Schmoke's Riot Act on Trash

September 05, 1994

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has read the riot act on trash. Unless Baltimore City begins getting cleaner within 60 days, he says heads will begin to roll in the Bureau of Solid Waste.

The 20 street-level sanitation supervisors have been told to get tougher. Specifically, each of them has been ordered to issue at least 20 warning notices each week. "You are going to see more innovative and aggressive action throughout the city," the mayor pledges.

This crack-down comes none too soon. Many areas of Baltimore have become increasingly trashy in recent years and need to be cleaned up. But that is stating the obvious. The harder part is to do anything about it because the accumulation of trash usually has little to do with the performance of the Bureau of Solid Waste's street supervisors or 1,000 sanitation employees.

Instead, the blame lies with residents who put trash out on streets, disregarding collection days, or landlords who dump eviction chattels on sidewalks without thinking of the consequences.

"We have a system now that authorizes landlords to do what for any ordinary citizens would be illegal dumping," says Kenneth Strong, acting head of the Bureau of Solid Waste. Mr. Strong is now in the process of devising a revamped garbage collection system for the city. Under the new system, bulk trash would be collected on set dates every month in each neighborhood, instead of citizens' having to arrange in advance for the collection of heavy items,

Citizen education about sanitation would be emphasized and more routine violation notices issued. For staffing purposes, weekly collections of recyclables -- which are now done during the last three days of each week -- would be spread over a 5-day period.

Mr. Strong is also working on an upgraded program to clean alleys and streets. "This has been a complaint-driven operation for too long," he says. "It's a very inefficient way to go about it."

The key, however, is increasing citizens' personal responsibility for keeping their neighborhood and the city clean. "The city and its citizens need to meet one another halfway," Mr. Strong says, lamenting that this is not happening now.

He cites ample examples of renters and homeowners disregarding pick-up days and putting garbage on the street just hours after a scheduled collection. Check out a bus stop on West Lombard Street, near Stricker. A regular trash pick-up is on Fridays. By Saturday, though, a mountain of trash has already accumulated next to the site.

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