As the snow begins to melt at long last in our community, what’s being revealed underneath is somewhat of an unsightly mess. That’s right; the litterers have been very busy during the winter. Don’t get me wrong, the overwhelming majority of Waterburians are fine upstanding citizens. However, there is an element; a percentage of our populace that are to put it bluntly, lazy slobs. Websters’ dictionary defines the word slob as follows: “a sloppy, coarse, or gross person”. I have my own definition that I shall not bring up in this column.
Use your imagination.
We don’t always notice during the warm months as our litter and blight crews in the City are able to get out and stay ahead of this daily battle. But in the winter months when we can’t get the “mad-vacs” out, or inclement weather prevents us from doing as thorough a job, the litter continues to build up.
In downtown Waterbury it is particularly noticeable in and around the bus stops. Some of the bus riders are too lazy to discard their coffee cups, juice bottles, candy wrappers, and pizza paper plates in the proper trash receptacles. Granted several of the trash cans were snowed in, but there were plenty still available, just a few paces away from the bus stops, to discard trash. Whether it is laziness or indifference or both, it is still a menace that needs to be constantly addressed. In some cases bus riders just placed cups and bottles upright in the snow before boarding the bus as if they were at a bar waiting for the next round.
It’s not only the bus riders though. The sneaky ones shove the cups and litter under their cars as they are parked downtown. No one can see them as they open their car doors and quickly toss litter underneath. It’s an “all-in-one” sneaky motion. But when they drive away, the litter is exposed. I often see fast food bags full of wrappers thrown under parked vehicles. In addition, you’ll see coffee cups, soda bottles and an occasional used diaper. Yes that’s right, I said diaper.
Then there are the litter striders. Those that are walking along and just let litter drop from one of their hands in mid stride trying to be inconspicuous. After all, a “throwing motion” would give them away.
I used to think that there were no easy answers to this dilemma but I’ve since changed my thought process a little. The easy answer is to enforce the anti-litter ordinance currently in place to the fullest extent. Level the fine against the perps and if the slobs can’t afford to pay it make them work it off by picking up litter in downtown and around Waterbury.
This is not just about the enforcement though. We have to break through this culture of indifference that starts with all of us. A police officer could be stationed on every street corner looking for litterers but this is obviously costly and impractical. Rather, deterrence has to start with all of us. Whether you are a merchant, downtown worker, building owner, or downtown resident, it’s time for us all to take ownership of this problem and meet it head on. Don’t look the other way and expect others to take care of it. If you see someone littering on our streets, get out of your comfort zone and call them out on it. Report them. Then lead by example by picking up the litter and properly discarding it.
In addition to the obvious quality of life issues, there is more at stake here. A clean, safe and friendly downtown is what any investor would look for while considering their investment. If the community doesn’t care, then why would I want to invest in that community? It really is that simple. Yet it seems as if this indifferent element could care less about investment and quality of life issues. But the rest of us certainly care about them.
You can tell by my tone that I’m more than just a bit frustrated and way past the point of caring about being politically correct. I’ve spent a good deal of column space over the years talking about this issue. I along with our Main Street Waterbury volunteers continue to participate in the annual “Earth Day” clean up in Downtown Waterbury. Last year we had great help from the young Police Explorers. They along with other community groups really demonstrated their pride in Waterbury and stepped up to help keep it clean. Every time I have contacted our Community Relations Officers and Public Works Officials about litter issues in downtown, they have responded swiftly and professionally. They along with so many others from our community constantly step up and volunteer their time to cleaning up Waterbury. We owe it to them to address this issue seriously.
Believe me, nothing would make me happier and more satisfied than to dedicate my time to speaking on other issues and advances with our revitalization efforts. But the fact of the matter is we’re still not where we need to be with litter remediation. Despite the herculean efforts and hard work of many, including our Litter & Beautification Commission, WDC, the Police, Public Works, and other City Departments, I don’t see the problem getting better. The ship is starting to take on water.
There are many conscientious downtown merchants who sweep and litter-pick in front of their businesses on a regular basis. It is their neighbors who are the problem. It is the building owners responsibility to sweep and clean the sidewalks in front of their building as well as remove snow and ice. This needs to be strictly enforced. We still have merchants who use the pedestrian trash receptacles for their own business trash. This must stop! A well intended pedestrian may have no place to put his/her cup or wrapper because a merchant may have jammed the garbage pail with bags of their own trash. This is unacceptable. All downtown building owners and businesses need to be using the services of an independent trash hauler. If you as a merchant are seen using pedestrian trash receptacles, you will be reported and possibly fined.
By the way, tossing a cigarette butt on the sidewalk, in the gutter, or out in the street, is littering. Take a walk and look down. You will literally see thousands and thousands of cigarette butts. They are not biodegradable. They clog our storm drains and in addition to presenting and unsightly image, they are an environmental hazard. This too, needs to be strictly enforced. If you are a merchant who smokes or who has employees or customers who need to grab a smoke in front of your stores, please install a smokers post. They are inexpensive and effective in mitigating this problem.
There is much more, but by now I think you get the point. We have to address this issue head on. I call upon all of you who are reading this column to help us get the word out. Talk to our local officials. Talk to our children, other family members, neighbors, friends, and co-workers and make them aware of the issue. Ask for their help. If everyone “pitches in”, we’ll have a cleaner and better community and a Waterbury that we can be proud of.
As for Main Street Waterbury, we’ll certainly continue to do our part by continuing to work with our local officials, volunteers, merchants and building owners to keep downtown Waterbury clean, safe, and friendly.
If you are interested in helping us with this and all of our other projects and programs please contact my office at 203-757-0701 ext. 302 or email me at email@example.com