TALKIN’ TRASH--It was only Tuesday but it was shaping up to be another great week in LA. The transformational LA happening, CicLAvia Southeast Cities was on the books, having blessed Huntington Park, Walnut Park, Southgate, Florence-Firestone, Lynwood and Watts, with its boundless energy and the joy of ten miles of car-free streets.
Like earlier CicLAvias, this one introduced thousands of Angelenos to neighborhoods many knew nothing about -- other than the evening news’ caricature of drug- and crime-infested areas unsafe at any time of day.
And the beat goes on with Metro’s Expo Line opening to Santa Monica this Friday.
At times like this, everything seems so possible in the capital of the Best Coast.
So why is it so hard for the City of Los Angeles to take care of the little things like picking up the trash?
Last week I took a walk from my apartment near Olympic and Western in Koreatown north through the neighborhood and East Hollywood to Sunset Blvd and Normandie and back again. What I saw wasn’t pretty. In the years that I have lived in Koreatown I can’t believe the things I have seen people do with their trash.
The rodent-infested homeless encampment under the 101 near Monroe at Normandie is emblematic of our problem. But heaps of trash and discarded furniture on Hobart, Harvard, Ardmore, Kingsley and other area streets also attest to our utter failure to conquer what should be a relatively modest challenge for City Hall.
I love, and regularly use, MyLA 311, the City’s excellent free app for reporting bulky item pickup and other services. And it works well. But clearly, not everyone is using the simple app.
Nor should they have to. L.A. Sanitation is out and about, or should be, all of the time. Why should Sanitation workers wait for a call that may never come telling them that some bonehead has left his transmission on the curb? If you see something, say (and DO) something should apply to LASanitation as well as transit riders and airline passengers.
Like dogs, too many Angelenos seem to use their rubbish to mark their territory. Too many of us throw our beer cans, bottles, diapers, condoms, butts and worse out the windows of our cars and trucks onto the street. Or maybe they just open the door, dump out their trash and drive away. Or not. How do I know? I’ve witnessed it again and again.
If only there were a special place in hell for people who don’t know how to treat Mother Earth. Are the schools in LA and in all U.S. cities and other countries we Angelenos come from really so bad that they don’t teach students to put trash in bins and not on the streets? It’s a miracle that the polluters haven’t yet killed off all of our flora and fauna with the oozing motor oil and car parts they leave behind after the lube job at Joe’s Curbside Auto Repair.
Where is LA Sanitation, Code Enforcement and the LAPD when these “people” are dumping their auto parts and construction debris on our streets and the empty lot across the street?
I know the dumping in KTown by locals and visitors pales in comparison to what the fracking and coal companies are doing to the world on a daily basis, but it still sucks.
Sure, keeping our city clean is a partnership and the public has a big role to play. But it’s also a basic city service and if the government can’t take care of the little stuff like litter, how can it expect us to have any confidence in its management of the real challenges like jobs, the economy, schools, policing, homeless services, transit and infrastructure?
I like our gifted, committed Mayor and many members of the City Council. But don’t they see what I see every day out my window? Don’t they believe in sanctioning illegal dumping and enforcing the law? Don’t they believe in accountability at LA.Sanitation? And when will we see those promised regularly serviced trash and recycling bins on our streets?
Cleanstat, the Bureau of Sanitation’s cleanliness scoring of every street in the City (they drove all of LA’s public streets and alleys) is a work of art; but our streets aren’t.
Now is the time to get out and pick up the trash. Garbage collection and enforcement can change our landscape and mother knows we need to.
According to the Cleanstat website, Los Angeles is leading the way as the only big city in the U.S. conducting a regular cleanliness assessment of every city street.
Assessments are nice, but I don’t need no stinkin’ assessment. I can smell it.
(Joel Epstein is a senior advisor to companies, law firms, foundations and public initiatives on communications strategy, corporate social responsibility (CSR), recruiting and outreach. He is a contributor to CityWatch and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Joel Epstein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thejoelepstein.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.