Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Do the Easy Job First

Speech to Grants Pass City Council, 10/5/2011

            I have found, in my work as a gardener, that when one is faced with a huge job with many independent parts, the thing to do first is the easiest, quickest part.  It makes one feel a lot better about one’s ability to do the rest.
            Cleaning up this town and restoring respect for our nuisance code is a huge job that will take several years, since weeds multiply as we pull them and some seeds can last a long time.  But there is one part that can be done quickly and with little expense: cleaning up litter.
            Unlike weeds, litter doesn’t multiply: it adds up, and can be readily subtracted.  Litter generally does not have to be pulled, only picked up.  One does not even have to bend over if one uses a litter grabber.  And there is no reason to tolerate even a little bit of litter, unlike weeds, which are often quite tolerable and even pretty before they go to seed, and are often easier to pull when they flower.
            Unlike weeds, we can clean up the litter in this town within a month.  All the City has to do is start fully enforcing the litter portion of its nuisance code, using all of our regular officers to do so.  You should start with a general warning in the media for two weeks, which will allow people time to pick up and will reduce the number of personal warnings.  Then send your officers out, warning people to pick up their litter.  Follow up warnings 10 days later with citations where it has not been picked up. 
             The biggest expense will be for Community Service to hunt down all the absentee landholders and send them warning and citation letters.  The ones who don’t comply can mostly be abated by the city, because those properties are generally so weedy as to be considered safety hazards that fall under the safety hazard abatement code.
          Once the litter is cleaned up, officers should not hesitate to stop their cars if they see litter, and warn the property holder to keep it clean.
          Zero tolerance doesn’t work in cases where the law itself should not be tolerated.  But when it comes to ongoing violations of loving one’s neighbor that are in plain sight and can be easily corrected, zero tolerance is the only thing that works.  Anything less is either non-enforcement or selective enforcement of a necessary law, and allows unnecessary evil to continue unabated.
Published at Yahoo Voices

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