Friday, July 11, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

The city isn't your mother: Clean up after yourselves!

An editorial in the Daily News:

The city isn't your mother: Clean up after yourselves!

An editorial in the Daily News:

If you're a Philly pig - that is, if you litter or short-dump on a regular basis - we have two words for you:

Please move.

You obviously have no love for this city and no respect for the millions of people who do, or for the thousands who volunteered two weeks ago to clean up after you during the mayor's much-heralded Philly Spring Cleanup effort.

As the Daily News reported yesterday, four of the six sites Mayor Nutter visited during the April 2 cleanup have been trashed again.

Just two weeks, and these places already look almost as bad as New Orleans after Katrina.

If those wrappers and Styrofoam and Hefty bags of God-knows-what belong to you, we invite you to take your crap to another city. This one has enough problems without you.

You could say that the city has plenty of problems because of you. Trashed lots create another version of the "broken window" syndrome, which holds that the presence of a single broken window can spur the decline of an entire neighborhood.

A block doesn't fall apart with a single candy wrapper, but enough candy wrappers and other garbage signal that it's OK to dump more. That discourages development, the most effective way to reduce vacant and abandoned properties.

So who's job is it to fix our trash problem?

The first line of defense for keeping order in a community is its citizens - the "eyes on the street."

Although it's tempting to point a finger at city government - after all, the city has street-cleaning machines and an army of sanitation workers - that's not the answer. The city does have a role to play here, but it's not the one a lot of people think.

We can't just have street sweepers "cycle through" every block in the city, as one resident suggested to the Daily News. That's beyond big government - it's massive government. People worry about Big Brother, but the city's not your mother, either.

That said, we do need government to punish bad neighbors. Philadelphia doesn't do this very well. Back in February, "It's Our Money" (ourmoneyphilly.com) reported that of the $40 million in code-violation fines and penalties the city issued between 2006 and 2010, it collected just under $11 million, or about 27 percent.

This isn't just a problem because of the missing money. Code violations - which cover trash, overgrown lots and other quality-of-life issues- are the city's way of saying "Clean up your act." But the fines are hard to collect, so the city often doesn't follow through.

The city should take steps to improve its collections, but this is a problem that needs everyone's engagement: churches, community groups, individual citizens and every aspect of government, not just sanitation, but planning, and marketing, and economic development. We got ourselves into this mess, and we need to get ourselves out of it.

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About this blog
Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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