Ways we can make Baltimore cleaner As a person who has...


September 02, 2000

Ways we can make Baltimore cleaner

As a person who has become almost obsessed with eliminating trash and blight in my Charles Village neighborhood, I sympathize with the Aisquith Street residents featured in The Sun's article "Weary homeowners yearn for action on city cleanup" (Aug. 23).

My years of picking up after others has taught me that this issue crosses all ages, races and classes. Selfishness, laziness, ignorance and lack of respect are the root of the problem.

The answer does not lie exclusively in a reorganization of the Bureau of Solid Waste. Here are some other suggestions:

1. A print, radio and television ad campaign against litter must be launched. Mayor Martin O'Malley and other prominent individuals must give the simple message that I recall so well from my childhood: "Don't be a litterbug."

The campaign should show (or tell) how simple it would be to reduce trash and rats (by knowing your trash days and use a trash can with a tight-fitting lid). It should also show how litter hurts Baltimore, the harbor and the bay and how the simple act of planting flowers vastly improves a block.

2. Parents must teach their children and teen-agers not to litter and to keep candy wrappers and soda bottles until they can dispose of them properly. Schools can reinforce this message.

3. The city's campaign should not only fight litter and trash, but encourage beautification. Businesses and residents should be encouraged to plant flowers, trees and shrubs.

They don't have to do it alone; community associations are often willing to work with those interested in improving their community. Publicizing these efforts would be good for businesses who take the initiative. And maybe the possibility of a personal visit from the mayor would motivate residents to beautify their blocks.

4. Don't patronize businesses that contribute to blight and trash and tell them why you aren't giving them your business.

5. Take a plastic bag with you when you go out for a walk and pick up trash along the way. I hate to think what the median strip in front of my house would look like if my neighbors and I waited for the city to clean it up.

6. Consider a non-confrontational approach to someone who has littered in front of you.

If I see someone drop something, I will pick it up and nicely say: "Did you know you dropped something?" Most people are mortified and take it back from me.

7. Let's have a "Big Help" day in Baltimore where kids come out to clean up their city and then are honored at a city-wide celebration. Kids need to take ownership in their city.

8. Residents should care for trees and tree wells. A tree well in reasonable condition can be weeded and planted in a couple hours. It's been my experience that when an area looks good, people are less likely to disrespect it by littering.

9. Let's set high expectations for Baltimore. Let's not only clean it up; let's plant trees and flowers all over town.

Dawna M. Cobb, Baltimore

Small acts can aid homeless

Each of us is familiar with Dan Rodricks' description of the dread of the unasked question about the panhandler ("Panhandlers gives kids a lesson on poverty," Aug. 14), for it is the question that remains unanswered and continues to haunt us until it is addressed.

The averted eyes, the quickening of the pulse, and the helplessness come instantly whenever we come face to face with a homeless person. We scramble to arrive at some conclusion, ranging from feigned apathy to harsh judgment.

Mr. Rodricks was right on target when he said that this is a complicated issue. And he was also correct to steer us in the direction of introspection.

We humans tend to be quite merciful in judging our own actions, but harsh, exacting and simplistic in thinking about the actions of others.

My daughter recently told me that in a recent classroom discussion with a few seventh and eighth-graders in a Philadelphia inner-city summer school session she asked her students, "What would be one issue that you would address if you were president?"

A 16-year-old boy said, "the homeless." My daughter had seen this boy give his lunch to a homeless man he saw on the way to school.

Giving the man his own lunch wasn't such a complicated response.

I guess maybe his judgments weren't clouding his judgment.

Cheryl Hoopes, Chestertown

Proposal could hurt debtors and kids

I strongly disagree with Delaware Gov. Thomas R. Carper's assertions regarding the bankruptcy bill before Congress and its potential impact on single parents attempting to collect child support ("Congress must help ensure child support payments," Opinion * Commentary, Aug. 7).

Debtors would be treated very harshly under the legislation Mr. Carper advocates and their children would often take the brunt, whether they live in the same household or with a former spouse.

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