Friday, April 21, 2006

The 20-Minute Photo Op

Are you doing the Toronto 20-minute Makeover?

Plastic in Grass
Apparently, we've all been clamouring to pick up garbage in mid-April for 20 minutes, and Mayor Miller just had to accede to our demand. Personally, I can't wait to snap on the latex and pick up used coffee cups, cigarette butts, food-encrusted plastic, candy wrappers, cigarette packaging, and the odd hidden needle. Of course the pigs who threw it all down on the ground aren't going to be participating, just us non-litterers. And the ones whose job it is to catch litterers will...well, I'm not sure what they'll be doing. Apparently, they've so far caught a whopping total of 5 since the anti-litter bylaw went into effect, according to Bill Carroll on CFRB. I guess the paperwork for each transgressor is murder. Puts the cops' complaints to shame.

The filthy state of Toronto's streets and subway stations aren't just because Torontonians seem to have morphed into selfish idiots (and no to all you anti-Toronto hecklers out there, we haven't ALWAYS been selfish idiots!); it's also because garbage pick-up has been reduced, because bylaw officers haven't figured out littering is so ubiquitous, they could stand on a street corner and non-stop ticket litterbugs all day, and because the broken window concept hasn't sunk into our politicians' brains yet.

This concept isn't just for crime. Parking enforcement officers know that as soon as one car parks illegally, a whole chain of cars magically appears behind. So they have to ticket and tow that one car quickly to ensure smooth traffic flow. Same with trash. Even an idiot may hesitate to chuck that candy wrapper onto a pristine sidewalk when its presence will glare at him and all those near him. But if there's already cigarette butts and candy wrappers and kleenexes, then what's one more?

If Mayor Miller was serious about cleaning up Toronto, he'd institute a shaming ad campaign, he'd force the bylaw officers to get active, he'd develop a program with the school board to teach students better civic mindedness, he'd deal with our trash problem, he'd clean the streets every summer (it was nice to see water cleaners last fall) so that as soon as a litterbug does his thing, a cleaner would soon be by and make the street pristine again. That would be the practical effective solution. But a photo op is always more fun.

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