," said Wright in a press statement. "Our management team began pulling back on expenses and made sure we were spending smart. Staff looks at the budget every single month and adapts on the fly so that we're operating within our means. We're also paying off our debt early which places us in a strong cash position."

One result of Lafayette's financial culture was winning a AAA Standard and Poor's bond rating in January 2012; in the financial world, that's equivalent to a perfect consumer credit rating.

"Bob is the best finance director I have worked with in my 41 years of city management," said Lafayette city administrator Gary Klaphake. "He is accurate, creative, approachable, friendly, and has an outstanding work ethic. He helped us reduce our debt, get a AAA bond rating, stabilized our capital reinvestment, and received clean audits. He will be missed."

Besides solid bond ratings, governments also regularly receive kudos for their increased use of solar energy for power generation and heating. But using solar for snow and ice removal? Not so much.

Waiting for the sun to melt winter's worst from roadways usually isn't an option, especially when temperatures hover on either side of zero for up to a week after a storm, as they did earlier this month – so cities, counties and the state bring out the plows.

Sidewalks are another matter. When a public sidewalk abuts a home or business, it's that property owner's responsibility to get it cleared promptly after a snowstorm. It's too often not being done, however – as the Business Report's copy editor discovered during an arduous two-mile trek along a busy area street after the recent snowfall. Where there should have been sidewalks, he instead inched across skating rinks worthy of the Avs, pockets of epic powder and icebergs that would worry a sea captain. He saw too many fellow pedestrians – including some disturbingly young ones – courting disaster by choosing to walk in the busy thoroughfare's bike and turn lanes.

So it seems a reminder is in order.

City codes in the Boulder Valley generally require property owners to remove snow and ice from the public sidewalks adjacent to their property within 24 hours after the snow accumulation stops. Code-compliance inspectors respond to complaints and proactively patrol to address any violations. First-time offenders might get a sticky note stuck to their door that gives them another day to remove snow and ice from the sidewalk. Otherwise, sidewalks in violation are cleared by a city-hired contractor and the property owner is billed for the service. That levy could include both a removal fee and a fine.

Clear your sidewalk – but use some common sense:

• Pile the snow on your lawn or other out-of-the-way surface, not in the street. Piling or blowing snow into a public right-of-way is a municipal code violation because it can present a potential traffic hazard. It also can block the flow of drainage, which can create flooding once temperatures rise – and haven't we had enough flooding for awhile?

• Just because a particular stretch of street-side walkway isn't paved doesn't mean it's not a sidewalk. If there is no built sidewalk along a public right-of-way but pedestrians customarily use the street or unpaved areas next to it for walking, such paths need to be cleared.

• If your property is on a corner, be sure to clear and maintain the walkway all the way to the street and avoid leaving piles of snow and ice at the crosswalk.

Let's say you've done the responsible thing and shoveled your sidewalk properly, but then a city snowplow comes along and covers it all up again – and blocks your driveway as well – as it's clearing the street. Not your problem! A city employee or a contractor hired by the city will remove this snow within 24 hours, at no expense to the affected property owner, and you can call the city if it isn't done promptly. It's paid for with the one government "slush fund" we all can love.