Clean up in 60 days or get out, Schmoke tells trash chiefs

August 19, 1994|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Robert Hilson Jr. contributed to this article.

Maybe he tripped over one too many broken bottles.

Maybe he toured one too many Baltimore alleys swarming with flies and littered with broken bags of trash, rotting food, discarded tires and even old mattresses.

At any rate, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke declared yesterday that he's had enough.

After spending the past few months visiting neighborhoods to find piled-up garbage, after hearing the same chorus of complaints, Mayor Schmoke has unhappily concluded that Charm City is filthy.

The mayor called in the city's 36 sanitation supervisors this week and told them it's time for Baltimore to clean up its act. He gave the Bureau of Solid Waste exactly 60 days to tidy up the streets and crack down on the "throw-away" offenders who toss out everything from candy wrappers to furniture behind their homes.

If there's no progress, Mr. Schmoke said he will begin firing the supervisors.

"I told them that I thought the city was getting unreasonably dirty," the mayor said yesterday morning at his weekly news briefing. "I want a little more aggressive and sustained action in cleaning up the city. Everybody has got to get involved in making this the cleanest possible city."

The mayor said he's particularly disturbed by how few citations have been issued to residents who dump trash or put out their garbage early, leaving it to sit for days.

Sanitation supervisors were given the power a few years ago to write up violations by residents, trash haulers and landlords who illegally evict tenants -- a move that almost always leaves a pile of abandoned junk on the street. Too few supervisors are taking action, Mr. Schmoke said.

"If we're not serious about enforcement," he said, "people will be lazy about their obligation to comply with the law."

Although he considered simply abolishing their jobs, the mayor said he decided instead to urge the supervisors to enforce the regulations and go door-to-door reminding residents about trash collection days.

Mr. Schmoke also said he wants to initiate a better method of picking up bulk trash, perhaps sending out trucks for an entire day in specific zones to collect old appliances, mattresses and similar items.

Schaefer recalled

The city employs 36 sanitation supervisors. Twenty are assigned to specific districts and are responsible for overseeing general trash collection, bulk trash, and the cleanup of alleys and lots. The remainder enforce the city's sanitation regulations and recycling, said Vanessa Pyatt, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works.

Mr. Schmoke's tough talk brought back memories of his predecessor to some at City Hall.

In 1985, then Mayor William Donald Schaefer, now the governor, launched a highly publicized "Assault on Trash." He likened himself to General Patton, leading city workers into alleys and parks to clean up huge piles of trash.

One of Mr. Schmoke's aides conceded yesterday's announcement had a "Schaeferesque" tone, but said the mayor has been hard at work trying to get the city cleaned up. Every time the mayor passes a trash-strewn park or alley, he backs up and calls Public Works Director George G. Balog, the aide said.

Council President Mary Pat Clarke said she can only agree with the mayor that the city is filthy. "Is the city getting dirtier? The city is filthy," said Mrs. Clarke, who plans to challenge Mr. Schmoke next year. "If the campaign brings us a cleaner city, I should have run two years ago."

The mayor's ambition to clean up the city drew support from many residents.

In West Baltimore's Reservoir Hill neighborhood, flies and other insects swarm around piles of discarded food, child car seats and opened bags of trash in an alley behind the 2300 block of Linden Ave. Children play nearby, and dogs sniff the piles and drag away bits of food.

"This ain't half as bad as the way it used to be," said Arthur White, 30, who has lived in the neighborhood for about three years. "It gets cleaned up every now and then, but never fully. It can really smell sometimes."

'Get rid of people'

In North Baltimore's Pen Lucy neighborhood, trash lined the streets at a business district in the 3900 block of Old York Road. Young men, oblivious to the debris, lingered in a park.

"You have to get rid of the people as you get rid of the trash," said Selma Bryant, who lives on nearby Rose Hill Terrace.

"The trash comes because the city doesn't want to come here and confront the drug dealers. They say it's a drug area so why clean it up."

Downtown Baltimore businesses pay a special tax to keep the sidewalks clear and the trash cans emptied.

"They even do it in the rain. I see no problem with how they clean downtown," said Bob Giambelluca, who works at the Fader's Tobacconist store in the 100 block of E. Baltimore St.

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